Spring Break 03' Mount Yale

The outers: Vladimir, Bob, Julie, Ari, Joel, and fearless leader - POC alum Mike Magan.

The five of us contacted former POC president Mike Magan, who lives in Colorado, and asked him to take us some 14-er over spring break. He agreed, taking a week off work. On Friday evening, two cars left Indiana and headed west, because West is Best.

At first, the spirits were high, but somewhere in Illinois, my car began overheating. We filled up the coolant, got back on the highway, but it didn't help and we had to get towed to the town of Effingham, where we packed into a one-bed hotel room to spend the night. In the morning, I took the car to a service station, and a few hundred dollars and a few hours later, we were back on the road. The rest of our journey was rather uneventful, unless you count my stunning victory over Julie in the billboard game.

We arrived in Boulder around 2am, met up with Mike at IHOP, and started planning out our adventures. We decided to attempt Mount Yale, one of the ~14,000ft peaks in the Collegiate area of Colorado. With a few more hours to waste until the day began, we drove out of town to watch the sunrise. We spent that day buying last-second gear, learning to use our transceivers, and - since Mike lives quite high in the foothills - getting exhausted doing just about anything.

On Monday, we packed up our gear and drove to the trailhead, some 4 hours away, near the town of Buena Vista. We started on the trail briskly and confidently, but pretty soon we got into the woods, and the snow started coming down. After postholing to our knees, we put on the snowshoes and continued going upwards as the dusk turned to darkness. After a few strenuous hours, we made camp and fell asleep with dreams of summits as the falling snow brushed against the tent.

When we awoke on Tuesday, the snow was still falling, and had by now buried our tents and everything else in 2 feet of powder. Our goal now was to safely make it to the saddle, on which we would camp and then have a short hike to the summit. Unfortunately, the higher we climbed, the more dangerous the conditions became. The snow would not stop, and time after time our path would bring us to volatile open slopes. When we got within sight of the saddle, the treeline and its protection dwindled, leaving us at the bottom of a deep, imposing slope. The avalanche danger was too high at this point, and so we hiked back into the dense trees and pitched our tents as the snow continued to fall.

The next morning, there was even more snow, so now all aspirations of ascending were smothered. At this time, we had gotten used to the thin air and the heavy packs, so we moved down quickly but carefully. After some time, Bob began to lose feeling in his toes. However, the club's Health and Safety Consultant, Ari, handled the situation with superb medical expertise. While she reanimated Bob's toes, the rest of us played around in the snow and took pictures of the winter wonderland. When we got moving again, we found our first campsite and realized how quickly we were moving. We decided to spend another day in the mountains, but the day was still young and we weren't tired enough to stop. Mike came up with a solution - build something out of snow! I'm not talking about snowmen or dainty statues - we built a veritable fortress. We stomped down a patch of snow, and then used Mike's ice saw to quarry for bricks, which we then used to build a mighty wall. Before we knew it, we were pleasantly tired, so we pitched the tents and enjoyed our last night on the mountain. The snow had finally stopped falling, and we could clearly see the surrounding peaks.

We headed out early next morning, because after the immense snowfall, the midday sun would create high avalanche danger. We expected to be down at the parking lot within a couple of hours, but ended up getting lost a few gulleys over. While people were deciding a smooth and elegant way to skirt the slopes and have an easy descent, Joel and I impatiently broke a vertical trail down into one of the gulleys. When the rest of the group followed us and caught up, we realized that this was just the beginning of our adventure - the gulley had become steeper, more difficult, and did not seem to end. After a few hours of grueling snowshoe-skiing in wet snow, we emerged onto a beautiful hill that overlooked the parking lot and gave us a magnificent view of the area. We relaxed in the sun and even fancied spending another night there, but then came to our senses and hiked down to our buried cars.

As we neared Denver, we noticed two things. The first - we were at war with Iraq. The second was the unusual amount of snow. Mike phoned home, and his roommate told him that the area had received over 7 feet of snow, that the roads were buried, and that we had no business coming home that night. This became our second hotel stay of the trip.

The next morning, we headed back to Mike's house in Golden, CO. The roads were mostly plowed by now, but my car still got stuck. We had a pretty hard time digging it out, but this was just a meager foreshadowing of the shoveling to come. When we finally got to Mike's, we saw Joel's car - or rather, we didn't see it because it was under the infamous 7 feet of snow. As was the driveway it was in. While some gawked, others acted. With shovels in hand, we began digging. Whereas our first day in Colorado was marked by heavy wheezing, by now we were as strong and rugged as the mountains themselves. After a few hours (and a wonderful dinnner), the Aegean Driveway was cleared, and the car was revived. However, it was now dark and the roads were still unsuitable for a nocturnal departure, so we stayed another night at Mike's, and started our journey back to the flatlands the next morning.

Although we did not summit, I believe that everybody had a great time. We can't wait until we go back.

Pictures from this trip 

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