Peak(s):  Mt. Yale  -  14,196 feet
Date Posted:  05/17/2009
Modified:  05/18/2009
Date Climbed:   05/16/2009
Author:  emcee smith

 Foggy day on Yale  

Yale Trip Report
Depart: 5:50am
Summit: 10:10am
Return: 1:45pm

Trail Conditions: Snow and much post holing just below tree line; you can avoid most of the snow above tree line. The final ridge to the summit was solid. Note: At this point, I would not recommend taking the trail back to the south just below tree line; it was my worst nightmare. (see below)

This was my first 14er of the season. I hope to get quite a few done this summer; this weekend was Yale and Princeton.

I stayed Friday night in BV, arrived at the trailhead at about 5:30 am, got geared up to leave. It was somewhat disheartening to have a paved road to the trailhead, reminded me how low I was starting. The weather was overcast, with the cloud cover below tree line.

View of the cloud cover

The hike up the trail was pretty uneventful. The lower part of the trail is snow free, the first log bridge I crossed was iced over, I needed to jump to make it across. Snow started covering the trail around the first log bridge, but it wasn't very deep. After crossing the meadows, the snow began in earnest, and there was much post holing. At a small clearing, a few birds were gathered around looking for a handout.

Continuing the post holing up the creek, I reached a small clearing, still just below tree line. At this point, the trail swung back to the south, but in the fog, I couldn't see the way to go, so I followed a small snow gully up to the north. There were a few steep areas, but then some ramps that went up and to the south,

Snow gully that I went to the north instead of south on the trail.

I knew that I wasn't on the trail, and since I was now above tree line, I assumed that I was to the left of the trail, and eventually it would swing back and I would cross it. I continued straight up the slope, veering to the right to catch the trail.

My first view of a cairn indicated that I was crossing or had crossed the trail again.

At this point, I was trying to see snow free areas to continue upward, sometimes taking me left and sometimes right. Now I figured that I was to the right of the trail, so when I had the chance, I veered left.

Mostly I could see no farther than about 50 yards, it was tough to find a snow free route

Before long, the sky brightened, and this was my first real view above me

I still had a ways to go, but I was fairly close to the ridgeline. I was able to miss most of the snow and eventually gained the ridge.

The ridgeline was fun, with plenty of solid snow and plenty of rock. Since I had mostly blue skies, I had fun getting up the ridge to the summit. With the snow, I think it was easier to go over the top than bypassing any of the rock, but there were plenty of handholds.

Along the ridge, just below the summit

My islands in the sky photo; Antero to the south

Summit shot

While I was on the summit, I could see that the clouds below were just about to push off to the east. On my way back down the ridge, I had my first view of the west slopes of Yale

As I was coming down, I could see another hiker coming up. I headed down the slopes to meet up with him. You can see the various ways to gain the ridge staying off the snow.

He indicated that he had come straight up the slope as well. At this point, I made the dumbest move of the day and veered to the south to try to find the trail. I eventually found it and followed the trail back below tree line. From this point on, the lack of photos is an indication of how miserable the actual trail was.

Coming back to the north below tree line, I was post holing as deep as I could go. My crotch was the only thing keeping me from going completely under. Not only that, but the side slope was horrible. It got to the point where I was looking for the crotch deep postholes because stepping on the top of the snow would have slid me down a steep side slope. I labored my way back to the creek area and joined the now very reasonable thigh deep post holing back down the hill.

The remainder of the trip down was uneventful. The good thing about post holing to the crotch was that the snow on the way up now seemed very reasonable. Once I got to the creek crossings, the rest of the way was easy. I walked through some snow, but never more than about calf deep.

Overall, this was a heck of a way to begin the season. On one hand, I was happy that my studies of the map kept me aware of where the trail should be in the dense fog, and very happy with my energy level. On the other hand, my curiosity to find the trail cost me a lot of time, and more importantly, a lot of energy that I would need the next day for Princeton.

Back to the car, to BV for Subway, then to the Hot Springs for a soak. That was nice.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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