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Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Post Date:  07/21/2008
Modified:  07/26/2008
Date Climbed:   07/19/2008
Posted By:  Nevaar


 Sunny & Hot on Mt. Columbia   

We drove to Leadville on Friday night so that we could start early on Saturday morning. Up at 5:15
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and on the trailhead by 6:45am. The parking lot at the trail head was quite full, but the trail itself was far from crowded. We signed in at the register and were off. The morning was quite brisk, but we warmed quickly as we got moving.
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By the time we reached the footbridge (7:20am) the sun finally reached us and it got kinda toasty.
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We passed, and were passed by, a couple of hikers wearing boarding/skate shoes with a couple of very excited and happy dogs. The trail continued and after a quick hop across some stepping stones through a fairly soggy bit of trail.
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We reached the first meadow at 8:11am - photo op!
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Into the trees again, we stopped to look back at the path we had taken
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Into the clearing before the shoulder by 8:26am and were presented with some awesome views of Mt. Harvard. My hiking buddy moved during my panorama shot, so he got photographically cloned. 8)
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We lost the trail for a moment, but figured that the shoulder is on our right, so that was the best way to go. Sure enough, we picked it up again pretty quickly.

About 10 minutes after regaining the trail, we arrived at some never-melt, which would prove to be a true blessing on the way back down. After a brief rest and a snack, we began the arduous trek up the gully. We could see a group of people going straight up, rather than detouring to the shoulder - probably because thy lost the trail, and not by original intent.
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At 9:02am we started up the gully in earnest. The trail was very loose and required paying close attention to where one stepped. As speculated previously, the trail from the gully to the shoulder was very difficult to locate. That's probably why a group ahead of us decided to take the direct route up the gully. A few large rocks came rolling down as a result of their efforts.
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By using my trusty camera to zoom in, we were able to relocate the trail by identifying small cairns on the shoulder. By 9:23am, we began our scramble out of the gully. Once we got onto the shoulder about 10 minutes later, the route became apparent again. and was well marked with cairn and orange target thingys stapled into the ground.
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The climb up the gully, and onto the shoulder was difficult, but I think that the push from shoulder to ridge was harder. Especially considering the amazing views looming large behind us. It is really hard to make forward progress when there are such incredibly majestic views behind ya.
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By 10:51, we had reached the ridge line, and the views just kept getting better. The entire ridge was ablaze with wildflowers. It smelled amazing: spicy, peppery, sweet, and sometimes foul. We could see several hikers in front of us making the final push to the summit.

Summit: 11:33am
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As I understand it, the group in the center of this pano was planning on continuing the traverse to Mt. Harvard. By the time we got back into Buena Vista, some nasty looking clouds were rolling in. I hope they made it thru ok.
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This couple asked if I'd take their picture, so I obliged... OH, with THEIR camera? ok...
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Beginning the descent at 12:13pm. On the way down, the dogs from earlier were 'dog' tired. The brown dog, 'Earl,' was of a mindset that since I as going slow, too, that he'd rather mosey along at my pace, than that of his owner. The dogs were definitely not as enthusiastic as they had been on the way up.
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Retrun to MicroGlacier: 1:35pm - I took the opportunity to ice down my knees and wrap one in a knee brace for the remainder of the hike. The dogs were rolling around in the snow, and I'm sure it felt as good on their knees and paws as it did on mine.
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As we trekked down from the snow patch, we diverged onto the left fork and reconnected to the main trail, bypassing the pre-shoulder clearing (re: 8:26am) . We reached the first meadow at 1:54pm
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And a kinda cool butterfly pic, cuz you don't see to many of those posted here
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w00t! The Trailhead: 3:15pm Time to hunt down a couple of McD's #1 Combos!

More pix here:



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