| Harvard - Columbia
Hi all. Even though I've done a bunch of 14ers, I still feel like I'm relatively new to the hiking community. While I've looked at other people's trip reports and gained valuable information, I've never submitted one of my own. So here goes, my first ever trip report!
I just wanted to get this out there for those of you considering a trip. Be prepared, plan for a big day if you take this on but by all means go! You won't regret it.
3:00 am: Alarm goes off. Ugh… why didn't I drive to the TH yesterday and camp at any one of the many secluded, peaceful campsites?
3:45 am: With my second cup of coffee in my travel mug, I pull out of my Colorado Springs driveway and head west to the mountains.
6:45 am: Left the North Cottonwood TH.
6:45 – 8:30 am: There's some beautiful single-track hiking through the San Isabel forest. There are a lot of good spots for camping along the way. Crossed about ˝ dozen streams.
8:30 am: At a "T" in the trail. I never went back and verified this, but I believe this is where the Columbia peak trail re-connects with the Harvard peak trail.
8:30 – 9:30 am: An amazingly beautiful valley. There were some very minor snow patches in the valley, but really not much snow here at all to report. At one point I saw a few deer munching on breakfast – very nice.
9:30 am: Near Bear Lake (roughly 12,400'). You gain some elevation here and can get an even better view of the valley below. I crossed a snowfield here and sank into snowmelt. Though I'd been trying to prevent this my boot are now wet. Shoot… photo of cairn near the snow field.
10:00 am: Nice view of "The Rabbits" along the Columbia ridgeline.
10:40 am: In order to dodge a snowfield up a relatively steep slope I was boulder hopping what I thought was only slightly off trail. Suddenly I found myself on the ridge and had overshot the Harvard summit to the east (oops). Heading west I was able to make the summit at...
11:00 am: Solo on the summit of Mt Harvard! In spite of a half dozen or so cars in the parking lot, I only saw a total of four people (2 groups of 2) on the way to summiting Mt Harvard. Don't get me wrong, but on such a beautiful early summer day I had to ask myself: where is everybody? Below is the ridge from Harvard looking at Columbia.
11:30 am: Had lunch and took in some amazing views of snowcapped peaks (below), but now it's time to get off Harvard and get on my way over to Columbia. Having read Roach's description of the ridge between Harvard and Columbia as being class 4 and 5 and given that class 3 is as high as my comfort level goes I descended into the basin on the east side of the ridge.
1:00 pm: I understand there's a trail through the basin, but I sure couldn't find it. At one point, by a creek I saw a small cairn. It did my heart good to see signs of human life but alas there was no trail to go with the cairn. Lacking an established trail I figured I had to go the best way I could find. I had picked the route I would take through the basin. Based on one that would avoid snowfields (I figured I could move quicker on dry land). By this time I had crossed the creek and was on my way up Columbia. For those of you who haven't studied this route – take heed. You descend into the valley so much that there's about 1,500' – 2,000' of elevation you'll need to gain to make Columbia's summit.
1:45 pm: I'm high enough now that I can see what appears to be two peaks. I'm asking myself which one is Columbia? The one to my left (east) is grassy and rounded (which I later identified as Point 13,740) and the one on the right (west) is rocky and talus covered and looks slightly taller. You guessed it – Columbia was to the right (west). So, shoot… For the second time in a row I overshot the trail to the summit.
2:20 pm: Reached the summit of Mt Columbia! Again, I had the peak to myself and again I had to ask myself where is everyone?!? Maybe they're at home watching Wimbledon? Anyway, Columbia may not be the tallest 14er, but it was steep enough on the west side to give me a little vertigo looking into that wonderful valley. View of Harvard from Columbia.
3:45 pm: I didn't find the trip down Columbia to be the scree-fest that I had read about from one bloggers account 2 years ago. Though you want to be sure and pass the gulley and descend the trail that runs along a ridge. The route down Columbia has the nice orange plastic / wire markers attached to the trail – which are helpful. Also, I was happy to be coming down this route and distinctly remember being glad I wasn't trying to come up this way due to some semi-steep spots with loose dirt and small rocks.
5:15 pm: Back to the car. Just shy of an 11 hour round-trip day! All in all it was an amazing day. The valley approaching Harvard was just one you have to see - very beautiful. I had to do some route finding from Harvard to Columbia which is always exciting. As I was hiking along and had time to think... the following came to mind as an appropriate mis-quote for the day: "I took the road less traveled and it has made all the distance in the world" - with apologies to Robert Frost. Below, some of my only company for the day.
Now, time to get down County Road 365, get on Route 24 and head out of Buena Vista. I have miles to go before I sleep…
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):