Mount Yale Winter Summit

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Peak: Mount Yale (14,196′), Sawatch Range
Route: East Ridge from Avalanche Gulch
Stats: 9.5 Miles, 4,850 Feet, 10.5 Hours
Date Climbed: February 16, 2009

Okay after Monday Stu is down to 11 peaks remaining with 9 weeks of time before his permanent relocation. Since 6 of the 11 are located in the Sawatch, we decided to tick off another “easy” climb while these snow conditions persist: Mt. Yale. We decided to attack from the Avalanche Gulch side as the avy danger seemed to favor a wind-blown ridge, although turns out SarahT, Ken Nolan, and friends summited via the standard route the day before. I‘ve been on the lookout for my first 14er summit ski descent since December, and it turned out my disappointment would continue as we wound up making the last minute decision not to carry skis.  Attempting the north-facing aspect of Silver Creek Bowl just didn’t seem prudent given the time of year and avy situation.  I‘ll get one eventually though!

Anyhoo we started at 4am and switchbacked up the trail above the parking lot before entering the woods at 10,000‘. Soon after we were plowing through 3 feet of powder snow, it was the most difficult trail breaking I‘ve ever encountered. The effort we had to exert to gain the ridge was much more than I was expecting, but nevertheless we topped out in good fashion and turned westward after a few hours of swimming.

Princeton looking big and beautiful

Mount Princeton looking big and beautiful to the south.

Nearing the East Ridge

We ditched our shoes at treeline and started up the talus/frozen grass patches towards the summit of Yale. It really looked far away – apparently this ridge is 2 miles long.

Looking across at Mascot

Looking across at Mascot Peak from the East Ridge.

We gained the first rise quickly but decided to contour around to the south of the 13,400‘ sub-summit.  This ended up being an annoying choice as we had to cross several ribbons of steep snow.

A small technical challenge

Stu working out a small technical snow challenger on the south side of the ridge.

Stu made quick work of it

Stu with Mascot looming large.

We rounded the corner and found ourselves on a climbing traverse across loose scree and boulders back to the ridge crest – a nice prospect in plastic mountaineering boots. About half way across Stu planted his face in the rocks and snapped one of my Leki ski poles in half.

Climbing up to one of many false summits

Climbing up to one of many false summits as the wind began to pick up.

The steepest slope we encountered all day

A steep section.

After a fun 45 degree slope woke me up again, we topped out on another sub-summit and realized that this ridge just keeps going. The weather continued to hold great and, despite being tired (and suffering from a minor cold), I was having a great time.

Another sub summit in sight

Another sub summit in sight, and beyond it, the real summit.

We topped out around 11 and found a relatively windless summit. There were fresh tracks coming from the west ridge which we later identified as Kevin Baker‘s group from the day before. Great job guys on an interesting loop!

Yale summit, 11:15am looking west

On top of Mount Yale at 11:15am, looking west.

Harvard and Columbia

Harvard and Columbia to the north.

It seemed our decision to leave the skis in the car was a good one – the drop in to Silver Creek Bowl looked heavily loaded, and lower the snow lines petered out into windblown rock fields, this bowl isn‘t quite in season yet. After some lemonade and fruit roll-ups we began the descent.

Stu was happy to get his 3rd winter summit in 3 weeks

Stu was happy to get his 3rd winter summit in 3 weeks.

Although it took us 7 hours to get up, it only took 3 to get down as we were able to blaze it back through the woods. We completed the round trip in a little over 10 hours and headed into town for some black bean soup and root beer. Another peak in the bag for Stu, let‘s get the rest of em buddy!

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