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A (Failed) Solo Winter Fourteener Climb
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Justin Baccary
A (Failed) Solo Winter Fourteener Climb on 12/30/2011 09:53:51 MST Print View

Yesterday I attempted my first solo winter fourteener climb. My goal was the summit of Mt. Yale (14,196 feet) via the East Ridge. I chose this route for several reasons: A) the trailhead is accessible in the winter, 2) the round-trip distance of 10.5 miles can be covered in one day, and D) the route is generally avalanche safe.

Mt. Yale East Ridge Route

I set my alarm for 2:15 AM and was out the door by 3:00. I was at the trailhead by 5:45 but decided to wait for first light before setting out. I ate breakfast (three chocolate cupcakes and orange juice) in my truck, took off my slippers, laced up my mountaineering boots, and started hiking at 6:45.

Yale from near TH

I followed the Colorado Trail (which I solo thru-hiked for its entire ~500 mile length in the summer of 2009) for three miles due north up Avalanche Gulch to a saddle at 11,900 feet. Snowshoe traffic since the last storm (way too long ago) meant I could keep my snowshoes (I hate them) on my pack and simply boot up the packed trail, saving me time and energy.

From the saddle I got my first glimpse of the East Ridge. It looked long, exposed, wind scoured on the north side, and loaded/corniced on the south side. I began the two mile climb up the ridge. The wind was blowing hard so I ducked behind a large rock and added an extra layer of insulation plus my balaclava, goggles, and hood. The ridge would be a cakewalk in the summer months, but snow and ice forced me to slow down and focus on my footwork.

Yale self portrait

Finish the story hear!

Edited by justin.baccary on 12/30/2011 09:55:15 MST.