Yale in Winter: Is it a Gimmie? Not Quite!

Yale in Winter: Is it a Gimmie? Not Quite!

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 15, 2009
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Summer


Mt Yale (14196')
"Mascot Pk" (13435')
Feb 15, 2009

7.4 miles RT, 4630' gain
Up Denny Creek standard route, down Mascot s.e. ridge

Participants: Jean Aschenbrenner, Ken Nolan, Sarah Thompson, Dominic Meiser, Dwight Sunwall, & Kevin Baker


I was looking for another "easy" Sawatch winter 14er to do this weekend, and Ken sent me an invite for Yale so I bit. This would be the first time to hike with Ken and Jean, so it would be interesting to see how the weather would turn out since when Ken hikes there's usually a bit of a battle with the banshees involved. Sunday was looking good, so maybe the wind would behave for us.

We caravaned from Ken's place and dropped off Dwight's 4 Runner at the Avalanche Gulch trailhead as there was a possibility to add tri-centennial Mascot to the day if the wind was manageable. We could see plumes of spindrift dancing off the high ridges. What happened to our bluebird forecast? We set out at 6:36am and the temp was about 2 degrees. It didn't take long to warm up though.

Free Lunch?

We were fortunant to find a well broken track all the way up to the Yale cutoff at 10760'. I was envisioning a major league wallow fest after seeing Sarah, Dominic, and Dwight looking totally spent after their epic adventure up waste deep unconsolidated snow on nearby Gladstone Ridge the day before. Kudos to them for sticking with the plan and doing Yale the next day!

At the cutoff, our free ride ended but there still was a bit of an old track to follow. We started rotating the trailbreaking, but it wasn't bad at all. We left the track at around 11200' and blitzed straight up a steep glade of shallow snow that kept us out of avy danger. The summer trail traverses right across a suspect slope. This was the same efficient route I took the first time I did Yale in late March of '04. It was an annoying, quad burning 600' grunt in only .2 mile, but it did the job.

From Yale

As the slope mellowed out, we began to feel the wind a bit and I had to don the dreaded mittens as my hands were getting pretty cold. Luckily the wind was not in our face, so it was only a minor nuisance.

From Yale

Once on the mellow west shoulder, we made good time up fairly firm snow to the ridge at 13960', keeping our snowshoes on all the way up to the ridge. The ridge is a bit more entertaining in the winter as you pretty much stay on the crest, which bumps up the difficulty to class 3.

From Yale

The wind once again made a guest appearance just to make it a bit tougher, but it wasn't too bad since it was mostly behind us.

Ken and Jean on the ridge near summit:
From Yale

Ridge video near summit

We topped out around noon and Dominic found us a nice wind shadow on the leeward side of the ridge to rest. It was 10 degrees on the summit, but it felt quite tropical with the warm sun beating down on us! Not quite bluebird status, but close enough for winter!

Dominic and Dwight top out:

From Yale

Views to the s.w. from summit:
From Yale

Mascot and the Heinous Ridge Descent

After a much needed break Dominic, Sarah, and I headed to Mascot. Ken, Jean, and Dwight headed back down the way we came as Ken knew what nastiness awaited us. It would be another 13er repeat for Dominic and Sarah, so I owe them one! We headed due south from the summit following an easier ridge than the main ridge and contoured back over to the saddle.
Mascot's east face was very cool as we approached it. There were a few cornices to watch out for, so we gave a wide berth to the right.

From Yale

The 400' climb to the summit went fairly quick and we were rewarded with another pleasant summit visit. The view over to the 3 Apostles was amazing.

From Yale

We descended the s.e. ridge of Mascot, which didn't have a whole lot of snow to deal with until we reached treeline. We roused up a couple bighorn sheep who were relaxing on the ridge and they darted off to the drainage below.

From Yale

We cruised down the easy ridge to treeline, and here is where the conditions turned hideous. We tried to get by without snowshoes for a bit, but that was out of the question. We put them back on, and boarded the slip-n-slide bobsled run down to the Avalanche Gulch trailhead. All forms of wipeouts, tree belays, and class 3 snowshoe pirouettes commenced, as no matter how hard we tried, it was hard to stay off your butt. From treeline, the ridge drops about 1800' in about .7 mile. It would have been a quick descent if we had better snow, but it was not to be. Near the bottom, we slopped our way down muddy scree and it caked on our snowshoes. Dominic took his off and had an easier time of staying upright. We finally reached the road and popped out just a few hundred yards west of the trailhead at 5:12 where Ken, Jean, and Dwight were waiting for us. Another winter 14er adventure is in the books!

GPS track:
From Yale


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cftbq - Feb 19, 2009 11:20 am - Hasn't voted

Nice one

Congrats to all: you needed perseverence! That ridge descent sounds like a doozie. I hope it's easier under summer conditions...

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