Mount Yale (14,196 feet)
Via Dennys Creek Trailhead
July 24, 2003
This day, I would be hiking alone. Sam decided to rest his knee, which had been giving him problems. So, Sam dropped me off at the trailhead at around 7:15am. I started up the trailhead at a pretty solid pace. My goal was to reach the summit in around 3 hours. After yesterday’s early thundershowers on Huron, I was over cautious. I didn’t want to miss this summit, or even worse, have to down climb to wait out weather and reclimb again. The trail is well worn. In fact, it is obvious that it is also a horse trail; evidence by the mucho horse poop. At around 10,400 ft, I crossed over a pretty heavy creek crossing. On the other side was a nice large area, perfect for camping. In fact, there were several tents setup; probably the crew that Sam and I saw packing out last night while we were checking out the trailhead. I went about 0.25 mile further up the trail, but thought that I must have missed the right turn off. Roach’s notes say that it is at 10,400, and by now I was at around 10,600 ft (according to my Suunto watch). I decided to trek back down to the camp and ask someone. The guy that I asked said that it was about 0.25 mile up the trail, and that it was really obvious. So, I headed back up, and sure enough, it was just past where I turned around; about 10,650 ft. I’m sure that the route has changed from upgrades.
At the intersection - which was clearly marked by a sign - I turned right. Soon, I started passing people. First was a family of four. Then, I passed a larger group of scouts, probably the ones from the campground. After, I passed the scouts, all of the sudden, I noticed that I had about 4 or 5 of them tailing me at about 50 feet back. So, they want a challenge, huh? I picked up the pace. I finally lost them at a steep section that starts around 11,000 ft. I’m nobody’s “rabbit!”
At around 12,000 ft, the trail opened up to a meadow area, which was really awesome. There was a glancing view of Princeton, which was great also. After crossing this approximately 0.25 mile meadow, the trail takes a sharp left, and starts to get steep again. Pretty quickly here, you start to see the summit. This is always a great feeling.
At this point, it seemed pretty obvious that the trail was going to be leading up to the Southwest ridge, for a ridge traverse to the summit. This is kind of similar to Huron. The trail continues pretty steep. I was glad that it had rained the day before, because the steep dirt trail was more cohesive than it would have been if it were really dry. I kept a pretty solid pace up this trail, but I slowed a bit, understandably. Eventually, this trail does reach the bottom of the ridge. Then, it works up the ridge in some small, steep switchbacks. I found out quickly that it was much better to stick with the obvious trail, even though there are several times that it looks like a quicker route breaks off. The main trail is much more packed down, while the other break out routes are really loose. Plus, the main trail is the eco-right-thing.
The main trail up on the ridge, appears to skirt the main ridge. But, I decided that it looked more fun to go right up the middle of the ridge, and ride it to the top. I found out pretty quickly that this involved some pretty cool class 3 climbing. This was a blast. Unfortunately, the ridge looses elevation several times as it goes towards the summit, but it was still worth it for the fun stuff. I ended up reaching the summit in just under 3 hours.
At the summit, I met a young couple. We started talking, and I mentioned that I had rushed up the ridge pretty fast, because there was a guy in black that was coming up quickly, and I didn’t want to have him pass me. They laughed, and said that they did the same thing when they saw me coming. Haha!
Eventually, the mystery person in black, came up over the ridge, and it was a “she”. I was impressed. I immediately struck up conversation with this impressive individual. Her name was Rhonda, from Portland, Oregon. Rhonda is a teacher, and she takes these extended Summer vacations every year, which are heavily fitness and nature oriented. That is so cool! Meanwhile, the first couple start back down from the summit.
While we were chatting at the summit, Rhonda looked over at my pack, and quietly pointed. I looked over, and almost started laughing. A chipmunk was licking at the straps and waist belt of my pack. This was so cute! I grabbed my video camera, and digital camera. At first I scared him away, but he came back pretty quickly. This guy was gutsy. I ended up getting some pretty cute footage of this little guy slobbering on my pack.
By, now another guy came up the summit. You could tell that this guy was also climbing strong today. He mentioned that he made it in 2 hours 48 minutes. So, the three of us chatted, and munched our energy food for the trip back down. In the mean time, it actually started to hail on top. The clouds were dark, but not menacing. And, the hail just made it cold.
After about 1 hour 10 minutes on the top, I head back down. I pretty quickly caught up with Rhonda, and we chatted the whole way down. This made for a very pleasant descent. The 1 hour 50 minute descent didn’t seem long at all.
At the bottom, I met up with Sam, and introduced him to my new friend. I gave Rhonda a few more ideas to climb, and what each might offer.
Man, this was a great climb. When I crawled out of bed this morning, I was pretty burnt out after climbing for 5 days straight; this being the sixth. But, the trail was quick, and the class 3 at the top was a blast. Plus, the weather was perfect. This chipmunk incident made for good entertainment, and the good company on the descent topped it all off. Overall elevation gain was 4300 ft and mileage, according to Roach, is 7.0 miles.
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