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096 An Outdoor Paradox 2009-06-15

Yale Summit shroud in snow

This morning we did not leave the Denny Creek trailhead (for Mount Yale) until 5 a.m. Another group was preparing to leave and were probably only moments behind us. Another solo hiker left early and flew by us on the trail. All five of the early hikers were dressed for the conditions and carried packs filled with the essentials. It was easy to see all were ready for the hike.

After we had reached the summit at around 9, we started the descent. We met many people heading up the trail. The first wave probably started fairly early as well and were dressed appropriately but seemed to be slow moving (slower than us, is s-l-o-w.) They were close enough to the saddle that they just kept their heads down and trudged along.

The next wave, who started even later, were boys dressed in jeans ready to sprint up the mountain (and they might have been able!), a couple dressed in jeans and shorts and the man was wearing Keen sandals, and endless others. All of these groups wanted to know how much longer and how hard was it. They did not carry extra gear.

Still another group met us even lower on the mountain. They had started really late and storms were building. Dressed in shorts and t-shirts with few extras being carried, they were a family group out to conquer Mount Yale.

Every group might have made the summit, but I doubt it. I would have been happy for them all to have made the ascent. There would be some stories to tell though. When each group faced the cold raw winds in their blue jeans, t-shirts, keen sandals, and shorts, there would be decisions made on their attempts and what they were worth to each group.

What I have found is that hikers who are serious about making the summit make early starts and carry the weather-appropriate gear. Casual or newbie hikers sometimes underestimate the conditions and effort required for the ascent. And so the paradox, the later the hiker starts, the less prepared they will be for the climb.

My advice: start early, wear appropriate clothing, and carry the essentials.

Happy trails.


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