December 18, 2011
~11.4 Miles, 4,400 Gain
Trailhead: Snow Drift on Morris Creek Road (FS 387)
Future TH directions: From the stop light in Buena Vista head north on US24 for ~7.4-.5 miles and make a right onto FS 386. Follow FS386 for .4 miles as it makes a right hand turn. Then continue following FS386 for another 1.0 miles until a junction. Take a right onto FS386. Continue until FS 386 dead ends and then take a left up a road, Wapaca Jeep Road (unmarked). Take the Wapaca Jeep Road to a gate at Leinhart Mine (~10,900).
Al and I were hoping for an easier shorter day since I couldn't get an early start. Pete K and his friend Jason decided to join us on our trip. I met Pete in Aspen Park, Al at Trout Creek Pass and Jason in Buena Vista. After consulting the Trails Illustrated map, I was worried about our road not being open due to a winter closer gate off of FS 386 but luckily the gate was open (closed in May-June?). We were able to make it about another ~1-1.5 miles up FS 387 before the snow became too deep to comfortably travel further.
We geared up and started hiking at ~8:30 AM. To make things easy, we started with our snowshoes on as we followed FS 387 until it dead ended at a junction with the Wapaca Jeep Road which we then followed uphill. It was astonishingly hot as I was just hiking in a T-shirt. Gaining elevation on the Wapaca Jeep Road, the snow gradually became deeper and once we reached the Leinhart Mine gate, we had trouble figuring out where the trail went (Trails Illustrated shows a trail from the mine to the Colorado Trail). I am sure it would be easier to find in the summer.
Shedding a layer on FS 387. (Photo by Al)
Point 13,374 from FS 387
Working our way up the Wapaca Jeep Road
From the Leinhart mine the bushwhack began. The snow was deeper, the terrain was steeper and our progress slowed. After gaining a few hundred feet, we found our trail which took us to the Colorado Trail. From our junction with the Colorado Trail, the wide basin just west of the summit of 13,374 appeared close with low snow thus easy travel. Calling us like a siren, we traversed west-northwest toward the basin. It was a mistake.
There were many freshly downed trees. Our progress slowed immensely as we negotiated around the trees and fluffy snow. It was painful as we then decided to head upward where we eventually reached talus slopes of the east ridge out of treeline. Once on the talus, our pace picked up. With perfect weather and no wind we continued up the east ridge towards point 12,890. We stashed our snowshoes at a snow field just prior to 12,890.
The start of the downed timber. (Photo by Al)
The start of the downed timber. (Photo by Al)
Thoroughly enjoying the downed timber.
Break out of treeline.
Point 13,374 from the north side of the east ridge. (Photo by Al)
The views of Columbia were astonishing from the top of 12,890. From the summit of 12,890, we headed west to the 12,890-13,374 saddle and then across the broad east face of 13,242 towards the short south ridge of 13,374. The last 200 feet to the summit of 13,374 was on blocky snow covered class 2 talus. We arrived on the summit at 1:40 PM with probably some of the best views of Harvard around. Also, excellent views of Belford and Oxford as well.
Columbia from Point 12,890.
Point 13,374 from Point 12,890. (Photo by Al)
Pete and Jason on 12,890.
Al working his way across the wide west face.
Pete making his way to the south ridge on 13,374.
Pete's final steps to the summit.
Al's finals steps to the summit.
Belford and Oxford from the summit.
Harvard from the summit.
Our stay on the summit was only about 15 minutes as daylight was limited. We returned to 12,890 and then decided to descend directly down the east ridge back towards Leinhart Mine to avoid our arduous ascent route. Following the ridge down was much more enjoyable than navigating through downed timber.
Al starting his way back to 12,890 (in the background)
Point 13,374 on our descent.
Although easier, we missed our trail and the mine and headed down the drainage between Morris and Morrison Creek. Not recommended as an ascent route. Luckily, we found another old road which took us back to FS 387 which then took us back to our car where we arrived just before dark at 5:00 PM. Couldn't have asked for a better day.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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