Mt. Yale, East Ridge & Dick Bass too!

18 Aug 2001 - by Steve Bonowski

Last Friday, Aug. 17, two CMC friends and I rendevoused along the Cottonwood Pass Road for an attempt on Yale the next day. Friends Rita Cassettari from Denver and Rhonda Weiler from Colorado Springs are both summiting veterans of the CMC climb of Kilimanjaro last January. The overnite at the Collegiate Peaks Campground also provided an opportunity to spend the first night out in the new VE-25. Talk about a tent mansion for two persons!

The ladies wanted to do the East Ridge as it's somewhat more challenging, and offers about 5,000' of vertical gain from the Avalanche Gulch trailhead down valley from the campground. To avoid the 2 1/2 mile walk down the road, since we were coming down the standard Denny Creek route, we placed a car at the D. Creek trailhead. Talk about a wise decision! Turns out last Sat. was the 300th birthday of the university, and about 80 or so Yale alums had gathered to climb the peak. In contrast, we saw only six other persons on the Avalanche Gulch side, and only two of those went up the East Ridge.

The ridge is pretty straight forward as described by Gerry Roach. It may get a bit more than his Class 2 in a couple places, and it tends to be steep. But it goes well. Lower down, is best to pass obstacles, particularly the one that looks like star burst pillars, from a distance, all on the left, or south side. Near the top, go around the last obstacle on the right. For the 5K of gain, we took about 5 hrs., 20", which is reasonable considering the terrain.

On top, most of the alums had summited and left. A small party came up near the back of the group, and we heard a number of people referencing Dick Bass. Sure enough, the Seven Summits Legend shortly joined us all on top. Talk about a fab picture taking session, and not only for the alums. All three of us got our picture taken with Dick, and he really went out of his way to talk with everyone and answer questions. Turns out he is a Yale alum. He seemed particularly interested in hearing a few thoughts about our CMC climbs of Kili & Elbrus. He spoke very highly of several of his climbing partners, particularly David Brashears & Gerry Roach. He laughingly admitted that he still has a figure 8 he borrowed from Gerry on the north side of Everest in 1982!

We were pleased to learn that this climb of Yale was Dick's first conditioning climb for what will be a 1 1/2 year training program for a return to Everest in 2003. At that time, he'll be 73 years old. If he summits, and depending on what the 75 year old Ukrainian did this year, Dick will be the oldest person to summit Everest.

Our descent down the Denny Creek route was new for me, as the trail had been relocated since I did the peak back in '91 or '92. The straight up section through the old downed timber has been replaced by a switchbacking trail that snakes up the hill at the north end of the valley. It's still a steep downhill for aching knees (like yours truly's), but works better than the other route. After the climb, Rita & I did "apres-climb" at Casa del Sol in Buena Vista, which remains recommended, while Rhonda headed off to visit friends. We all agreed this was one of our best climbs in recent years.

D'Arcy Straub adds:

An incredible honor indeed . . . wish I could've been there. I'm sort of partial to Frank Wells since he's a Pomona College alum.

Ken Yarcho adds:

Didn't Gary Neptune help put the route in for those guys??

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