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|Conditions Information||Posted By||Posted On|
|2016-07-04||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: This was my fourth 14er on the fourth of July. We began the hike early, and reached the summit of Harvard easily. The conditions were great. The traverse was not pleasant nor well marked if there was any trail. We did see a cool mountain goat shedding and some beautiful wildflowers. My golden had four bloody paws from the talus traverse, some very loose rock, poles are your friend and enemy! The talus filled traverse took way longer than we planned for, and as a result clouds were rolling in. By the time we reached the summit of Columbia, it was hailing. Thankfully no lighting, but it did rain a little, which may the sharp descent intense. Overall conditions- great, Harvard- great, Columbia from this route and the descent, meh, 1 and done.
|2016-06-26||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: The summer season is definitely here. Expect crowded parking lots at the easy to reach/popular trailheads. Harvard is in great shape and so is Columbia. There are still a few snow patches to cross on the traverse, but if you go early they are rock hard and post-holing is not an issue. From the trailhead it took 3hr28min to summit Harvard, the summit of Columbia was reached at 5hr48min and the total round trip time was 7hr47min. No need for spikes to cross the snow. Beautiful day out there today. Start early and be prepared for a long day. The hike down Columbia is terrible with all the loose rock/gravel so take your time. Lots of people camping in the basin and the parking lot was full so if you are looking for solitude go during the week to avoid the weekend crowds.
|2016-06-25||Route: South Slopes
Info: I agree with the previous post. Trailhead was very crowded. Trail up Harvard and through the basin is amazing. The trail coming down Columbia is just awful and everyone around us including ourselves slipped and fell a few times each. Take your time and space out for loose rocks. Traverse is mostly clear of snow but it was very difficult for us to follow the "trail". We left the Harvard summit at around 9:30 and made it to the Columbia summit around 12:30 so it definitely took longer than expected. We spent about 20-30 min with another group trying to pick the best route up. We decided to stay mid point on 13,516 while the other group descended further to the grassy/marshy area. Their route was easier if you dont like talus and a few snow crossings but it added probably 400-500' elevation to their ascent of Columbia. Our route was slightly faster than theirs but like I said previously we did walk through a few small snow sections following some previous footsteps. My last picture shows the route we took. One other very important note: we did see a "small" bear in the grassy area about 200 or so yards away from the group below. He was running away from the group and they couldn't see him but it is worth noting that we saw him from higher up. Sorry no pictures.
|2016-06-25||Route: South Slopes
Info: Trail run leaving North Cottonwood just after 7AM. Hit the summit in 2hr30m with running most of the trail up to 12500'; it gets steep and I get weak after that. Car-to-car in 4hr15m. Most hikers reported about double both times. Only minor sections of run-off on the trail and one very short and very simple snowfield to cross. Overall the trail is in excellent condition. Almost no bugs to speak of. Weather started significant development by 11:30AM, but blew through without much incident quite quickly. Remember: get down by noon. Trailhead was almost completely full at 7AM, but plenty of parking at the lower lot. Plenty of people camping at or just above tree line, but still some good open spaces.
|2016-06-25||Route: South Slopes
Info: Beautiful hike. This was my first 14er. Conditions on the trail were awesome. A few muddy places and two snow crossings but nothing to worry about or to stop anyone from hiking this peak. If I were to give any advice, of course, I am a novice hiker, but continue to start early to beat the thunderstorms and as it gets more crowded be careful on the last stretch were you have to climb a few big rocks.
|2016-06-21||Route: South Slopes
Info: Harvard is nearly bone dry. Or, at least, there's really only one patch of snow in the basin directly below the summit that slightly impedes your route once or twice. You can plow right through it (they're pretty soft even at 7:00am) or rock-hop next to it - they're not a big deal and nothing that should stop you from attempting Harvard. The trail is smooth sailing 98% of the time. Lace up only boots and enjoy a summer trail. Left TH at 3:50am. Summitted 7:40am. Chilled at the summit for a bit and back to the truck by 10:50am. Strong day. My picture from yesterday's report is basically the same thing, if you're looking for pics.
|2016-06-20||Route: South Slopes
Info: A buddy is on top of Yale at this exact moment and just sent me this picture of Harvard/Columbia. I want to climb it tomorrow and have been reading the post-holing horror stories below - so I asked for the pic. Looks like the heat wave over the weekend really toned down the route, a LOT:
|2016-06-16||Route: South Slopes
Info: We got kind of a late start from the trailhead (5:45am), so let me just say right off the bat that that may have contributed greatly to our misfortune. From the trailhead up until about the base of the peak itself was mostly clear sailing, with only a few snow patches here and there. Once the real altitude gain started, though, things got a little dicey. There are still a couple fairly significant snowfields starting at maybe 12,000 ft that might admittedly have been much easier to cross with an earlier start. For us, however, it turned into a grueling post-holing purgatory. I was breaking trail for the group and at one point had my entire right leg sink in up to my hip and get stuck so badly that I had to literally be dug out. We talked to one seemingly veteran of the mountains that claimed all snow could be avoided, but if that is true it is only so for more experienced/daring folks than us. Another guy we talked to who also seemed to know what he was talking about said that it was hell and unavoidable in parts, so I guess it depends. At any rate, there was snow basically all the way to the summit, which we fell about 100 ft short of gaining because it seemed a little too dodgy for our liking. The hike back down was a pain in the ass with all the snow melt and wet feet, but at least the higher fields are suitable for glissading. Maybe give this one another week if you want to avoid snow.
|2016-05-28||Route: South Face
Info: The face is still very fat and will be for at least a couple weeks. A good freeze Friday night meant staying in trail runners until 13,200'. Started at 5:30am, summit at 9, back to the car at 11. I actually intended to head to Columbia but missed the turnoff (as did one or two other groups) and ran to Harvard when I realized it. Very good coverage still, snow was a few inches of fresh over bulletproof with a poor bond which meant ski crampons were essential but that the descent was very fun. Continuous skiing to 11,200', then quite a bit of snow from there to the car. Expect significant postholing if you're late in the day. On a general note, the southern end of the Sawatch is starting to look a little bare, while the northern peaks are as white as I've ever seen them. Everything is in near Leadville.
|2016-05-21||Route: South Face
Info: Skied the peak today as a day trip. Long approach, which we did in the dark. No freeze in the trees, so lots of postholing. Coverage is good, including the summit. Firm corn conditions today due to wind. Ran into another skier party on the summit.
|2016-05-14||Route: South Slopes
Info: Nice and solid snow on the trail until 10am. After that snowshoes are necessary. Watch out for wet slides later in the day.
|2016-03-10||Route: East Slopes
Info: Despite the favorable snow, this route was still a slog. To ensure I was able to get both Harvard and Columbia, I decided to do this combo as an overnight. A well fit individual could do the combo in a day and most folks could probably now day trip either peak. Poach this trench while it's installed! If you like it, buy me a beer at the next HH. Road Conditions: Despite how enticing the snowpack on the road is 0.2 mile short the 2WD parking area at the beginning of the French Creek 4WD road, do NOT drive it. Being naive, which I generally am, I didn't think much of it and drove it anyways. As soon as I started down the hill, I knew it was going to be problematic on the return. In fact, my arms hurt more today than my legs do from the trip due to the 2 hours of shoving and winching (sorry, aspen tree) that I did to get my car unstuck. Don't underestimate that hill on the return. Looking back on the photo, what in the f*&X was I thinking? That's right, I wasn't. The Approach: I ended up skinning the entire approach but considering the lack of snow below 10,000, I would probably prefer snowshoes. There were rocky areas on the first half which I couldn't ski on the return unless I completely wanted to trash my skis. It is safe to say, I think one wouldn't need floatation for the first two miles up the French Creek 4WD road and if they did, the effort would be very minimal. Once on the French Creek trail, trailbreaking was laborious (mostly easy, some moderate) until treeline. Now that a trench is installed, the trailbreaking would be minimalized but still required. Snowshoes or skis mandatory. The Climb: Once out of treeline, the snow is a windblown hardpack with very little laborious trailbreaking. The East slopes of Harvard are mostly windblown and clear of snow. I also completely underestimated the caliber of slog that Harvard entailed. That last 400 feet/0.25 mile really blows as it requires time consuming, snow covered, large boulder hopping. Due to high winds, some fresh snow, and being solo I was a little apprehensive on the direct traverse to Columbia so I gave the ridge a wide margin of safety. Columbia's north rib offered a mostly snow free, and enjoyable climb to the summit. I know lots of folks hate Columbia, but I think that north rib offers the most enjoyable, albeit steep, climb to the summit. 1) Don't be an idiot. 2) Snow-free East Slopes of Harvard. 3) Time consuming summit ridge of Harvard 4) Route up Harvard. GPX, for current trench poaching pleasure, can be found at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d11pfeajlevb0kp/AACaHokgGMHM1hSY1mDO0Jkva?dl=0
|2015-10-25||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: We hiked to bear lake under the full moon this morning. It‘s ankle deep snow to the lake and a easy path to follow but we couldn‘t find the standard trail. There are a few trails that venture off but end up in knee to waist deep snow. Since we didn‘t both have gators or gps with standard route we decided not to push a trench through. Still gorgeous and you can still make it to the upper TH even in a 2WD as of this morning.
|2015-10-13||Route: South Slopes
Info: Still completely dry on Harvard standard route. Didn‘t do the Columbia traverse, but there appears to be just a bit of snow on the north facing slope.
|2015-10-11||Route: South Slopes
Info: Great day to be in the high country today. Trail was mostly dry and even dusty in spots. No snow at all on route. Saw maybe 10 people total all day today and even had the summit for almost a hour all to myself.
|2015-10-08||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: I climbed Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia on 10/8/15 via the standard traverse route. Snow was manageable and I did the entire route without microspikes. It was a perfectly clear day without any wind which made it very hot and exhausting on the traverse. All the snow I saw on Harvard that morning had melted off by 1pm. Only place that if it got any worse could require microspikes is the final ridge ascent of Columbia. The snow was about 4-5 inches deep with no ice underneath. I‘d recommend bring spikes in case but otherwise the conditions are basically summer.
|2015-09-28||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: Absolutely no snow enroute to Harvard and the traverse is also clear. We screwed up on the Columbia descent and went down the completely wrong gully, but again, totally dry and snow-free. Fall colors are at their peak and if the weather continues to be nice the routes should remain dry and beautiful!
|2015-08-29||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: Did the combo of Harvard and Columbia today. Got a late start at 8am, but weather was forecasted to be great. The route up Harvard was no issue, trail is well marked and easy to follow. Started the traverse over to Columbia around 12:30pm with the thought we would take the ridge the whole way. Got to a point in the ridge and it looked like the only way was the trail dropping off to the left. Took that down a steep and loose chute, which ended up spitting us out much below the ridge and into the gully. Decided to just take the gully and bouldered our way up to Columbia along-side the ridge. Added a few extra miles and the route was not clear, but the bouldering was pretty easy. Made it to the summit of Columbia around 3pm, stopped for a quick bite to eat and headed out on our descent. This is where things got tricky. The typical descent down Columbia is AWFUL. Steep with very loose dirt and rock the entire way down. In my opinion, worse than the descent down Bross (and I thought that was in bad shape). Really hoping REI puts in the money for trail restoration on Columbia (vote!). Eventually made it back down to our car around 5:30pm. My fitbit read almost 20 miles by the end of the trip. I can see why many people choose to do the combo in two days.
|2015-08-22||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: Did Harvard to Columbia traverse today. Weather was good, Harvard no problems and traverse over to Columbia no problems until the gully section. The gully section and the remainder of the route until you gain the Columbia ridge is a s--t show and very difficult to figure out (at least for me). Very difficult route finding and difficult to interpret the pictures of this section. Study pictures #15 and #16 closely...I avoided the main death gully, but got caught up in a second smaller one and did not completely descend the east ridge. Cairns are few and far between at this point and the right turn @ 12,800 is also super tricky. Picking through the talus is mind numbing and finding the route is very frustrating. The down climb of the west slopes of Columbia is a complete disaster. This is easily the loosest runniest chauce pile I have encountered. Probably a better idea to climb Columbia first if one were to do the traverse as others have suggested. The west slopes of Columbia is a very slippery down climb and hope REI applies the money to improve this trail (I certainly voted for it).
|2015-08-09||Route: Harvard and Columbia Traverse
Info: My girlfriend and I just did this and its was very difficult and dangerous coming from Harvard to Colombia. The route to Harvard was decent and accurate however: the decent from Harvard over to Colombia is not marked and it‘s very difficulty to locate a trail. We did tons of bouldering and sliding down very steep talus and loose rocks at 1 point I was very afraid I was going to get hurt and fall because the rocks are incredible loose. We were very lucky to make it to the top to Colombia and had very good weather but I am warning everyone to really consider not doing these 2 in the same day because of how dangerous the rock slides are to get over from Harvard to Colombia. We met some really nice hikers and had great company. The total hike took us 14 hours to complete and lucky enough we camp in the night before. Feel free to message me if you have additional questions I can answer.