|Peak:||Mt. Yale (14er)|
|Date of Info:||03/29/2013|
Road dry all the way to trailhead, parking lot plowed and dry.
The initial switchbacks are dry. Once you get into the trees and start heading north, it's knee to belly deep snow all the way to treeline. On the first couple miles there is an old trench in place that has been packed down, blown/snowed over, packed down, snowed over, etc. If you stay in the 1 foot wide, slightly off colored snow path and are careful about boot placement, you can minimize post holing on this stretch. The trail ends abruptly approximately 1/2 to 3/4 miles from treeline with no boot prints or sign of travel to be found. I knew where I needed to go, so I pointed it toward the low point on the ridge to my north and post holed through knee to waist deep snow for a couple hours.
Upon gaining the ridge I found it necessary to put on microspikes. At a bare minimum, I would advise that spikes are necessary to safely make the summit. I would have felt a LOT more comfortable had I brought my ice axe to cross a couple of the snow fields and for some of the steeper sections of the trail. There were a few spots where a slip might have sent you sliding down the snow off the ridgeline. I also stayed true to the ridgeline in several areas instead of following the trail over deep/sketchy snow. As I was climbing some of the loose-ish rock, I kept thinking to myself how dumb I was for not bringing my helmet. I had to back down and around certain areas because the rock looked rotten and I didn't want to send anything above down onto my head. In some areas the only feasible option (without an ice axe) was to climb the rock, however. Therefore I would also recommend a helmet and ice axe if you plan on hitting this route any time in the near future.
There was a good mix of soft, deep snow, windblown crusty snow, and dry rock on the ridge to the summit. Ice wasn't really an issue. I encountered about every kind of weather you could expect on Friday - snow, sleet, sun, clouds, wind, wind blowing a ton of powder right in your face, and even a little stretch where it was downright warm. The only other living things I saw all day were a few birds down lower in the trees - I think I had the entire mountain to myself!
Left the car at 700 AM, summit at 255, 3 minutes up top taking pictures, and back to the car at 715. I can tell this route would be a blast in the summer. However, with conditions the way they are right now, I would recommend waiting for things to clear up a little bit - unless you like self torture. Stretches of this hike (especially the post holing bushwacking) were absolutely miserable. But then again, that's what I get for not bringing snowshoes But all in all, a great hike, an awesome mountain, and another excellent outing in the Sawatch!
Photo 1 - a look at most of the 2 mile hike along the ridgeline soon after exiting the trees
Photo 2 - a closer look at some of the tricky terrain as one nears the summit
Photo 3 - views from the top
Photos (click for slideshow):