| Columbia Winter Summit Ski Descent
Harvard Lakes Trailhead 9,420'
Columbia SE Ridge
Ski Descent of SW gully
Exit Horn Fork Basin to N Cottonwood TH
-Elevation Climbed: 4,900'
-Mileage RT: 12.5 miles
The last weekend in winter, hmmm, time to get some easy winter teeners. Snowpack is melting, melllttting.....ahhhh whatta world. After getting La Plata on Saturday and saying farewell to Debbie and Prakash (maverick_manley), I drove to the Harvard Lakes Trailhead to sleep in the bed of my truck. After 8.5 hours of good snooze, the sound of Fritz's 4runner had me ready for another day. It was 37 degrees. I made some oatmeal, met MBSC and Kya and we were on the trail. The group moved quickly up the Colorado trail to the crest of Columbia's SE ridge where first light joined the party.
Progress up the ridge was quick and efficient through dense thickets and granite outcrops. A snowshoe trail was present from a week or more ago which was used periodically to cross rotten snow drifts.
Kya and MBSC make way to higher ground
One area of thicker trees was well covered in snow and the rest of the group skinned up. I kept booting over the frozen snow, not using my skins the entire trip. A climate change to dryer times is evident in this area by noting the receding tree line.
Maggots swarm to Columbia through skeletons of the past
Yale NE slopes
From tree line, you can see the white capped summit way off beyond several turns and false summits. This is the moment you realize just how long this route is.
Columbia SE ridge from tree line
Despite its length, this is by far the best route I have done on Columbia, and I have done three others. It is the most enjoyable by far due to views and solid ground. If you haven't done Columbia and you despise scree, this route is for you. This sequence of images is intended to show the length of the ridge…
Columbia SE ridge
The hiking was enjoyable on solid ground. Temperatures were in the high 30s and a constant 20 mph wind blew from the NW. Occasional gust of 40 would come by every once in a while. Before taking the final turn toward the summit, we got a good view of our ski route down a large avalanche slope leading into lower Horn Fork basin.
Meat and bones of our ski route
The remaining mile or so of ridgeline went quickly with easy booting on dry snow. The marginally high winds are doing their best to preserve the snow pack.
Final section of ridgeline
The summit provided a nice windbreak and was ski able by heading east, then traversing to the south back to the ridgeline. After skiing about half mile down the ridge, we had to boot over about 100 yards and down 100 vertical to get to the main chute.
Skiing off the summit of Columbia
The snow was perfect, about 3 inches of corn on top of solid base. There were areas of junk, but it was usually pretty obvious and avoidable.
Mountain Biker Skier Chick
The skin out started out as a major slog fest through sun baked collapsible sugar. It seemed at one point we wouldn't be back to the trucks until 9 pm. Luckly, we found the sparsely used standard route for Harvard which made things much much quicker. We were able to ski most of the old road out, with a few sections of brief climbing.
Finishing the day
Once again, I would heavily suggest this route for any time of the year, given the wind isn't really ripping. T-storms are an issue as well due to the length above treeline. It was great to meet some new people. Kya and MBSC are cool people and ripping skiers. Finding new motivated ski mountaineers is always such a plus to a awesome day.
For Fritz report, see here...