Mt Yale in Winter – 14,196

RT Length:  9.58 miles

Elevation Gain: 4315’

The drive in was icy in spots, with about 3 inches of fresh snow on the road.  I could tell a vehicle had made it to the trailhead at least an hour earlier, because there was snow over the tracks and it hadn’t been snowing on my drive.  There were two other vehicles in the lot, which looked to be boondockers.  I backed my truck in and got out my gear.  The lot is huge, and since the road is closed for winter just past the trailhead there is a lot of room for vehicles carrying snowmobiles.  When I got back later in the day there were no less than 40 large vehicles with trailers for hauling snowmobiles in the parking lot and lining the road.

I was on the trail a little late today, around 6am.  I knew it was supposed to be cold and I didn’t want to start too early:  the sun is my friend when it’s cold out!  The trail starts at the north end of the parking area.  There are trail signs here.

It’s winter, but since it hasn’t snowed heavily for a few days there was a trench in place, making this a class 1 trail all the way to treeline. 

I followed the trail for 1.5 miles to a junction, then turned right, following the trail northeast towards Mt Yale.  

After the junction the elevation gain picked up and the trail became icy in areas

At treeline the elevation gain became more intense.  I kept heading northeast, rounding this hill

And coming to a larger hill to navigate.  Here I passed two male hikers in their early 20s.  I’m not sure when they started this morning, but they looked to be in good spirits and more than happy for me to start making tracks.  Here’s how I navigated this obstacle

I wasn’t yet into the upper basin however.  Here’s an overview of the rest of the route

And here’s step by step to the ridge.  The snow was actually a few feet deep in areas, and I postholed a bit.  No ice axe or snowshoes were necessary. I wore microspikes for the entire hike.

The weather was very nice today, but cold.  Temperatures ranged from -3 degrees to 13 degrees, before windchill.  I kept pumping my fingers back and forth to keep them warm, stopping every few feet to clap them together briskly. Strangely, my toes didn’t seem to get that cold.  Luckily for me, this is my 4th summit of Mt Yale, so I didn’t need a map:  I knew where I was going and just kept heading towards the saddle. Once on the saddle I turned right and followed the icy ridge southeast towards the summit. Here’s the overall route

It was frigid, and icy, and windy, and cold!  You can tell how cold by looking at the boulders

Here’s a look at the summit of Mt Yale

I summited Mt Yale at 11:05am.  I was upset to find the camera I’d placed in-between my jackets to stay warm had once again frozen, so I had to use my cell phone for pictures. 

It was very, very cold, so I didn’t stay long.  I turned and headed back down the ridge

A shadowselfie just for fun!

Here’s the route down from the saddle

After making it back to the saddle I turned left and followed my tracks back down

About halfway back to treeline I passed the two young hikers again.  They looked exhausted, but in good spirits.  It was their first winter 14er, and I wished them luck.  They were more than glad to be following my tracks. Here are my tracks back down to treeline.

Once back at treeline I followed the trench back to the trailhead.  This part was fun; due to the light snow that fell overnight the wind was causing the snow on the branches to lift into the air and swirl to the ground.  It was like it was snowing on a bluebird day.

I made it back to the trailhead at 12pm, making this a 9.58 mile hike with 4315’ of elevation gain in 6 hours.  There were TONS of snowmobilers in the parking lot:  more than I’ve ever seen at a trailhead before.  They were loud, and I was glad I was done with my hike. No wonder I hadn’t seen any animals today! 

Here’s a topo map of my route:

I usually wear sandals while driving home so my feet can dry out.  Today, after putting on my sandals, I accidentally stepped in snow with my left foot and it instantly triggered an attack.  My toes turned blue and stiffened.  As I’m writing this it’s been almost 24 hours, and I still don’t have feeling in the two smallest toes on my left foot. Luckily however, they are now a normal color. 

The Mt Yale Summit Sticker can be bought here

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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