Peak(s):  Mt. Yale  -  14,196 feet
Date Posted:  05/12/2011
Date Climbed:   05/07/2011
Author:  Mango
 Mt Yale on Skis...finally.   

Mt. Yale on Skis.....finally.

We've tried Yale on skis three times, and were turned back for:
1. a blizzard on the summit ridge, 400' below the summit
2. running out of daylight in the middle of winter, due to a late start
3. just a month ago, at 12,700', for high winds and approaching weather

The forecast looked good, so Friday night was spent, like before, in the back of our truck at the Denny Creek trailhead. Our one-year old dog, Rocket, joined us again.


Saturday morning broke clear and cool, with light southeast wind, temps in the high 20's, and a cloudless sky. We got an early start and had to carry skis on our shoulders for about half a mile, due to the receding snowline. Once the skis were on, we made good time on the firm snow, with only a few bare spots on the trail. We were glad to see the snow bridge still over Denny Creek at the crossing, and made the clearing at the bottom of the south ridge in Delaney Gulch in about 2 hours.

Rocket reviews our path so far, with the Gladstone Ridge in the background -


The snow was very firm, so we avoided the deep sugar snow in the trees from our last attempt, and headed southeast up the ridge. It was steep, but efficient climbing (as long as skins stayed flat on the snow!), and we cleared the treeline a lot quicker than before. The wind picked up on the ridge, but it was till clear. Here's the view west, with the ridge just southeast of Brown's Pass:


Here, Tracy poses in front of Turner Peak and Hartenstein Lake, while Rocket sneaks a quick nap:


We followed the thinning snowpath through the rocks for another 500', and then made a straight path over firm windblown snow to the base of the headwall.

Here's Rocket and me, working our way through the rocks, with the objective behind us:


We stashed our skis at 13,300', the beginning of what looked like safe, skiable snow for descent, and switched to crampons. The wind really picked up here, to a steady 30 mph, as you can tell from this photo:


With the strong southwest wind at our backs, we made the hike up the headwall to the summit ridge, and took a quick break before the final push to the top. The path looked easier on the north edge of the ridge, but the snowpack showed a 4-5 inch crust with a deep layer of large facets, so we stuck close to the rocks. Here's Rocket and me heading up the summit ridge:


We made the summit at 1325, and took a nice thirty minute break there, since the winds had let up quite a bit. We dug in the snow at the base of a few rockpiles, but could not find the summit register, so we just enjoyed the view and took a few requisite summit photos.

The view west, up Texas Creek:


Tracy and Rocket:


Rocket and me:


The trip down to the skis was quick and uneventful, with the strong wind in our faces now. Rocket was excited to see us finally get on our skis, as usual, and had a great time chasing me down to the treeline. That's where the fun ended, though, as nice soft snow turned to isothermic mush. It was a slow and difficult descent (for all three of us) back into Delaney Gulch, as we tried to avoid a wet slide, and not sink into the quicksand-like snow.

Once safely down into the gulch, we took our last break before the warm descent to the trailhead. The couple in the parking lot, in t-shirts and sandals, looked at us in disbelief as we walked to our truck in winter clothes, helmets, and skis on our backs, but we had big smiles on our faces after finally pulling this one off. It took 11+45, and it was the only time we never saw another person on the trail on a hike like this (probably because everyone else was smart enough to avoid this kind of snow).

Anyway, the pale ale in the cooler has rarely tasted better.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

great write up
05/13/2011 02:27
My son and I tried in March but couldn't get up the headwall right before treeline - too steep for skins to bite but couldn't move without the flotation. We built an igloo at about 11,500 in Delany Gulch right beside the trail where it parallels the creek. Was it still there? or has it melted?


05/13/2011 02:57
We didn't see an igloo, but we headed southeast up that wall, instead of heading further up the gulch (where the summer trail goes), so we might not have gone far enough in that direction to see it. I know what you mean about the skins--we slipped a few times as we angled up that slope. As soon as the slope angle eased off a bit, we headed straight up to the fall line to get a decent grip.


Nice work
05/15/2011 17:06
That Yale wind! Terrific report.

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