Mt. Yale

Mt. Yale (Sawatch Range) – Southwest Slopes (Class 2)

  • Attempted 7/1/15
  • 9.50 miles round trip
  • 3.25 hrs to summit and 2.25 hrs to return to TH (5.5 hrs hiking time)
  • Moderate 14er (Class 2)
    • Standard SW Slopes Approach
  • +4,300′ net elevation gain to peak (14,196′)
  • Equipment:
    • sunblock (at that elevation, you’ll feel the sun)
    • tech shell (you will want a shell to protect you from the wind)
    • Nanopuff jacket (always layer when attempting a 14er)
    • headlamp (you’ll have to be starting this hike earlier than most 14ers)
    • light gloves
    • hiking poles (makes the descent easier on the knees)
    • Lunch and lots of snacks
    • Lots of water (I went through 2L of water even before we reached the summit)

Having almost fully completed the front range and saving the mosquito range for this upcoming week, we decided to start on the collegiate 14ers of the sawatch range.  Mt. Yale is a stand-alone 14er, which makes it nice for a quick day hike.  We left Arvada at just after 3:00a and began hiking from Mt. Yale’s TH at 5:45a or so.  We took i70 there (super open highway in the early morning) and took US-285 home (since it is a much prettier drive).

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All our trips thus far have began when it is just light enough to see without a head lamp, which is great.  Right away there were a few water crossings that had to be done; fortunately, they were much more stable than La Plata’s third crossing.

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It took us about 1 and a half hours to clear treeline on the ascent.  Unlike La Plata, the ascent’s gain was spread out over the course of the whole climb pretty evenly; however, it felt harder than La Plata because you didn’t get the steep parts over with ever.

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Yup, steep
Yup, steep

After you clear treeline, you’ll be climbing over some very large but quite stable rocks.  It is right about here where your gain per mile increases.  There is about a mile and a half left at this point, but it’ll feel like it goes by fairly quickly!


Pretty freaking majestic
Pretty freaking majestic


Next up is a dirt and small rock section up to take the ridge of the mountain.  It looks like scree from a distance, but the rocks are all pretty stable.  It should be noted that there are a couple of snow sections that can be avoided, but destroys the trail in doing so.  Make sure to have hiking poles to balance yourself crossing the ice.  Microspikes are unnecessary and are excess weight carrying up the mountain.


The summit can be seen from below the ridge.  There will be a "false" summit while climbing the summit ridge, but the true summit is less than 10 minutes past there.
The summit can be seen from below the ridge. There will be a “false” summit while climbing the summit ridge, but the true summit is less than 10 minutes past there.
You basically climb right up that with switchbacks.
One of perhaps 5 snowy/icy sections

It should be noted that there is a lot of water still running down this section of the trail and it makes for a bit of a muddy hike.  If you can wait, I suspect that in two weeks it’ll be much more dry and far less damaging to the trail for people to hike over.

Finally, you’ve taken the ridge.  It is very pretty and a great place to catch your breath before doing the climb to the summit.  It is probably a 20 minute hike from the ridge, maybe 30 minutes.


If this isn't your first 14er, it may be no surprise that this is a false summit seen here.
If this isn’t your first 14er, it may be no surprise that this is a false summit seen here.
A look back down at the ridge

We ascended on the left side of the false summit rather than the right (which appeared to be more popular) so we descended on the right side.  In my opinion, the left side was a bit harder, having perhaps a difficult class 2 or class 3 variation for a small climb.  The right side stays at a class 2 the entire way to the summit.  Either way, they are both not very difficult to get to the top.

The class 3 climb
The class 3 climb


Looking back down the class 3 climb
Looking back down the class 3 climb

The summit was pretty awesome.  You could identify almost the entire sawatch range as well as capital and the maroon bells (so claimed one guy, but it was a bit too foggy to see those).

Peak number 9, not bad!
Remember, you can always click on these panoramic pictures to enlarge them

We arrived at about 9a or so and left after about 30-40 minutes because we knew a storm was due to arrive at noon or so.  On our way down, Kevin decided to race a hiker down.  While I was descending, I ended up rolling my ankle just below the ridge after getting my boots wet on a snow crossing, which made for a long 3.5 miles to the car.  Hiking poles helped me substantially; however, I rolled it several more times before reaching the car.  About 10 minutes out from the car I ended up rolling my other ankle, so I was all sorts of messed up by the time I reached the car 2 hours 15 minutes after leaving the summit (not bad on a rolled ankle).  Kevin got down about 30-40 minutes quicker than myself.  Despite my mishap, this was a very fun summit and a great hike.  It was certainly harder than La Plata (not as loose of rocks, though) but not quite on Longs’ level.

Overall, I don’t think I’ll ever repeat this climb; however, it was a great change from the over-populated mountains closer to Denver.  I liked that, the rocky climb to summit, and the view of all the 14ers at the summit.  Kevin and I are getting pretty good at identifying other 14ers from the summit of a 14er!


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