| Persistence and Success on Yale
Approach/Descent: Denny Creek Trailhead/Delany Gulch
Knee-Dropping Ski Team: A.M, C.B, and me (Snowgirl).
Stats: 4,286’ Vert, 11.25 hrs RT, 7 miles (due to variation from standard route on descent).
After an unsuccessful attempt at a ski descent of Bierstadt a few weeks back with Skisotope and the dogs, A.M. and I were debating what to try next.
Misery on the windy west slope of Bierstadt 3.19.11 (From closest to farthest, A.M, Me (Snowgirl), Tucker (dog), Skisotope). Photo: A.M.
A year ago this week I was turned back 400 ft. from the summit of Yale, and I wanted a rematch. Since A.M. had a friend in town from the East Coast, we were looking for a mountain with easy access and a straightforward ascent, and hopefully some good snow. Yale it was.
On Friday, after a backcountry tour in the Moffat Tunnel area, we looked at forecasts and decided on Yale as our goal. We made the trip from Boulder to the trailhead in a little under three hours, although due to a late start this landed us at the Denny Creek Trailhead a bit before midnight. After a very tired discussion about setting up vs. not setting up the tent, we decided to sleep in the car.
Now, I have slept in cars before and my Forester is actually fairly comfortable with the back seats down. However, every time I wake up after sleeping in a car, I immediately remember why it is not the best idea—you never get a good night’s sleep. With the three of us tossing and turning, it made for a restless night. Therefore when the alarm went off at 4:30, we were happy to hit the snooze button. And again. And then suddenly—it’s 5:30. Oops.
Early morning at the Denny Creek Trailhead.
Our only neighbors in the parking lot were already getting ready when we finally rolled out of our seats and sleeping bags. They had spent the night in the bed of their truck—not a bad plan, and it probably afforded better sleep. They wished us well and started up the trail with their energetic Golden Retriever, Rocket, bouncing at their heels.
About twenty minutes later, we were ready to rock-n-roll. I signed the trailhead register at 6am, and we donned our skis (there is a continuous line of snow, at the moment, starting at the register) to start the skin up. Currently there is a nice trench all the way up the trail, although if you had GPS coordinates you could make a more straightforward route than the track that is currently set through the woods.
At the open meadow at 11,800 we ran into the other group (sorry I didn’t catch your names!) and compared notes on the best way to ascend. Our group decided to take the direct approach up the headwall. Rocket’s owners said they would follow us after a short break. We started up the headwall, and immediately found ourselves struggling to put in a zig-zagging, scrappy, skin track. This experience was enough to make me want to invest in both ski crampons and a BD Whippet, both of which would have provided a great deal of traction, and comfort, on the steep, frozen, icy slopes. After more than two hours of struggling---and watching a pair of snowshoers cross the icy crust with ease--we were finally at treeline.
The boys enjoy the sunshine at treeline.
Once at treeline, the day continued to proceed in slow motion. We ate a short snack, and in the time that it took us to regroup and get our skis on our packs we spotted the snowshoers coming back down the ridge. They said that they reached the top of the ridge, but weren’t feeling up for a summit bid that day. We wished them well on the descent, and hefted our now cumbersome packs for the slow ascent up the ridge.
The snow and the scramble approaches: both equally awkward in ski boots.
It was blustery, and at times I found myself using the extra "sails" on my back (in the form of skis) to tack back and forth. My sailing instructor would be proud. Fortunately, the sun was out and the temperatures were mild, which helped to keep us focused on the summit instead of the wind.
Simultaneous reach for the sunscreen.
We met up with Rocket's group just below the summit push, sheltering from the wind behind some rocks. After attempting our earlier skinning route up the steep slope, they had backtracked and climbed a different, more mild route that allowed for better skinning and that Rocket could manage. They too were considering turning back. We were now alone in our summit bid for Yale, and it was not going to be easy.
As we climbed, we searched for potential ski descent routes. Right now a summit descent is not an option (from any side of the summit) unless you really want to punish your skis by threading your way down the Silver Creek Bowl. There is simply too little cover. From our point of view, we wanted to find the best line with the most continuous snow on the south/southwest faces. Just below 13,000 ft. we found a line of continuous snow and were able to put our skis back on and weave our way up towards the summit, fighting the wind with each step.
A.M and C.B. fight the wind on the last stretch of snow before the summit
We stored our skis at the highest possible point that still afforded good snow.
A.M. gets the skis in order.
And pushed our way up the icy, rocky slope towards the summit.
A.M. and C.B. push to the summit. Icy rocks + ski boots = heart-pounding climbing.
After an incredibly tiring slog, we were finally at the summit at 2:45 pm. Hooray!
The team at the top! L-R: C.B, Snowgirl, A.M.
It was an incredible day weather-wise, and we were thankful to have an entire clear day because we needed every hour! The views were stunning in all directions, of course.
Token scenic summit image-- snow cover is thin right now in the southern Sawatch
There was no time to waste, however, we wanted to get back down as soon as possible. After a little over ten minutes on the summit, we beat a hasty descent down to our skis. Downclimbing on icy rocks in your ski (or tele) boots is really not that pleasant, and I was happy to see my skis. Time for the fun part!
A.M. drops a knee below the summit ridge
C.B's first couple turns
My turn. Photo: A.M.
The snow could best be described as wind-scoured, thin, but soft after so many hours of sun exposure. We continued to traverse skier's left, so that we would miss the steep trees/cliff bands and also to stay on the continuous snow.
A.M. as the turns open up
Heading down towards Delaney Gulch
Traversing for better snow. Photo: A.M.
A parting shot of Yale before descending into the gulch
A.M. drops into the gulch
Ultimately, this placed us decently far up Delaney Gulch, but as long as you stay on the north side of the creek this is a good descent option. At this point the snow turned to the consistency of mashed potatoes--incredibly wet and gloppy. We were able to ski all the way back to the trailhead register, although I don't think this will be an option long. Things are melting out quick down towards the base.
Quick binding adjustments at the top of Delaney Gulch
Back at the car a long 11.5 hours later, it was time for a beer, and then food in BV before the long drive back to Denver. A great warm-up for (hopefully) a long steeps/14er ski season!
We made it!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):