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Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby Levellander » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:02 pm

I've never been to "the mountains" but I'm finally going to get that opportunity this summer. We're going to be driving from Texas to just outside Colorado Springs to camp for 8 nights in mid-August. Our hometown sits 700 feet above sea level. The place we're going to camp is at 9500 feet. There's plenty I want to see and do. One of our family things is going to be to drive to the top of Pikes Peak. But I sure would like to hike to the top of a mountain. Mt. Yale is close to where we're going to camp. It's not a particularly long round trip. And from everything I've read, Mt. Yale doesn't require extensive mountaineering experince. On those points it appears reasonable. But, after reading things on 14ers dot com and elsewhere on the web about altitude sickness, Yale seems a bit more daunting than it does in various trail reports. My concern is conditioning and acclimitization. As I said, we are going to be in Colorado for 8 nights. We'll arrive on a Friday. Hang around our campground and Colorado Springs for a couple days. Maybe drive to Denver. Take a family drive up Pike's Peak on Tuesday. And THEN I would like to try and tackle Mt. Yale on foot Wednesday or Thursday. Would 4 to 6 days be enough acclimitization time from a base point of 700 feet above sea level? As far as conditioning, my hiking partner would be my 20 year old son. He is as fit as a fiddle. I, though 43 and of proportionate height and weight, am in good overall health according to my last three annual physicals....but I have been a smoker for too many of my 43 years. I can hold my own on a bicycle for many miles on slow rolling hills. I don't know that I could jog twice around the block without being out of wind at the end. I walk contantly at work (3 to 4 miles a day) and routinely heft 50 to 60 pounds above my head. But that's at 700 feet. I would really, REALLY love to see the world from 14,000 feet. But not so badly as to jeopardize my health and the joyousness of my family's first trip to "the mountains". Would I be getting in over my head trying Yale right out of the gate?

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby Rainier_Wolfcastle » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:31 pm

From your post, I gather that your first night in Colorado will be at 9,500 feet. That is probably not optimal for your acclimatization to the altitude, I would suggest a night in the 5-6K range first. And drink water like you have never drank water before...at least 3 liters a day...and 3 liters on your climb of Yale.

I would also suggest just hiking some hills close to camp and seeing how that works out. It is okay if you need to take rest steps, but if you can't seem to get comfortable...then you may have your answer.

As for Yale, you are probably only getting in over your head if you feel sick, have chest pain, start too late or are not going to beat approaching weather, etc...but yet don't have the sense to just turn around! I have not done the Denny Creek Route (I believe this is the easiest route, I would not suggest you take the route I did), but I would assume the last 500-1000 ft will include a fair amount of talus hiking. Talus can take some getting used to and if your balance/coordination is off, it may ruin your day.

Good luck and have a great vacation!
Shawn D
Broomfield, CO

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby eastend711 » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:38 pm

I had a friend do his first 14er on Yale. He's overweight, and was only at sea level for a week before doing Yale. As long as you go slow, and stay hydrated you'll be fine.

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby Mel McKinney » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:42 pm

The fact that you're put thought into this is great. The Sawatch peaks can be long slogs but not technical. The worst part of that hike (to me) was just below the saddle. Get started early (at least by 6 am) and stay hydrated. I've met people who've gotten off a plane and done fine in the altitude and some who've been here for a while & struggled. Sounds like you try to be active.

Stop and have a rest if you need to or turn around if you need to. It's not easy above 14,000 ft, but take it easy and you'll get there.

Truthfully, any day in the mountains is a good day whether you make the summit or not. :D
After the hike, go west on Cottonwood Pass and view the Continental Divide. There are short hikes at the pass in case you decide not to hike Mt. Yale.

Have fun in Colorado regardless.

Edit: On Yale, I had brought a few peanut butter sandwiches along with some other trail food. I stopped during the last slog to the saddle to also eat the 2nd sandwich (that I was hoping to have at the summit) because I realized I needed it then and there. The point is to bring stuff along that sounds good to you for carbs and protein. I watched people eat Spam at the summit (not sure how that goes over though...they were about the age of your son!). :lol: Whatever works, I guess!
Mountains cast spells on me - Why, because of the way Earth-heaps lie, should I be Chocked by joy mysteriously; stilled or drunken-gay? Why should a brown hill trail Tug at my feet to go? Why should a boggy swale Tune my heart to a nameless tale Mountain marshes know?
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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby Old Goat » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:56 pm

Level,
I also live at 700 feet. My only issue with altitude sickness was at 9000 feet. I've climbed 14ers before and after that with no altitude issues at all. Camping at 9000 feet my first night in Colorado has never been a problem.
My one altitude issue: I had driven our van from a motel in Kansas to our motel parking lot in Dillon, CO - all day. As the rest of the family took bags and suit cases to the room, I was getting 5 pairs of skis, poles, and boots from the roof rack.
I got very dizzy, I got a headache, and I got very weak - almost passed out. 45 minutes after drinking some water and lying down, I was pretty-much back to normal (......or as normal as I can get \:D/ )

Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby gonzalj » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:58 pm

I have done the standard Yale trail from Denny Creek and there's nothing technical about that route. The thing I will say is definitely try some smaller hikes between 8000 and 10000 feet first and see how you feel. I quit smoking about 2 years ago and have noticed a significant difference between being a non-smoker at those high elevations versus being a smoker, so I would give yourself a little extra time and also start very early. Yale, while not technically difficult is a long hike that will probably take at least 9 hours roundtrip and August is in the middle of monsoon season, so it will be a mountain that you will probably want to summit by 10 am. Other than that if you don't feel right or see the weather turning, then don't hesitate to turn around as alpine weather above treeline can change quickly and potentially place you in very bad scenarios.

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby Mel McKinney » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:10 pm

gonzalj wrote:Yale, while not technically difficult is a long hike that will probably take at least 9 hours roundtrip and August is in the middle of monsoon season, so it will be a mountain that you will probably want to summit by 10 am. Other than that if you don't feel right or see the weather turning, then don't hesitate to turn around as alpine weather above treeline can change quickly and potentially place you in very bad scenarios.


Amen and +1. Yale has a good view to the west, even just above treeline. Keep watching to the west. A good reason to start early. We summited by 10:30-11:00 am and the storm clouds were starting to come in as we were coming back down. Don't get summit fever like the people passing us going up.
Mountains cast spells on me - Why, because of the way Earth-heaps lie, should I be Chocked by joy mysteriously; stilled or drunken-gay? Why should a brown hill trail Tug at my feet to go? Why should a boggy swale Tune my heart to a nameless tale Mountain marshes know?
--- Belle Turnbull ("Mountain-Mad")

"Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said couldn't be done."
---Sam Ewing

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby Jim Davies » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:22 pm

Why Yale? Just because you're staying nearby? The standard trailhead for Sherman is an easy drive from Buena Vista (much closer than Colorado Springs), and it's a simpler and shorter hike, with interesting mine ruins along the way.

Where exactly are you staying? You do realize that the trailhead for Yale is 100 miles from Colorado Springs, right?
Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of white blood cells.

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby pw » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:53 pm

4 to 6 days should be plenty of acclimatization time. I think the night before you should drive up to the Cottonwood Pass road and spend the night camping there (there are spots along the creek on the south side of the road), then get a nice early start (6 am wouldn't be a bad time to hit the trail, definitely no later than 7) and take your time going up. Yale is a good one, probably my favorite of the Sawatch peaks.
Last edited by pw on Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby [jon] » Mon Mar 26, 2012 9:10 pm

Yale was the last 14er I did last year, and I loved the hike. This was in fall and there were a million golden aspen tree's. It was also one of the longest hikes i've been on, and the steep slope up to the saddle is no joke. Although it's not technical, it will definitely remind you who's boss. But, some good things about this hike for a newcomer are A) Because it's so long, you don't gain a ton of altitude quickly, which is probably better for people not adjusted to the altitude. B) It's a beautiful hike even if you don't summit. This route takes you from below treeline, along a creek, then up out of the tree's. C) There is a turn off from the trail to hike up to a lake that's probably around 11,000 feet or so. I didn't check that out, but I can imagine it's pretty. So if you can't summit then you have a back up option. Good luck, and stay safe. And if there is ever a time that you feel sick, or a pounding headache, or dizzy, or just not normal then turn around. Although with that said, be prepared to have a pounding heart and a bit out of breath. In which case take as many breaks as you need. And bring a ton of water, I went through 3 liters and I wasn't dealing with nearly the altitude adjustment that you will be.
The journey of a thousand miles starts with one foot step - Lao Tzu

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby MtHurd » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:21 pm

Yale would be a great first 14er. A little bit of scrambling near the summit and spectacular views. I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be able to do this mountain.

And a note. Mid-August is still monsoon season. That means there is a very high likelyhood of afternoon thunderstorms. Buy a headlamp and get a pre-dawn start. This will get you up and off the summit before noon. There are no guarantees that the storms won't start earlier, but getting a pre-dawn start improves your odds for success. Bring at least 3 liters of water and drink it regularly along the way and any altitude effects will be lesser than they would otherwise be.

Another way to acclimate would be to get dropped off at Devil's Playground on the drive up Pikes Peak and hike the rest of the way. It's about 2.75 miles and 1300 ft. of elevation gain but it will give you a good idea of the hiking on Yale and how you will do.

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Re: Mt. Yale for a beginner - Am I getting in over my head?

Postby peter303 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 8:13 am

There are easier ones: shorter trails and less uphill. But this one is not that hard either.

Yale has talus rock the final half mile. Thats a little harder than straight walkups. But fun.

The main Yale trailhead is easy to drive to with paved road all the way from from the city of Buena Vista.


Start early and have fun!

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