Since we were coming up from the front range, our group decided to drive up on Friday evening and stay the night in Buena Vista to save some time. So, I've included some useful BV beta in this report.
A few blocks north of Main in BV is a Super 8 motel in which we squeezed five people for $84. If you are driving in late, there is a Pizza Hut across the street that is open until 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Continental breakfast is served in the Super 8 at 6am, but if that's too late for your plans, drive south about 3 blocks past Main on US 24 to the 7-Eleven on the left-hand side. City Market across the street from the 7-Eleven opens at 6am.
We were able to drive to the trailhead from US 24 in about 20 minutes, and started out around 6:30am. The trail was well broken from the trailhead up until our turnoff which we hiked in our plastic boots without any problems.
On our hike up the Denny Creek Trail, we were a bit uncertain as to where we were supposed to turn off to the Mt. Yale Trail. We crossed a small creek and almost turned off way too early. We continued up the trail until we crossed Denny Creek and the creek leveled out to a flattish area. Thinking we were just about right (and not knowing there is a sign at the turnoff), we put on our snowshoes, turned off here, and broke trail into the lower Delaney Gulch. In retrospect, we turned off only about 100 yards too soon and paralleled the Mt. Yale Trail just downhill from it.
We bushwacked a little and found a ski trail that we followed up from the steep and narrow lower Delaney Gulch area onto the ridge on the climbers left of the gullyish gulch. After following this trail for a bit, we stumbled upon the proper Mt. Yale Trail which we followed into Delaney Gulch proper.
As the Gulch levelled out and we entered a bit of a clearing, we lost the trail and decided to head up the Gulch on the right-hand side, watching for access to the upper slopes. The timber thickened and we spotted an open slope up to the right which we climibed to a shoulder. This shoulder led us through more timber to an open flattish area above treeline approximately due west of the summit. There were several large boulders in this area, one of which we stopped at for a snack.
From here we climbed ribs up the southwest slopes towards the high saddle in the northwest ridge, staying left of several gullys containing more snow and some blue ice. We basically made straight for the saddle at about 13,500' which we made by 9:30. Leaving the saddle, we climbed on the ridge proper to the summit. There were rockier and steeper sections on the ridge, but we kept our snowshoes on the entire way.
We reached the summit a few minutes after 1pm, took some pics, and headed back down. We took our time, making several stops for food, water, and conversation with a group of three from Monument that we ran into. There were a few fun glissades on the way down which we took advantage of. We finally arrived back at the car to huff snowmobile fumes a few minutes after 4pm, giving us a round trip time of about 9.5 hours. If we had been rushed, we could have shaved about an hour off of that time without too much difficulty.
Overall, this was a great winter route (on the last day of winter, technically) in spring conditions. The route was short but steep, and very achievable as a one day climb from the car. What a day!