by Steve Bremner, Jonathan Cavner, and Sam the Wolfdog
Up by 4:45 A.M. we cleared out of the Topaz motel in Buena Vista and hit the road to the N. Cottonwood Trailhead--we were running up trail shortly after 6 A.M. Jonathan labored a bit with stiff muscles from the previous two days, so I passed him the leash to Sam the Wolfdog. Sam with his sled dog breeding pulls enthusiastically, giving a welcome aid.
We made excellent time to Kroenke Lake. We chose this route as a reconnaissance expedition to "research" our planned attempt to climb eight 14ers in a 24-hour period. The route will be LaPlata/Huron/Missouri/Belford/Oxford/Harvard/Columbia/Yale --we will cross-country it without resort to mechanized transportation. The route up Yale from Cottonwood Creek was just another piece of the puzzle that I needed to see first hand. It went well. Even with considerable snow below, to and above Kroenke Lake (it was snowfilled as well) we made it from the trial divergence (Kroenke Lake and Horn Fork Basin) to Yale's summit in 2 and a half hours. The route is to go on trail past Kroenke Lake then head directly to the saddle on Yale's west ridge, following it to the summit. We found that after point 13, 600 it was easier to stay left of the ridge, but soon we had to commit and regain the ridge going up a scree/snow gulley.
From the summit we espied our return route--the NE ridge. Avoiding point 13,200 we steered to far right, winding up in the drainage right of Cottonwood drainage. Rather than regaining the altitude we simply continued into the drainage, eventually reaching the Colorado Trail. We ran the downhill three miles to the road to N. Cottonwood Trail head in twenty minutes, and the 3 miles up road in another 20 minutes. I have now done nearly all the segments of our big journey across 8 14ers in 24 hours--a feat I believe will be a first. Does anyone know of another attempt to do this?