We traveled to Buena Vista, Colorado and spent time in the San Isabel National Forest in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area recently. It was our first trip to this part of Colorado and we loved it. While there, we learned it is called Collegiate Peaks area because many of the mountains over 14,000. Many of the 14ers in the region are named after Universities. (Mt Oxford, Mt Harvard, Mt Columbia, Mt Yale, Mt Princeton as examples)
We picked a hike to Mt Yale because we liked the location and easy access to the trailhead.
The Hike to Mt. Yale
We left our campsite about 6:30 and stared hiking at 8AM. It takes a while to drive to the tail head and get all our gear, food and water ready for the journey.
It was a beautiful, sunny, cool morning. The forecast called for sunny skies all day. We had on shorts and light jackets. The first thing we saw when we arrived was the trail map. All we could focus on was the gain in elevation on the hike. To us, that meant that we would hike UP HILL the entire trail and we were right!. We should have not been surprised since up is the only way to get to 14,000 feet. Mt Yale is 14,169 feet above sea level. The parking lot is about 9,500 ft.
As we started on our hike, we were excited and ready for the day. Most of the hike was in lush, beautiful forests. It takes your breath away when you really comprehend where you are and what you are looking at. After about 3.5 miles, we finally made it above tree line and the views and vistas opened up to us. They were beyond words.
Cross backs and large boulders were our next challenges. At 4 miles from basecamp we sat and ate lunch. We took pictures and enjoyed our accomplishment. The end was in sight, but we also noticed dark clouds way off in the distance. We headed back on the hike to Mt Yale toward the top. After another ½ mile, we decided to turn around. The dark clouds were getting darker and coming right in our direction in a faster pace than expected. We were a little over only 1,000 feet from the top.
Near the Summit
The wind picked up, we could hardly stand up and we were scrambling for the tree line. It was too far away, and we got pelted by rain, hail, freezing temps, and lightening. It was VERY SCARY. We were hustling so fast and it was hard to see anything. The pelting rain and hail hurt as it hit our ears and hands. The ground was covered in white hail about ½ inch deep. After we made it to tree line, the weather began to let up some. It kept raining for a while, but the wind lessened. We were drenched but safe!
We were exhausted and thrilled by the time we finished our hike. In summary, we climbed 4.5 miles one way which was 3,555 feet from the trailhead before we had to turn around. It was a beautiful hike and we highly recommend it to others seeking a 14,000 feet summit.
For other Colorado hikes post we have written about see: