Our intrepid Lead Adventure Specialist, Kane Hudson, recently tackled a few of the Collegiate Peaks in his quest to hike all of the mountains over 14,000 feet in Colorado (more commonly referred to as “14ers”). Here are his hiking notes/images from the trail…
I headed over to Buena Vista and enjoyed some great fall weather while climbing a couple other 14ers. The first mountain on the list was Mt. Yale. Mt. Yale is in the Collegiate Peak Wilderness and is 12 miles west of Buena Vista along the Cottonwood Pass Road. When I arrived at the Denny Creek Trailhead, the U.S. Forest Service was there with four pack mules and two additional riders headed up the trail to pack out who knows what. It wasn’t an injured hiker, I was assured. I couldn’t get ahead of the mules, so I carefully watched where I put my feet as I headed up the 4 mile, 4,300 ft climb to the summit.
The weather was fantastic, reaching nearly 70 degrees on the lower section of trail. The Denny Creek Trail is very wide, up until you reach the summit trail (well marked), from use of the horses and mules. After getting on to the Denny Gulch summit trail, the width narrows but is easily followed to the south ridge of Mt. Yale where you make your way up large boulders to the summit.
I retraced my way back down and reached the car. Then I headed straight to K’s Dairy Delite in Buena Vista for a double burger and vanilla shake. Even if you aren’t hiking Mt. Yale, a stop at K’s is a must really.
The Collegiate Peaks monikers started in 1869 with Harvard and Yale. In 1877, William Libbey Jr. named Mt. Princeton after being the first to officially summit the mountain. There was a mine called Hortense at 12,000 ft near the summit long before this, so Professor Libbey may not have been first to be on the top of Mt. Princeton… but who is to question an Ivy league professor?
I tried to summit Mt. Princeton after my burger and shake in Buena Vista, but I was turned back by darkness. These shorter autumn days often end quicker than we think or want. I was on the trail, and I thought to be an hour or so from the summit and realized that this trail did not have an established route or any even footing for the last mile of the trail. I thought this situation might be too much for my skill set to be coming down this gauntlet in the dark. The summit route up Mt. Princeton is through a boulder field with many braided trails making their way to the top. Follow the best you can, while trying to stay on a previously traveled path.
I turned around, hiked back to the car, stretched out in the sleeping bag and waited for morning to try another attempt. The weather the next morning was even better than the previous day, and I made the 6 mile round trip in 3.5 hours. If you go to Mt. Princeton, bring a 4 wheel drive vehicle and leave the hiking sticks in the car. You can take a dirt road up to over 12,000 feet, and the hiking includes a lot of hand holds and boulder hopping. This would be a tough hike in wet weather for sure due to all the careful foot placement required along the long boulder field. Make sure you pick a clear day to attempt this 14-er.
Have fun out there, and be safe!
Need help organizing a Colorado/Aspen adventure? Contact Kane at The Little Nell Adventure Shop at 970-920-6315 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.