Memorial Day weekend was one of those rare weekends where there is a little extra time available to pull off a mountain overnight trip. As it worked out, everything lined up just right. The plan: to drive up to Buena Vista Colorado for a late Sunday Night arrival at Delaney Creek trailhead, hike in the dark to camp about halfway in still below tree line, summit Mt Yale the next morning, leaving Monday late afternoon and Tuesday for some random hiking and fishing. The hardest part was trying to explain to my sweet 7yr old daughter Anna that this camping trip wouldn’t be all that fun for her to come along with. That the conditions up that high can get cold and depending on your personality and your equipment, somewhat miserable. She very reluctantly went to bed and as I was ready to go I heard a soft whisper of “Daddy?” from the top of the stairs where my sweet daughter was standing in three somewhat random layers of clothes (to be prepared for the conditions I had described — soo cute!) determined to come along. Only with some cuddle help from Mom was I able to get out and hit the road as planned. I can’t wait to bring her along on one of these mountaineering trips, but a little later in the year and a shorter route will be best.
Everything worked out just so, and it was a great trip. A three quarter waxing moon was setting when we arrived around midnight. Jay and I had packed in advance and we were quick to go after checking out our backpacks one last time. Jay had a fishing weight scale he pulled out to see who managed a lighter pack once we had our water and were all set. He had 47lbs I had 41 which I got a kick out of because he had been bragging on how light his pack was going to end up. We both ended up with a good bit of extra food in the end and talked a bit about what both of us wouldn’t bring next time.
The walk through the woods was the perfect dreamlike night-time experience, calm with only slight breezes, cool, crisp and a clear starlit sky. Delaney creek was always at our side as we hiked in a short ways to the fork in the trail. We knew there was a fork in the trail where one route leads up to Mt Yale and the other route leads up to Hartenstein lake, and that there was a sign there. Just as we had heard the sign was right there. We knew also knew there were two good camping options at this point, we could either go up the Yale path and look for some flat camping spots another half mile or so, or we could go take the Lake Hartenstein trail and camp along side Delaney Creek. We went up the Yale trail and sure enough, a half mile in, found lots of sites to choose from. Pitched camp fast and got a few hours sleep. We didn’t do the crack-o-dawn climb mostly because of the late night hike in, we stayed in camp and left about 7:30 so it was sunny and warming already.
The weather looked great, stable conditions and almost totally clear. We packed small hip packs each with our choices of equip for the way up, I took crampons which I didn’t need, the snow was warmed up enough already we never saw any ice slopes. We passed one mountain runner who was on his way back down, not sure if he went all the way up but it was gratifying to see him eye us over with our Gore shells, Koflach boots and trekking poles and say “You guys are equipped right for this”.
Once treeline ended we started up the broad south-western shoulder of the mountain which provides a fairly direct line to the summit ridge. The actual trail was obscured by the snow and a few weathered paths from previous visitors. We picked a line up and made our way post-holing occasionally. Without snowshoes route finding was a little more interesting looking for either cold hard show to kickstep up in places or exposed scree to step from rock to rock. We separated in our route taking as we worked our relative ways up the slope I ended up staying more to the left than Jay who was going up a slightly steeper couloir. We yelled back and forth and planned to meet up on the ridge top. Weather was stating to build, but conditions were still fairly stable. We could spot some Thunder heads in places off in the distance, but they were clearly not in our path, we had good visibility to the west – southwest where the weather was coming in from.
Gaining the summit ridge was most excellent for you get awesome views on the other side of Columbia and Harvard, both climbed last year, and other high ranges all around. I had heard that you can see the most 14ers from the top of Yale than any other CO peak.
I followed the ridge trail to the summit, and peered over the various couloir exits until I saw Jay making his way up. We hung out at the summit and took a meal enjoying the incredible views and our success. More weather was building but we stayed up on top across that ridge till at least 1pm when we decided that it was time to go down. Lots of glissading made the trip down take ¼ the time and we were back in camp that afternoon.
The climb was the best part of the trip, but the low key hanging around camp and just taking it easy in the wilderness through the night till the next day made this an awesome memorial day trip.