From the standard route along Denny Creek
Ken and I were really hoping to get in a climb of Pyramid Peak before it got too cold and icy but unfortunately, it snowed hard in Denver a couple of days earlier so we figured it that wouldn’t make for good conditions on steep, exposed, 4th class terrain. So, instead we opted to do Yale. Yale was my second-to-last fourteener in the Sawatch Range. I still have to do Mount of the Holy Cross as well (note: not anymore), but we wanted to save that one for early summer so we’d have good views of the cross.
Well, it turned out that there was hardly any snow up in the mountains this weekend. In fact, I don’t think we crossed any snow on Yale this day. We may have crossed a tiny foot long patch here and there on the summit, but the southern side of the peak was pretty much bare. So, it was a great day for hiking in the mountains.
Ken and I arrived at the trailhead fairly late because, during this time of year, the weather is much more stable. We were surprised at how many cars were at the trailhead. It promised to be fairly crowded on the peak.
The trail up to Mount Yale is a virtual highway. It’s in really good condition and is very wide. After about a mile or a mile and a half, the trail splits. Continuing straight leads to Brown’s pass. A right-hand turn leads you to Mount Yale. Though I imagine that most people go to Mount Yale, the trail is much smaller than the main trail. It’s still in great shape though.
We moved into a several aspen groves and paused many times to take pictures of the scenery.
The route was quite interesting actually. It seemed to wind in and out of small valleys and contoured around a lot. The trail winds through aspen groves, evergreen groves, meadows, along steep slopes, back into forest, over creeks, back through meadows. It’s not that long but the terrain seems to change a lot. Before the turnoff to Mount Yale, the trail moves away from the mountain. When you get on the Yale trail, it starts heading back.
The hike up to treeline seemed a lot longer than it actually was. When we broke out of treeline, we realized that it would be pretty windy on the top. The thin clouds were moving pretty quickly above the summit and the wind was starting to blow pretty hard around treeline. The trail was consistently becoming steep. A lot of it is eroded in sections and doesn’t contour or switchback. I’d guess that this would be a good mountain for the 14ers initiative to visit.
We finally got views of the summit, although before we confirmed it on the map, we thought the spur jutting off to the south/southeast was the actual summit.
After a long uphill section, the trail levels out a bit before the final segment that consists of switchbacks to the high saddle on Mount Yale. I nearly lost my hat on this section – a big gust of wind knocked it off. But I was able to chase it down.
We started the switchbacks and made great time on this steep sections. We passed a few parties on the way up. We counted around, give-or-take a few, 15 people on the switchbacks.
The wind was really whipping over the saddle from the north. It must have been blowing about 50 miles an hour. We were able to lean really far into the wind. If you relaxed your arms, the wind easily lifted them up. From time to time, a strap on my backpack would whip around and smack me in the face. Ken ditched his trekking poles, we put on some more clothing, and quickly headed up the final 200 feet of the summit.
It was kind of tricky hiking on the ridge. The wind would occasionally blow you of the trail. It’s a good thing we weren’t on Pyramid Peak this day!
We sat on top for about 20-30 minutes. We had to take shelter behind some rocks in order to eat lunch without it all being blown away. The views were very clear all around.
We both estimated a time that we would be home. Ken predicted about 10 minutes earlier than I did and we arrived about 2 minutes before his prediction. Not bad.
Mt. Yale was an enjoyable hike – a typical Sawatch fourteener