Peak(s):  Mt. Yale  -  14,196 feet
Date Posted:  07/30/2008
Date Climbed:   07/26/2008
Author:  Ericjlindy
 Yale Barn Burner  

A few weeks prior to hike day myself and 5 others (Evan, Pete, Mark, John and Ross) decided to set our site on Yale simply because I've summitted most of the other Sawatch Range 14er's and the others have not. Fortunately for me there was a unanimous consensus amongst the group to bag a collegiate that could easily be done in a day. The plan was to camp the night prior to set the stage for an early rise and a "quicker" day (note foreshadowing).

We decided to meet in Buena Vista at Punky's for dinner since nobody wanted to set up camp and cook in a rush before dark. Good choice for simplicity but the extra time in town made us scramble to find a campsite. The local campgrounds near the trailhead (there are only 2) were already full by the time we started our search at 7pm. If you find yourself in a similar situation find a camp site earlier as in late afternoon. There were several unofficial camp sites along Cottonwood Creek that are parallel to route 306 but many of these were either taken or filling up fast. We had to migrate about a mile past the TH to find a suitable site off a forest road that was gated about 200 yards past the main road. We were not able to back our vehicles next to the site which made unloading and loading a hassle but we managed to lug the gear anyway. We quickly set up our tents and camp before the onslaught of mosquitoes. We applied Deet, got a fire going and cracked open the libations before turning in around 11am. I will not comment on the camp fire discussion to protect the innocent.

Nothing to see here...just hunting critters.

The next morning came quickly but no one really managed to get going until 6am, slightly later than our 5:30 goal. I think mostly in part to the amount of light caused by a generous amount of cloud cover. A very atypical Colorado summer morning was on hand. The one bonus was the cloud blanket made the temperature feel about 15 degrees warmer than usual at 10,500 ft. It never got below about 50 degrees. We all quickly grabbed some breakfast, hydrated and headed down the road to the trailhead arriving about 6:45am. I was a little concerned about parking space for one car let alone two since the Denny Creek parking lot is somewhat limited on space. Fortunately we were about the 6th and 7th vehicles to arrive. Maybe the cloud cover had something to do with a late start for everyone.

After visits by all to the latrine, we loaded up and were on our way a few minutes before 7:00am. There was an obvious conditioning difference between members of our group and we quickly became separated. Evan, Pete, Mark and John kicked in the after burners leaving Ross and I at the back of the pack.

See you all later...

They were quickly out of view. The next time we crossed paths was on their decent later in the morning…more on that later. Despite the "Hares" racing ahead, the goal was to maintain a 1000 vertical feet an hour – my typical pace. Because of the warm temps I found myself in only a long sleeve tee with the fleece and windbreaker to remain in my pack all day. We seemed to make quick work of the trail through the woods as there was not much ascent on this segment (as compared to the section past tree line to the ridge – which I would later learn to my dismay). We popped through the trees at about quarter to nine which according to the 14'ers route description was approximately 12,000 ft. Whew almost half way there.

Dead tree at treeline...

Yale quickly became visible as did the rest of the route. I was thinking to myself that the remainder of the route didn't look too bad.

Goal. Hit the ridge visible at left of the picture...

It was at this point that my hiking mate Ross looked at the rest of the way and must have obtained a classic case of cold feet and decided to turn back.

The last Ross sighting...

Not seeing the rest of the group, I flew solo with nothing more than my IPod for inspiration. The next 2000 ft or so to the ridge proved to be the most difficult part of the hike. It seemed straight up and I quickly wore down.

Oh my god, can this get steeper...

The trail was in pretty beat up shape with ruts, loose gravel and rock and just slow going. By the time I hit the ridge, with a sigh of relief, I took a 15 minute break to grab a bite and refuel before heading into the final section of rock hopping and scrambling. For me, the fun part.

Rocks and more rocks...

About 10 minutes into it at about 11am, I crossed paths with the "Hares" who had summitted anywhere from an hour and 15 minutes to 45 minutes prior. I felt old and slow after hearing this. After some quick hellos and hiking horror / glory stories, I made my way through the rest of the rocks to summit by 11:30am. Not too bad after all. With stops it was about my average rate.

Busy summit...

I was joined by about 20 others on top with many more on the way, pretty typical for a summer weekend. Probably saw about 100 people all day. I was amazed at how tranquil the weather turned out. Some high clouds were present, there was no wind and it was about 60 degrees. NICE. I snapped some summit shots, checked email on my "Crackberry" (slave to technology) and made a quick celebratory call to my family to share in the moment. BTW someone stole the registry, tube and all so there was nothing to sign. Low lifes!!

Yours truly; made it!!
Harvard and Columbia to the north...

After 30 minutes of soaking in the summit, I started to head down.

Back down we go. Say that looks steep...

The decent was uneventful but seems to get worse every year. Out of shape quads and declining knees are manly to blame. Nevertheless, after about 20 minutes in stops to polish off my ham sandwich wrap I arrived back at the trailhead by about 2:15pm. The "hares" had been hanging out in the TH lot for about an hour consuming. I learned that I was the subject of high stakes wagering amongst the group. The bet: the time of my arrival at the car…actually the pavement. I was rather out of it and don't recall who cleaned house by winning the $5 pot…a free lunch.

We loaded up our gear and headed down to Buenie for Mexican grub and then proceeded to head back to Denver to close out the trip. All in all it was a difficult but good hike and a very typical Colorado 14er. It contained the three trail segments: forest, above tree line to a ridge and the rocks. Another check in the box for a summited fourteener…my 19th. 4 more are in the planning stages for the year. Stay tuned….

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Daniel Trugman

re: summit logs
07/30/2008 18:26
Yeah I‘m not too fond of them myself, but a lot of them are gone all across the state...


Summit Logs
11/30/2010 17:28
I'm very disappointed that they are missing, I personally like signing my name to them, it just confirms the accomplishment along with my photos. I say if you don't want to sign them, don't but those that do should be able to...
And congrats Eric on your climb, I remember doing Yale a few years ago, the views on the top are spectacular, on the way down I wished I had on cheap hiking pants so I could slide, it is a bit steep..

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