Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Graduation- finishing the Collegiates

Mt. Yale 14,196'

RT distance: 9.5 miles    Elevation gain: 4300'    Difficulty: Class 2

On Monday May 21st I took a day off from work and climbed Mt. Yale with my friend Chris Sumey. Chris and I went to High School together and were both tenors in the Tour Choir our senior year. Chris lives in Aurora and occasionally runs marathons. Mt. Yale is my final 14er in the "Collegiate Peaks" which includes Mt. Belford, Mt. Oxford, Mt. Harvard, Mt. Colombia, Mt. Princeton, and finally Mt. Yale. So, in a way, I am "graduating" from the collegiate peaks. Chris had previously done (5) 14ers in the past and had no problems with altitude sickness. We met at the (paved) parking lot at 7:20 AM, and hit the trail about 7:30.


(1) Mt. Princeton (2) Mt. Yale (3) Mt. Columbia (4) Mt. Harvard as seen from Wilkerson Pass some 40 miles East.

Early in the morning all of the small snow patches were frozen over- making them easy to walk on.
 
The first part of the hike was a mild forest hike

Nice view in a break in the trees
I must take a moment to admit that we (I) lost the route in the trees due to blow down and large snow drifts. There were also footprints leading in many different directions! We decided that going up seemed like a solid plan, so that's what we did. If these next couple photos look "wrong" to you, well, they are.
We ascended this dry grassy slope directly. While steep, it was easy climbing on firm ground.
 
Looking back from the same spot on the slopes- we avoided crossing a lot of snow somehow.



We crossed over 50 yards of snow to the far right of this picture before turning left and going up to the saddle. The summit is visible on the right. This was due to an..ahem... navigation error

 We reached the summit in just over 3 hours, despite losing the trail completely in the forest right before treeline and ending up at least 1/4 mile off route. Pretty good time, all things considered. If you can keep to the actual trail, this is a fairly "easy" and straightforward 14er, with rewarding views from the summit. If you knew where to look, you could easily see over 20 other 14ers from this vantage. The weather was great, it wasn't terribly windy. We took our time, eating Reese's bars and drinking microbrews (from a can). I tried to point out as many 14ers as I could recognize.

The summit of Mt. Yale with Princeton, Antero, Shavano, and Tabeguache in the background

Chris surveys the scene. Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, and Columbia are seen. (L to R)
Looking WSW from the summit
I'm not sure what these 2 13ers are, but they look pretty awesome- NW from the summit

A jacket and shorts- must be Colorado.
 
Just a fat marmot, looking for some trekking poles to eat
Coming down on the great trail was about as good as you could hope for. The trail was easy to follow and never got very steep. I could definitely feel my quads burning though after about 30 minutes.

Recent blow down from 100+ mph wind gusts ripped this live tree in half.
We were blessed with fantastic weather for late may, with Bluebird skies and warm temps, followed by gathering clouds in the afternoon. We only saw one other group the whole time, and that was on our way down a little before noon- we had the summit to ourselves. Thanks to my great partner Chris for accompanying me on this trip. While I now know that he does in fact get tired like a normal human, I also know that he is a stud and could have smoked me had he wanted to. He was also not the least disturbed that we lost the trail and scrambled off-route for about an hour.  We decided that it wasn't a big deal because we were able to adapt and overcome. Round trip time, including the summit break, was under 6 hours.

Mt. Yale is a wonderful mountain with inspiring views and a very good trail. While it still requires a good deal of physical exertion, this is one of the "easier" 14ers you can do with just a little bit of scrambling (class 2+) near the summit.

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