Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby gonzalj » Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:01 pm

I just did harvard today. Yesterday I backpacked to treeline and set up camp (it took me an hour & 45 minutes to do the 3.5 miles to treeline as the terrain is mellow with only a few slopes that are a little steep. Today I did harvard from camp in 3 hours, descended in 2 hours to pack-up camp and then descend to the TH in about an hour & a half and I didn't feel it was all that bad. I did take ibuprofen before & at the summit to provide a little relief on my ankles & legs and see no reason why it can't be done as a 1st 14er. The last 50' of elevation gain is a scramble, but the rock's really good and other than that, you have a great trail the whole way.
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby maroonhawk » Sun Sep 01, 2013 3:09 am

I did this exact route last week with a friend for her first 14er hike; camped at treeline in the basin, hiked Harvard in the morning, etc. Totally doable, my friend struggled a bit as anyone will with their first 14er but we made it in one piece.

However, I will say that the traverse between Harvard and Columbia is extremely rough, and absolute hell on someone doing their first 14er (hell, it was a PITA for me, and Columbia was my 14th!) It's not impossible, but for someone doing their first 14er, I can't say I'd recommend taking them across the traverse to Columbia. Lots of loose rock, virtually no marked trail other than some cairns, and a saddle that drops you to at least (based off of my own intuition and no instruments) 12,700' or so before climbing up the backside of's a long, arduous trek. Lots of beautiful scenery and views of the basin though, at least.

The road to the N. Cottonwood Creek TH is fine for 2WD, low clearance. I made it in my '03 VW Golf, and saw some other similar cars there. No restrooms at the TH, they're all at a lower TH, but there's plenty of sings alerting you to this fact. Trail is very well-marked to the basin, and up to right below the summit of Harvard. We camped just above treeline; there's a few places to pass through some willows to the other side of N Cottonwood Creek to where we camped right at treeline.

Beautiful views from the top of Harvard; you can see most of the Sawatch Range, and out West to Aspen and Crested Butte; the weather was clear so we could see Grey's and Torrey';s from the summit too! Great views of Belford and Oxford to the North and Yale and Princeton to the South.

All in all I highly recommend the route, with the exception of the Harvard -> Columbia traverse. Definitely not something to take a first-timer through! :-&
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby jsype » Mon Sep 02, 2013 9:38 am

I think its a fine choice
Mt. Harvard was our first 14er, coming from the flatlands of Omaha, NE.
Just pace yourself, and allow some time to acclimitize if possible
Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain-tops are within reach --John Muir
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby BrianWright » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:19 am

Harvard is a beautiful one, though as some have noted, on the longer side. Also true there is a little scrambling at the top.

Here is a photo of the top:
"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games." Ernest Hemingway
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby m_sell31 » Wed Sep 18, 2013 4:14 pm

Thanks to all that replied.

We did this on the 9th! It kicked out butts but man was it fun. It was pretty cloudy that morning(50% chance of rain that day) but we got a few glimpses of the surrounding mountains. We did camp in Horn Fork Basin, just as you were getting out of the trees into the shrubby trees, so almost above tree line. We left around 4:50 and summited at 10am. We got back to the trail head at 3pm as it started to rain. It is some kind of feeling to stand on top of a mountain that you just climbed. Hope to do another one or 2 someday. Thanks again!

PS: for those affected by the flooding, we send our deepest sympathies. It is such a beautiful state and we were saddened to see some of the pictures of flooding in placed we had been just days prior. We had some difficulty getting to the Denver Airport from Colorado Springs. Hope you are all safe.
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby vorticity » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:34 pm

It is really going to depend on how freaked out you are by exposure. Lots of replies talk about the rock scramble on the summit. For an experienced 14er bagger, it's really no big deal, but I know some folks have been turned back. There are a couple of large blocks on top you have to get around and a couple of seams you have to navigate up to get to the top. On the high side, it's one of the most beautiful approaches of all the 14ers and the trail to very near the top is absolutely superb. Camping in the basin is advised, but I got an early start and bagged both Harvard and Columbia in a single 17-mile trip. This is a very long day ... you will need excellent weather to do them both, but that plan avoids the scree-filled upclimb to gain Columbia's ridge. The downclimb back to trail is bad enough, but I am glad I didn't have to go up. Vort
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Re: Any reason to not do Mt. Harvard as our first 14er?

Postby rajasa22 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:41 am

I've just climbed Harvard as my 5th. I'm not sure I would pick it as my first. The short term exposure near the top was nearly my stopping point. I had a great group of folks above me to encourage me up one exposed slab, which I had to slap in anger at my frustration and fear, and I made it! I've only done Shavano, Yale, Lindsey (turned back by weather) and Redcloud (turned back by weather).Of those I would take Redcloud as my first, though you're not describing going over that way, so I'd say Yale would be my choice as a first. BTW I do consider myself a rank beginner, and slow, hence the weather turnbacks. And yes, that is my dog on my back, as she needed a bit of help getting down. RE: the Bierstadt dog, Missy, No way would I ever leave her behind, or take her where she was in danger.

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