Mount Yale
Descent Route: Silver Creek Cirque To West Side
March 25, 2006

I?m starting to feel pretty blessed with the luck we are having on the fourteeners. For the forth day in a row the weather was perfect, and we skied from the summit of Mt. Yale a full 4600 vertical feet back to the car. When I set out on this project I was hoping for as many quality descents as possible, and to this point I would say that all but two (Sherman and Oxford) have been incredible. After spending so much time above 12,000 ft. over the last four days I?m feeling really fit and am so hungry to ski more fourteeners I can taste it.

Mt. Yale is a big mountain. Although its true bulk is somewhat hidden from view in the valley below, it rises almost 6400 vertical feet above the Arkansas River valley and the town of Buena Vista. From the Denny Creek Trailhead on Cottonwood Pass Road it?s a full 4200 vertical to the summit. There has been a lot of hiker traffic on the trail this winter. With a packed down trail, John Hagman, Mike Cuseo and I made fast progress up to tree line at 11,700 feet. Gliding through the quiet forest in the early morning on your way to a fourteener summit is a cool feeling, and we all felt engaged on the ascent. Climbing the west side of Mt. Yale yielded the same conditions we have seen on all west faces in the Sawatch Range this winter, wind swept, shallow snow that varies from wind slab to total sugar. We knew the skiing on this side of the mountain would be marginal, and hoped the east side, called the Silver Creek Bowl, would be more filled in. I was entertaining the idea of a full traverse of the mountain, starting at Denny Creek and ending at the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead. This plan would have entailed finding a ride back to our car, but our spirits were high and we were into it. Unfortunately, as we crested the summit ridge, we looked into the Silver Creek Bowl and saw that only the upper half of it was filled in. So the plan changed.

After spending a relaxing half hour on the summit, we dropped into the east side of Mt. Yale, skiing hard wind slab snow. The only redeeming factor in this type of snow is that it?s as safe as it gets? no avalanches here! To make it back to the west side of the mountain and our descent to the car, we had to traverse hard left after skiing the upper portion of the bowl. While this is not the ideal ethic for my ski descents, it did allow us to ski from the summit to the trailhead in one run. On the west side we found a line skier?s right of where we had ascended that allowed two thousand feet of good pitch and interesting terrain. At one point I skied a gully that was choked with blue ice. Skipping off the ice and gaining speed as the gully narrowed, I exited onto perfect corn snow and played with a wind lip for a hundred feet. This felt more like ski area skiing than skiing on a fourteener. Mike and John are both telemark skiers, and they effortlessly ripped beautiful arcs down the corn snow. We regrouped and pointed it out the final three miles of skin track back to the car.

Now I?m back home in Snowmass with my family for a day of rest tomorrow. We are supposed to get a few inches of snow, so it will be a good day to recover and catch up on family time. I am planning on heading down south to the San Juan Mountains next week, maybe Tuesday, to try and ski Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak, Handies Peak, San Luis Peak, Uncompahgre Peak, and The Wetterhorn.

Thanks for following my progress and have a great weekend,

Chris






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