MT. YALE – 14,196'

My first fourteener. The quest for Colorado’s Hundred Highest has begun. Guinn and I got an early start: on the road at 4a; on the trail by 5a. We chose Yale as our first fourteener of the season, the first fourteener of our lives. The Colorado 14ers Initiative just completed a fixed site project on this peak last summer, and even won national recognition for their efforts. The work is outstanding, rock staircases upon rock staircases. We gained about 4,500 feet over just under 4 miles. My calves were burning during the entire ascent. We broke treeline around 11,200 feet and stood atop the summit at a respectable 14,196 feet.

It’s true that the trail is wonderfully maintained, but that doesn’t make it a walk in the park. As soon as we got out of the trees, the wind blasted us relentlessly all the way to the top. The trail contours the west face of Yale, and the prevailing wind in Colorado is out of the west-southwest. Cover was minimal and layers were few, making the last few miles uncomfortable. Once we topped out, we were able to drop down to the military crest on the east face where we warmed right up. We just stood there at the summit – alone – in awe of the scene before us. According to the guide book, we could see 30 of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners, but don’t ask us to name which ones. The snow-capped peaks seemed to go on forever. We snapped photo after photo, but nothing could do the scene justice. Those precious few moments will be forever burned in my memory. That’s not the kind of scene that’ll up and leave.

Before long, the hordes were upon us, so we headed down. As we descended, I might have mistaken our bounding strides for floating had my knees not screamed with every labored step.

As I compose this update, my eyes are getting heavy. Since the adrenaline has worn off, it seems the altitude has gotten the best of me. Until next time.