- Date Hiked: April 27, 2004
- Miles Hiked: 7.0
- Elevation Gain: 4,300'
- Hiking Partner(s): None
- Although we knew we weren't going to make it Yale only three days
earlier, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed in the
trip. We did a lot of work without the reward of a summit. I
had to burn some comp time at work, so I checked the forecast and saw
that Buena Vista was to have clear skies for Tuesday. I decided to
give it another shot with my current knowledge of the trail
conditions. I figured that if I started early enough, the trail
would be hard and I could avoid having to wear snowshoes for much of the
trip and make much better time. I was right.
- I drove to the trailhead Monday night and promptly fell asleep around
11:00. I slept right through the alarm that went off at 4:00 and
finally woke at 6:00. Disappointed with my extended slumber, I
contemplated calling it quits and heading back to Denver after loosing a
couple of hours of valuable time. Instead, I quickly packed up and
hightailed it down the trail. I knew I had to make up some time,
and my correct assumption about the crusted trail expedited my
efforts. Before I knew it, I hit the fork in the trail and was
hiking next to Delaney Creek.
- I made it to 11,800' below Yale's southwest shoulder in 1 hour and 45
minutes. I continued up a small rib above tree line that leads to
the actual shoulder. Although there was no trail from this point,
the snow was hard enough to allow me to float reasonably well with
snowshoes on, and the small crampon was just enough to keep me from
slipping. Once I finished climbing this steep slope and reached
the crest of the southwest shoulder, I pulled out my GPS to check my
elevation for the only time of the day. According to route
descriptions, the actual trail gains the rounded ridge at 12,200';
I was at 12,900'. With only 1,300' to go, I was certain I had a
chance to make it.
- At this point, I took my first extended break while reviewing the
remaining route. The saddle at 13,900' looked close with an easy
grade; however, looks can be deceiving and I knew better than to underestimate this section of the hike. I previously made this
mistake on the west side of Pikes Peak and was sorely
disappointed. Even the photos make the hike to the saddle look
gentle and trouble free. The topo map shows otherwise, and I would
attest that it is relatively steep.
- Although the slope of this section approaches 30 degrees, I felt as
though the avalanche potential was nominal. It was still
mid-morning and the snow appeared to remain in good condition.
After my break, I continued for a couple of hundred feet before the
small crampons didn't suffice any longer and I began sliding with poor
- Although switching to crampons assisted with footing, I was now
severely post holing. To mitigate this problem, I started planting
my ice axe and keeping three points on the snow at all times to more
evenly distribute my weight.
Plant, step, step; plant, step, step; plant, step, step was the
recurring theme. By doing this, I was able to limit my steps to
only sinking approximately six inches. Nevertheless, the next 500' to
the saddle was by far the most difficult of the climb. I was
basically crawling up the snow as the slowing progress, increasing
winds, and fatigue took their toll.
- I took another break approximately 30' below the 13,900' saddle.
As previously mentioned, the wind was considerably stronger now.
The excursion kept me warm, but it was at this point where I added an
insulating layer to my legs. The balaclava and goggles also went
on. This was the first time in a long time that I actually used
everything in my pack. One positive note is that my pack was
basically empty as I added clothes and cached water and snowshoes on the
- The final ridge and 300' to the summit looked much more difficult than
expected. Given the cross wind, snow filled rocks, and additional
exposure, I approached with caution. I stayed right on the ridge
the entire way and didn't want to give the snow any opportunity to slide
away from beneath me. I was poised for an arrest over the couple
of small snow bridges that I crossed. I was finally on the summit
after an exciting scramble. I stuck around only long enough to
take a few photos, take in the awesome views, and grab a drink of
water. It was noon, and I knew the snow would be softening down
below. I wanted to get back to tree line as fast as I could.
- The hike down was uneventful and after picking up the trail of gear
and water I left on the way up, I was at 11,800' in 1 hour and 20
minutes. Once back in the trees, I stripped down to a base layer
and loaded everything else in my pack. The weather was beautiful
and of course the snow was rapidly turning to slush. Despite this,
I was able to avoid having to put snowshoes back on. In my
opinion, this was truly an alpine hike for me. The combination of
wind, snow, technique required, and elevation made it a trip to
- After becoming familiar with the mountain and
trail, I was able to improve the time dramatically from the last time I
was in the area. In addition, we broke trail over half way to the
summit the previous Saturday and there was no new snow.
- Trailhead - Trail Fork (0 hours 35 minutes)
- Trail Fork - 11,800' (1 hour 10 minutes)
- 11,800' - Mount Yale (3 hours 35 minutes)
Time (5 hours 20 minutes)
Time (0 hours 10 minutes)
Yale - 11,800' (1 hour 20 minutes)
- Trailhead (1 hour 15 minutes)
Time (2 hours 35 minutes)
Trail Time (8 hours 5 minutes) (6:30 am - 2:35 pm)
- Click here
to view a 2D
map of the area where this hike is located.