Peak:  Mt. Yale (14er)
 Route:  East Ridge
 Range:  Sawatch
 Posted By:  ChrisinAZ
 Date of Info:  03/24/2012
 Date Posted:  03/26/2012

Four of us hit up Yale via the East Ridge on Saturday. The first part of the CO trail up to ~10200' was pretty much bare. The first gully crossing was a bit tricky, but our finding the more obvious path on the way down should make it much more straightforward for future visitors. Once in the Hughes Gulch basin, we were intermittently able to find the trench, but often followed low, relatively snow-free ridges as well; the snow here was generally 1-3' deep; snowshoes were generally necessary at this point.

From about 11,000' on up, we diverged from the standard trail and followed an obvious ridgeline trending NNW up to ~12140 on the main ridge. The lower third was snow-free enough to bareboot, with snowshoes being necessary above that. Once at the crest of the ridge at 12140', snowshoes can be cached. From here to the summit is about 95% free of snow, though a few patches exist that must be crossed, and may be slick and hard. I would strongly recommend either microspikes or ice axe for these portions. A few sections required some class 2/3 scrambling in mixed terrain, but nothing insurmountable or exposed. From the summit, Harvard still appeared to hold some snow, but Columbia via the SE ridge looked to be ripe for the taking, with very little snow on the entire route we could see.

On the descent, we attempted heading down from 12140' the way we had come up, but discovered the snow to be unbelievably soft (we were postholing several feet, in snowshoes, and having to dig ourselves out). We found that it was possible to travel on the SW aspect of the ridge, generally 30-50' below the crest, on mostly dry ground; in about half a mile, we were able to pop back up on the crest of the ridge and follow our original route back to the trailhead.

Despite our afternoon issues with the lower ridge, I would highly recommend taking it, as it saves distance and probably a fair amount of post-holing, time, and effort. By our route, took a bit over 13 hours car-to-car.

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