Peak(s):  Mt. Yale  -  14,196 feet
Date Posted:  07/01/2007
Date Climbed:   06/30/2007
Author:  new england kid
 Mt. Yale Loop Trail - from Avalanche Gulch to Denny Creek  

I am into loop trails. Why retrace your steps when you return a whole new way? So my plan for Mt. Yale was to ascend from Avalanche Gulch, descend to Denny Creek and score a ride back to my car.

Side note: the Avalanche Gulch parking lot has room for at least 500 cars. At 6:30am on Saturday morning, my car was #3. Upon returning in the afternoon, there were two cars. I guess someone underestimated the popularity of this trailhead.

Anyway, this foreshadowing proved to be spot on. This route was pure solitude. The first three miles follow the Colorado Trail, first up an open meadow and then through a pine forest (photos #1 & #2). Quite a few trees down on the trail, but no problem getting around them.

At the saddle between Yale and Point 12,505, the Colorado Trail continues northeast, but the summit trail to Yale is due west. The junction is not obvious, but clearly you don't want to descend on the Colorado Trail, so I just headed west and eventually bumped into a faint trail. After emerging from the trees, the East Ridge and summit of Yale comes into view (photos #3 and #4).

The East Ridge is solid Class 2+. There is no obvious trail or cairns to follow. I bemoaned climbing up and then down the three or four "summits" en route (Point 13,420, etc.). I did skirt some of these points, but the scree on the sides was very loose in spots and not a tremendous time saver. Photos #5 through #9 show the ridge (with some looking back). There were a few small snowfields but all could be avoided.

I summitted at 11:30am. Hardly world record time in a somewhat sluggish first 14er hike of the season. I saw a grand total of two people in five hours and those were two guys descending within 20 minutes of my reaching the top.

It was hot. T-shirt and shorts on the top with no wind. That doesn't happen very often. Great views looking west (Photo #10)

After a short snack break, I headed down the west slope. After about 100 meters, this trail is a virtual slip and slide. Can I cut off my toenails now? Trekking poles are a near necessity for descending this slippery slope.

Heaps of people heading up. Granted, this trail is significantly shorter (three hour descent), but I would absolutely recommend the Avalanche Gulch approach for its solitude and more diverse terrain.

I made it back down to the Denny Creek Lot (naturally, overloaded with cars) and got picked up by the first car leaving the lot. Nice. Door to door trip was just over 8 hrs. More detailed times and stats below:

Avalanche Gulch Trailhead to Mt. Yale Summit: 5.2 miles, 5,000 feet
Mt. Yale Summit to Denny Creek Trailhead: 3.5 miles, 4,300 feet

Leave Avalanche Lot: 6:30 am
Yale/Point 12,505 saddle: 8:30 am
Arrive Yale Summit: 11:30 am
Leave Yale Summit: noon
Treeline: 1:30 pm
Denny Creek Parking Lot: 3:00 pm
Picked up by car heading east: 3:02 pm
Avalanche Parking Lot: 3:07 pm

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

avalanche gulch
07/19/2008 21:09
I absolutely agree that Avalanche Gulch is the better route on Yale. I did the exact loop a couple of years ago; loved the ascent, hated the descent.

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