Friday, August 29, 2008

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness: Day 5

I'll be writing a few posts on our 2008 backpacking trip to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. You can see a Google Map of our hike and all of the pictures of from our trip on Flickr.

July 31, 2008

I don't think any of us realized just how difficult climbing Mt. Yale would be - oh my gosh.... We woke up at 6:30 and made an early breakfast. We did not have to break camp, so we just packed up day packs with a minimal amount of food. The hike up Mt. Yale was a 3.6 mile trek from our base-camp that rose over 3,200 feet. Mt. Yale is 14,192 feet high.

There was not one part of the trip that was easy. In the first part the path was tree-covered, but the path was still steep with a lot of switchbacks. Once we broke tree line (at 12,000 feet) the trail got immensely more difficult. Josh broke head and did not stop until he reached the top. Mom, Dad and Rachel hung behind - Rachel was feeling a little sick at times, but she stuck it out. Steph and I were in the middle, and Steph was amazingly strong.

In the lower part, just above tree line, the trail was wide and almost all gravel. It then turned to a scattered boulder field, and finally near the saddle a long string of rocky switchbacks. Every step up was painful and required tremendous effort. Most of the time the trail was at a 45-degree angle, and sometimes even steeper. There was no break or flat part - it was always up. Steph tended to climb for quick intervals and then take short breaks often. I tended to be more slow (really slow), but tried to climb for longer periods. In the end we were climbing at about the same pace.

The saddle was a flat gravely area just below the last 100 feet of large boulder mass (the summit). When we reached the saddle we could finally see the other sde - Mt. Harvard and the town of Buena Vista were ahead of us. A small airplane was actually flying below us! At this point a guy name Doug made it up to the saddle with his awesome dog Charlie Brown. Doug has climbed eight 14ers and Charlie Brown has climbed 4! Coolest dog ever with a lot of energy at 14,000 feet... he even chased a marmot around the saddle.

Next we tackled the summit which was a large, rocky boulder mass, the trail marked by kairns. This took some delicate scrambling, but a welcome change from the hiking. Finally we reached the peak, and the view was magnificent. We could see in 360 degrees for up to 100 miles. We could see Pikes Peak and the Texas Creek Reservoir. After an hour spent on the summit we began the trek down. This was hard too and wore badly on my feet. It took half as long to go down as it did to go up (which took 5.5 hours), but felt like an eternity longer. The worst part was once we got down from the Yale trail we had to hike up another 300 feet to our campsite. Torture. But the pain was worth it and the view from the top, incredible.

Tomorrow we pack out, then hotels, showers, and prime rib.

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