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Collegiate Peaks in the Clouds: Mount Yale

Sunday, July 28, 2019

After spending Saturday hiking along the Continental Divide near Lake City, it was time for my main objective this weekend to hike my first 14er of the year! I had decided that I was going to give Mount Yale (14,196) in the Sawatch Range a try and found a spot to camp just up the road from the Denny Creek Trailhead on Saturday evening. I was pretty tired when I arrived and was planning on an alpine start, so I fell asleep before the sun even set for the day. Surprising, I actually slept very well overnight which is rare for me on the night before a big climb, so I’m not complaining! I did wake up briefly a few times throughout the night and heard that it was raining out which concerned me a little since there had been no rain in the forecast and I was hoping it wouldn’t impact my hiking plans this morning. I ended up waking up at 3:45am (my alarm was set for 4:00am) and was wide awake and ready to go, so I got up and headed over to the trailhead to start my hike. I was on the trail by 4:30am and hiking in the dark with a little help from my headlamp. I looked up to the sky and saw there were some stars, so I figured that the storms overnight must have already cleared out.

Crossing Denny Creek on a log bridge in the dark.

Dark Crossing

At the intersection for the Mount Yale Trail.

Headlamp Intersection

I was still below treeline when it started getting light out and the remaining clouds above started to change colors for the first time.

First Color

A beautiful view over to Gladstone Ridge (13,209) on the other side of the valley.

Gladstone Ridge Sunrise

Hiking up the trail as the sky was constantly changing colors.

Up The Trail

Soon, low clouds started to obscure some of the surrounding peaks and ridges.

Low Clouds

Morning light and clouds on Turner Peak (13,233).

Clouds Over Turner Peak

Not a bad view this morning…

Morning View

More low clouds continued to move into the area as I continued hiking up the mountain above treeline.

Under The Clouds

These are my favorite kinds of conditions to hike in!

Low Ceiling

Limited View

A short-lived view of Mount Princeton (14,197) emerging from the clouds.

Mount Princeton

For a little while I was hiking through the clouds and my only view was of the trail in front of me.

Cloudy Trail

Trail Through Clouds

Trail To the Clouds

While the surrounding peaks were playing peek-a-boo in all the fast-moving clouds, I was reminded of similar conditions during our hike to the summit of Culebra Peak two years ago.

Fast-Moving Clouds

As I was getting closer to the saddle above, the sun was just about to make an appearance.

Minutes To the Sun

Once the sunlight struck me a Brocken Spectre (also known as a Glory) showed up on the clouds below me. This is only the second time I have experienced this optical phenomena and it was still pretty amazing!

Mountain Glory

The clouds were dynamic and moving fast this morning making great conditions for taking photos! I stopped and took a lot of photos during the last part of the hike to the summit which really slowed me down.

Sky of Clouds

Trail Above the Clouds

Above & Below

Light & Clouds

When I reached the top of the ridge I had a great view to the peaks on the other side including La Plata Peak (14,336), Mount Elbert (14,433) and Mount Belford (14,197).

Ridgetop View

Following the ridge through the clouds.

Sawatch Clouds

Once I was on the final ridge to the summit I saw another Brocken Spectre and was able to get some better photos. I actually saw a few different ones as clouds passed below me and the sun played hide-and-seek through the clouds above me. It was pretty cool!

Mount Yale Brocken Spectre

Collegiate Peaks Brocken Spectre

There was a good view over to Mount Harvard (14,420) and Mount Columbia (14,073) on the other side of North Cottonwood Creek when the clouds weren’t in the way.

Mount Columbia

When I first arrived at the summit it was completely socked in the clouds.

Summit In the Clouds

Since the clouds were moving pretty fast the view soon cleared up a little bit.

In-N-Out of the Clouds

View From the Top

View From the Top

Surrounded by peaks and clouds as far as the eyes can see!

Sea of Peaks

The Sawatch

A view below the clouds back toward the trailhead.

Below The Clouds

While I was hiking back down the ridge I saw another Brocken Spectre and was able to get a better close-up shot.

Mount Yale Glory

Following the rocky ridge back down to the saddle.

Ridge In the Clouds

Rocky Ridge

As I was descending the trail back down off the mountain the clouds were starting to clear out.

Mount Yale Trail

One last shot of The Three Apostles and Huron Peak (14,003) as I headed back down to the trailhead.

Hiking Back Down

After returning to my Jeep at the trailhead it was time to head back home after a nice weekend in the mountains. I had originally planned on completing a large loop by returning home through Leadville and I-70, but Diane had informed me that I-70 in Glenwood Canyon was closed because of a mudslide. I didn’t really want to deal with road closures and traffic so I decided to return home the way I had come on Highway 50 through Gunnison and Montrose.

>> Mount Yale Photo Gallery

One Comment

  1. John Thomas McCoppin III
    John Thomas McCoppin III August 14, 2019

    Thanks Randy, for sharing your experience and these wonderful photos! Tom McC

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