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.
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.
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.
Finish the story hear!