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 Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
 Post Date:  07/25/2011 Modified: 07/26/2011
 Date Climbed:   07/24/2011
 Posted By:  docfrance

 Harvard-Columbia Double (Pt I)   

Six of us left COS at about 1515 for the Sawatch Range, all traveling in a single Yukon (high mpgpp) with plans for a quick dinner in Buena Vista and then covering a few miles on the trail to Mts Harvard and Columbia before setting up camp near where the trail that descends from the southwest ridge of Columbia meets up with the Mt Harvard Trail. All of the preliminaries went fine as we loaded up on Subway sandwiches at the trailhead parking area and did final prep on our packs. Image We started up the trail at about 1815 and had no trouble finding our way along the trail, over a few bridges and shallow hops across streams to near our target camping area. ImageOne of the people we met along the way suggested a camping site near a distinctive dead tree along the trail and we found the spot easily. It's a great camping area with plenty of room for multiple tents. We set up camp, stashed our bags in the tents and did a short reconnaissance hike farther up the trail while we still had some light. Image Along that trail we could see Columbia clearly in the sun, and THOUGHT we could see Harvard, but were badly mistaken. We also ran into a guy and his female significant other that had spent the day doing the double counter-clockwise. He told us that going up Columbia from the southwest was hell and that it didn't get any better traversing to Harvard. He looked totally beat. Image By the time we'd returned to our campsite, two in our group had a nice fire roaring that easily overcame the sporadic raindrops that fell from the half-hearted cumulus clouds above. Image We awoke at 0400 and were on the trail by 0419 with headlamps and a flashlight. Frankly, I was surprised to NOT see more lamped parties already heading up the trail. ImageThe first hour in relative darkness passed quickly and we managed the one creek hop without incident or sodden sock. Daylight was building quickly to the northeast and we started to get excellent views of Mt Yale to the south and the ridgeline above Bear Lake to the west and north. ImageImage We still saw no one above us as we started the more serious uphill below Bear Lake towards the plateau at that level--and our first small snowfields. We were amazed by the number and variety of flowers throughout the Horn Fork drainage--even more that we'd seen the week before at Sheridan. Along the way, we also saw a charming pair of Ptarmigan taking an early morning dust-bath in the well-worn trail. ImageWith none in the group having done Harvard before, we were continually arguing over which peak before us was actually Mt Harvard. I’d read that it was not terribly distinct from the south, but having seen it from several Sawatch summits to the north, I thought it would be clearer. We steadily crossed off peaks as the rising Sun failed to illuminate them—though Mt Yale was catching rays. Image Image ImageAs we ascended the ridgeline, we crossed another small snowfield heading uphill and saw what appeared to be mountain goat tracks in the snow. Image Image We gained the ridgeline sometime around 0700 and started the final ascent in the shadow of Mt Harvard towards some unseen point. The one thing I will say about the trail up Mt Harvard is that, despite not seeing the summit well, it is extremely “well-cairned,” something we would miss dearly later in the day. ImageImageImage ImageImage Image I had considerable trouble loading this report (for reasons I don't understand) so I cut it into two parts. If you're interested, more than 100 shots of the entire trip are available HERE.

Please also check out Part II posted among the trip reports. I'll try to consolidate when I get home from current business trip.

 


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