Daniel Kay
May 17 · 4 min read
The summit ridge on Mount Yale (14,199 feet)

Colorado is home to 58 mountains with an elevation over 14,000 feet. Colloquially, these peaks are known as “14ers.” For many Coloradans, bagging these peaks is kind of a game. While most people won’t be enthusiastic enough to climb all of them, most outdoorsy people in Colorado have climbed at least one.

You can reach the tops of these mountains in many ways, from simple walks, to multi-day backpacking trips, to thrilling technical rock climbs. Most people hike these peaks in the summer months of July and August, when all the snow has melted off, and the path to the top is little more than a very long walk.

But if you’re a bit more adventurous, you can climb a 14er even in the winter and spring months, when the mountain is covered in snow from head to toe. In this article we’ll take a brief look at what’s required to hike a Colorado 14er in winter (on in snowy spring conditions), and I’ll post some photos from a recent climb of Mount Yale to show you what you’re missing out on.

What You’ll Need:

  • Waterproof boots or shoes
  • Ice Axe (also known as a piolet)
  • Microspikes or crampons
  • Snowshoes (condition-dependent)
  • Sun protection (sunscreen and sunglasses)
  • Basic avalanche knowledge

Research Your Route

14ers.com is the premier resource for finding route information, trip reports, and current conditions on all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.

If you are looking to do a snow climb, read the reports and look for any mentions of specific avalanche aspects to look out for.

A Good Head on Your Shoulders

Climbing a snowy mountain is a beautiful day, but please, make sure you’re prepared and knowledgeable. This blog doesn’t substitute for technical training or personal experience. It’s always best to hike or climb with someone more experienced than you are.

Mount Yale

Some friends and I went for a snow climb up Mount Yale during Easter weekend. It’s been an especially snowy year in Colorado, and the mountain was covered in snow from head to toe.

Yale is an easy mountain, with little to no avalanche danger and nothing too exciting in terms of steepness/technical terrain. The round-trip hike is somewhere around 9 miles.

We slept in our vehicle at the trailhead, and started in the dark, some time around 7.

The expression of pain when you realize that, were this a normal day, you’d still be in bed.
By the time we reached treeline at 11,000 feet, it was daylight.
Although luckily, we would be in the mountain’s shadow for a few more hours as we worked our way directly up its flank.
Although it looks close, covering the ground seen in this photo took probably two hours
After a long, steep slog uphill, where my mind went some pretty negative places, we finally reached this ridge leading to the summit. With blue skies, great views, and minimal wind, here the joy returned.
We spent around 30 minutes on the summit. Despite the sun, it’s pretty cold at 14,200 feet — as you can tell by the down jackets and hands-in-pockets postures. Still, as far as mountain summits go — it doesn’t get too much nicer than this. They’re often *truly* terrible.

Those Summit Views

Blue skies and snow-capped mountains for 360 degrees… pretty tough to beat!! Check out a quick, 27-second video, below:

After a brief snack and a quick summit selfie, we were on our way down around 11 a.m. It’s a good idea to be off the summits of Colorado peaks before noon, as afternoon thunderstorms are common.
We found a few sections of grass on the way down — but not many! Good snow year.

As the sun continued to warm and soften the snow on our descent, we had to switch out our micro-spikes for our snowshoes. Still, despite all the snow it quickly became a hot day, and our descent became a bit frustrating, as we post-holed in our snowshoes.

We stashed the cameras and just headed down at full speed. We made it back to the car around 2:30–3, where we cracked a couple beers and relaxed in our camp chairs along the side of the road.

Then we drove a couple hours, set up camp at the base of a different mountain, and continued the adventure.

Headed off into the sunset.

But that’s a story for another day. This mountain proved highly uneventful. Unlike some of my other climbs, everything went perfect. That almost never happens.

But hey, when it does: there’s no place I’d rather be.

Core Shot

Climbing Stories.

Daniel Kay

Written by

Digital Nomad, Dirtbag Climber, Hopeless Romantic. I write creative stories about life, love, climbing and travel. He/his. thisisyouth.org

Core Shot

Core Shot

Climbing Stories.

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