Mount Yale
excerpts from the book
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Incredible Backcountry Trails
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    Distance: 10.9 miles (round trip)

    Walking time: 8 ½ hours

    : 4,300 ft. gain/loss
      Denny Creek Trailhead (start) 9900 ft
      Mount Yale: 14,196 ft.

    Trail: Generally well marked and easy to follow. The last 0.6 mile, however, is a scramble up a rocky, boulder-strewn ridge with no trail.

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. There is usually snow on the trail from early November through mid July.

    Vicinity: Near Buena Vista

    Mount YaleMount Yale


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    Mount Yale is one of fifteen 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountain Range. The range is a favorite hiking area, and writers frequently refer to it with whimsical phrases such as "the pinnacle of the North American continent", or "the roof of the Continental Divide". The truth is that this 80-mile-long stretch of mountains contains more fourteeners than any other range in Colorado, and all of them, including the three highest peaks in the state, are relatively easy class-2 climbs. This abundance of climbing opportunities combined with good trails and plenty of scenic beauty combine to make the Sawatch Range a favorite among hikers.

    Yale is typical of the Sawatch fourteeners. It is a high, rounded hump with broad sloping shoulders and a rocky, talus-covered summit. It is one of the well-known Collegiate Peaks that were surveyed in 1869 by Harvard University Professor J. D. Whitney and subsequently named after famous universities. Whitney named the highest peak in his survey Mount Harvard, and he named the one thought to be the second highest Mount Yale, after his alma mater. Unfortunately for graduates of Yale it was later discovered that the nearby Mount Princeton is one foot higher than Mount Yale!

    The trail begins by climbing upward toward Browns Pass through an open forest of lodgepole pine and spruce. The grade is moderate, but unrelenting. The route follows the west side of Denny Creek, and although the water is not often visible you can hear the cascading stream behind the screen of trees to the right of the trail.

    After 10 minutes of walking the trail crosses the boundary into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, and 20 minutes later it crosses a log bridge to the east side Denny Creek. 0.3 miles beyond the bridge you will come to a fork where the trail to Mount Yale branches off the Browns Pass Trail. As indicated by the Forest Service sign, you must turn right at the junction.

    From the junction the Mount Yale Trail turns abruptly to the northeast and begins climbing away from Denny Creek. After 15 minutes the path begins following the left side of a small ravine called Delaney Gulch. Eventually the trail crosses to the east side of Delaney Creek in the bottom of the gulch and then begins a long series of switchbacks as it works its way up through the trees toward timberline.

    After gaining about 800 feet of elevation from the Browns Pass trail junction the path enters a grassy area where most of the trees were long ago chopped down, and if you watch carefully you will see the remains of an old broken-down cabin. The structure is just 20 feet from the right side of the trail, but it is now so deteriorated it is hardly recognizable as a cabin. If the rotting logs could talk they would probably tell a story of another lonely prospector whose backbreaking work was never adequately rewarded.

    The trail turns south as it crosses the tree line and then loops back around to the north for an imposing view of your goal, Mount Yale. The view from this angle is intimidating, to say the least. The bare, rocky dome of Yale stands like a giant sleeping monster 2,000 feet above the trail with long summit ridges spreading out west and southeast of the mountain. The entire remainder of the route is visible from this prospective. The trail climbs 1,300 feet in a northerly direction to intersect the western ridge, and then follows the knife-edge up the last 700 feet to the summit. The climb is not technically difficult, but it is obvious that a great deal of lung-busting work remains to be done before you can call the peak your own.

    The trail remains reasonably good and the grade relatively moderate until it nears the base of the summit ridge. Then as it switchbacks up the side of the ridge it gets progressively steeper and rockier. When it reaches the top of the ridge the trail disappears altogether, and for the last 0.6 mile you are left to pick your own way across the boulders. In some places the easiest route is directly on top of the ridge, in others it is easier to walk on the right or south side. There is one false summit that is easiest to avoid by bearing to the right. The ridge levels out near the end, and the last 100 yards of the climb is an easy walk.

    Once you have reached the top of Mount Yale your efforts will be well rewarded. Some people claim that they can see over half of Colorado’s fourteeners from the summit of Yale. I have my doubts about that claim, but you can certainly see a lot of them. The view to the north is particularly dramatic, with Columbia, Harvard, Missouri, Oxford, Belford, and Huron Peaks all clearly visible. The lake just below the north side of Yale is Kroenke Lake and farther to the west, nestled in a grove of trees, you can see Hartenstein Lake.

    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    If you are interested in a supplemental map of the Mount Yale Trail
    we recommend:
    Buena Vista - Collegiate Peaks  (Trails Illustrated, map #129)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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