Collegiate Loop Day 4 – Cottonwood Creek to Yale Saddle

We had agreed that the plan was Yale for day 5, so day 4 was short, but with a long climb with as much water as we could carry (7l total). So we could take it easy and enjoy the hike:

Good nights sleep. P did not have to pee. Alarm at 6. P up at 6:10. S up at 7. After a relaxed breakfast watching and listening to the river packed everything up and was on trail at 8:30. A woman walking a friendly lab passed by. A bridge over the river was a very short distance down the trail. Immediately the trail seemed narrower than we had had before and more overgrown. S’s nose had a bad explosion just before four day hikers passed by so we weren’t feeling very social. A pair of backpackers called Bruce and Bryce passed by hiking fast and they too were doing the Collegiate Loop starting from Twin Lakes (but we did not see them on the other side). Got to the trailhead then crossed the road to Avalanche Trailhead where there was a welcomed toilet. Carried on a short distance to a small river where we filtered into all water bottles and filled the bladder for that night. Several dog walkers passed by during this time. Started the 2500 ft. climb over three miles. After entering the wilderness, multiple switchbacks in open hillside allowed the view of the valley and lake below to continuously open up. Supplemented by a vast array of wildflowers. We entered the forest which gave some protection from the sun which was thankfully often covered by clouds. We plodded on up the hill only stopping for the rare water break and at one point overtaken by a trail runner. We eventually made it to the top and collapsed on the plastic bag and stared at the sky. The sky was threatening so we put up the tarp shelter first and were thankful as we had intermittent rain storms including hail throughout the rest of the day. We followed the trail to Yale to just above tree line to check it out. There were still large patches of snow and we Facetimed mommy. We headed back to the shelter and shortly after the first pair of CT hikers had arrived hiking south bound named Ashley and Josh. They had the same brand backpack as P but looked very light with only three sections of their roll mat. We put the tent up shortly before the temp dropped 20 degrees and a 15 minute hail storm causing hail drifts. We got ourselves organized and cooked dinner just when the previously mentioned trail runner arrived out of nowhere from the Yale trail wearing just a thin waterproof top her backpack shorts and trail runners. She described her route to the top and how she descended off the ridge during the worst of the storm but still made it to the top with help of her Gaia and always moving to keep warm. It was remarkable to think someone had just done that. We chatted for awhile about the hike and other Colorado peaks before she ran off down the mountain. We ate our dinner quickly as we were cold, filtered our water, took down the tarp, and were happy to be in our sleeping bags by 6:30. Still not sure what time we will start in the morning. The weather forecast is for a low of 39 at our elevation and a 20% chance of rain. As we write this we can hear the rain on our tent and the wind in the trees but at least there is no thunder.

GPS Hiking stats:
6 miles, 2 hours 54 minutes
Ascent 3864 ft., Descent 810 ft.
Campsite altitude 11900 ft.

Our water source for the day, just beyond the Avalanche trailhead. Guthook had a suggestion of water further up the trail, but we found nothing, and it had been pretty wet.
I love the baby pineones!
The first mile was an open mountainside which provided no shade, but offered great views back towards Rainbow Lake.
An avalanche scar on Sheep Mountain, across the Cottonwood valley.
The sunflowers made me happy, especially when hiking upwards!
The upper part of the trail was in the trees. It was easy to follow with a few markers.
Shortly after collapsing arriving at the Yale saddle (the end of the day’s hike), rain threatened so we put up our tarp. This was a “luxury” after our previous experiences in the Colorado monsoon, and it was great for our psychology. We found the A-frame a bit impractical for our application (cooking and sheltering) and changed it next time, but it was still great.
The hail came and settled on the ground for a while. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in a few minutes.
We pitched our tent on the saddle, close to the path. This was the flattest spot (by far) in the area, though it provided little shelter which fortunately we did not need. There was little human traffic along that trail either.

This page is linked to from my Collegiate Loop home page.

Published by Peter Ireland

I am originally from England, and my wife Janet is from Louisiana. When we started Geocaching in 2002, we needed a name, and the Cajunlimeys were created, and that is the name I use for my blog. Even though Janet has no Cajun blood, her cooking is excellent! “Limeys” comes from the nickname for English sailors, who ate limes to prevent scurvy. We live in Houston, Texas, with Bailey and Samuel. We love adventures and want to share the experiences with others. When planning trips, I have found other people’s sites very useful, so I want to give back and add a different perspective.

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