Friday, July 14, 2006

14er Report - Mt Yale

Mt Yale (14,197 ft) doesn't look too tough or
scary from Hwy 24 near Buena Vista.

14er Report – Mt Yale
July 12/06

After running a good race at the Copperman Marathon on Sun. I felt I should be in good shape to climb my 1st 14er of the season? So I glanced through my 14er Guide and selected Mount Yale – a 14,197 ft peak in the Collegiate Peaks (a series of 14ers named after Ivy League Colleges).

The book stated “it would test your legs”! I should have paid more attention! It was a bitch! That makes two years in a row that I have selected very tough 14ers to start the season! Oh well – on with the story.

Because the Collegiates are located near Buena Vista, CO – about 70 miles south of Silverthorne I left very early on Wed morning to arrive at the Denny Creek Trailhead before 8am. It is necessary to start early because the afternoons in Jul/Aug usually have thunderstorms and it is very dangerous to be on a mountain in a thunderstorm. Thus it is important to be off the mountain by 2 pm!!

I set out from the Denny Creek Trailhead (9900 ft) at 8am. It was a 4300 vertical ft climb over 3.5 miles to the summit. Below the tree line the trail was rocky and relentlessly steep! It took 1-½ grueling hours of hiking/climbing (w/o rest) to reach the tree line at 12,200ft.

At that point the trail entered an alpine meadow and became loose dirt but still climbed relentlessly. It took another 1-½ hours to reach 13,900 ft where the trail ended in a narrow ridgeline about 300 vertical ft below the summit. It was necessary to pick my way across huge rocks/boulders on a narrow ridge with a 2000 ft drop-off on both sides. A wind was howling across the ridge at 40 mph trying to blow me off as I nervously clung to the rocks and tried to find a route to the summit! I don’t mind admitting I was scared ‘shitless’! In fact I almost quit/gave up about 100 vertical ft from the summit. Thankfully a man and his 12 year-old son caught up to me and I let them go ahead. Then I chastised myself and thought, “if a 12 year-old kid can do this so can I”!

I focused on them and the path they were taking across the rocks to control my ‘Acrophobia’ – fear of heights – and follow them to the summit. However when I stood on the summit I was still scared and shaking so badly that I stayed only long enough to take a photo of the magnificent view to share with my readers and then hastily retreated back down the ridge to the safety of the dirt trail where I didn’t feel like I was going to fall off the mountain? I turned around and looked back up at the scary summit and shouted “Been there - Done that – Ain’t ever going back”!!!!!

The hike back down the steep, dirt trail was treacherous. I was glad that I had carried my hiking poles – they made the descent much easier and safer! It took two hours (w/o a rest) to reach the trailhead – a total of 5 ¾ hours for a 7-mile hike! I must be getting old? My body was more tired and beat up than after the Copperman Marathon?? I kissed my car because there had been a few times on the ridge when I thought I would never live to see it again!

I am glad that I can cross Mt Yale off my 14er list because I have no intentions of ever climbing that mountain again! Unfortunately I know there are worse ones still to be conquered.

Stay tuned for the next report!

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