While not part of the loop, this side trip was a highlight. It was our first 14er, and the conditions were perfect, and emphasized by the previous evening’s weather. While it was less than 5 miles, it took nearly 7 hours. I found the boulder hopping particularly tiring, but otherwise this route was fine. It is the East ridge route, and the various guides give a broad range of “advice” for how difficult it is (e.g. 14ers, Alltrails). While it was fine for us on this day, I can see how different weather would make it a very different challenge. The hopping-over-wobbly-rocks is an accident waiting to happen, which would also make things more interesting! We both suffered some minor bruising, but fortunately nothing more. Our pants filled with rocks from sliding in the rubble, with mine getting ripped! The following text and photos will attempt to describe it:
Up at four. With a temperature just below 40. S had slept well. P had been restless and cold for the first half of the night and then slept well. Both of us were ready to get up and get going so we packed our packs as day packs left our tent closed, hung our food and hit the trail at 4:50 with head torches. Beautiful sunrise but really can’t describe the beauty as we looked over to Mount Princeton and its partial snow covering and up the valley towards Yale. The first .7 mile of the trail was a well-defined path along the ridge but then we started having to scramble around rocky outcrops on the ridge through either loose rock or gravel. We left our poles as we used our hands a lot for the scrambling. With a clear blue sky the sunrise continued to impress as we made our way up the ridge. Dropped off ridge a couple of times to avoid large outcrops including one particularly loose gravely area at around 12700 ft. but we made it. The rock hopping was tiring both physically and mentally and we had to skirt around some snow patches but never needed our micro spikes. It was a long slow tough climb. We arrived on the summit shortly before 9:00 joining some other hikers who had come up the other easier trail. While all the views were impressive the most impressive mountains were Princeton, Harvard and Colombia and to the west of Yale the whole valley was still full of clouds. We chatted to a couple of guys from Texas who were on their 30’s and 40’s and advised S to do more of this hiking when he is young. They strongly recommended the Belford-Oxford hike and convinced us the Harvard Colombia traverse was too much of a commitment. We ate our Three Musketeers which was hard as rock which reflected the below freezing temperature. At the top the rock had frosty crystals on it. We hung out for around 30 minutes in a hole shielded from the wind and started making our way down as clouds were already forming. We spotted someone else coming up the East ridge and chatted to the lone trail runner for awhile about his experiences. Going down was tiring especially for P and he had to concentrate the whole time not to slip. Both P and S had minor falls with minor pain but were ok. We both slid down the gravely slope for quite some distance which filled S’s pants with gravel and tore P’s pants. We made it back to the hiking poles where S’s handles which had been laying on the ground had been significantly chewed up by marmots. But P’s had been stuck upright in the dirt and were fine but had risked being blown over. From that point back to the tent both S and P were imagining how much damage the marmots inflicted on our tent but everything was actually fine.
GPS Hiking stats:
4.73 miles, 6 hours 39 minutes
Ascent 2618 ft., Descent 2687 ft.