The end of June brings many things: the summer solstice, the Stanley Cup (in years when there is an NHL lockout) and for us Coloradans the return of 14er season. While 14ers can technically be done at any time of the year conditions start being pretty optimal once the majority of the snow has melted, which is usually late June. Since my summer is shaping up to be kind of jam packed I knew I had to take advantage of the free time that I happened to have this past weekend.
For the first 14er of the summer I decided on Mt. Yale. My goal is to finish the Collegiates this summer and I figured Mt. Yale would be as good of a choice as any. I have kind of limited free weekends this summer due to all my running endeavors (Pikes Peak Marathon!) and other random planned trips so when I had no plans last weekend I was able to easily talk Graham into camping on Friday and hiking Mt. Yale on Saturday.
14er #19: Mt. Yale
After a long week of work for both Graham and me we were pretty darn happy to be skipping town and driving to Buena Vista on Friday evening. We opted for semi-lazy camping, stopping for dinner at Eddyline in town.
We ordered pizza and had some leftovers which we decided to save for a post-hike lunch on Saturday. After taking Cooper for a quick walk by the river we headed up to the Mt. Yale trailhead to try and find a place to camp for the evening. Generally it’s not too hard to find a place to camp near a trailhead. However, the Mt. Yale trailhead was right off of a highway towards Cottonwood Pass, so the geography of the area made it kind of hard. I was a little, okay maybe a lot, worried that we weren’t going to find anywhere suitable to camp but we eventually found an awesome pull-off right before the official campground area. We were in our sleeping bags by 10:45 ready for the mountains the next day!
We ate a quick breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and lox and headed out on the trail. The parking lot was full, but it wasn’t a zoo like some of the front range 14ers are. I find that the Collegiates are really fun 14ers because they are reasonably close to Denver with 1/4 the crowds. The trail started out with a climb from the parking lot, which pretty much set the tone for the entire day. The trail starts at 9,900 feet and ends at 14,196 feet in 4.25 miles (9.5 roundtrip) – a bit of a climb.
I was still feeling the effects of the Mt. Evans Ascent from the Saturday before so the hike was a little rough for me. A few people coming down from the summit kept giving me overly encouraging comments, one person even asking, “Are you doing okay?” Apparently I must have looked like I was struggling!
Finally, we made it to the summit. Compared to a lot of the double summit Collegiates I did last year (Belford & Oxford and Shavano & Tabeguache) Yale really was not too bad of a hike. Surprisingly too the view was not obstructed by smoke from the many wildfires in Colorado.
We ate lunch, drank a Dale’s and relaxed on the summit for a bit before heading back down.
Cooper had a bit of trouble on some of the large boulders on the way up to the summit, so Graham and I headed down what initially seemed to be an easier way down the 14er. False. It turned into a slow slog down a steep loose scree field. Hiking on loose rocks is not my favorite thing in the world, so I just slowly sidestepped down the mountain. I don’t think I have ever hiked on such a loose boulder field. Once we finally made it down to the trail again we looked back up at what we had just hiked down and realized we had just walked down a steep face of the mountain. No wonder it had been so hard!
For future reference I recommend just staying on the trail if you hike Mt. Yale. The rest of the hike down was much less uneventful, thankfully. The trail felt deluxe compared to the scree field. Before we knew it we were back at the trailhead.
I was so glad we had saved the pizza from dinner the night before. It was the perfect end to the day. We headed back to Denver full of pizza, Dale’s and mountain air. I couldn’t ask for a better way to start out the summer!