| Harvard & Columbia Traverse
Peaks: Harvard (14,414 ft)
Columbia (14,071 ft)
Trailhead: North Cottonwood Creek
Elevation Gain: 6,060 ft.
Mileage: 13.75 miles
8/14/08 After a relaxing day prior, Colton and I decided to depart the North Cottonwood trailhead at 3:00 am in an attempt to make to the summit of Harvard by sunrise. Hiking in the wee hours of the morning made for pleasant temps and stars O plenty. The summit of Harvard is a little over 6 miles from the trailhead, gaining about 4,554 feet.
As we approached the head of Horn Fork Basin there was just enough light to make out ridge-top features. As we made our way up the switchbacks below Harvard, we awoke a couple different groups of mountain goats.
Looking back at Columbia before sunrise.
Short class 3 climb option below the summit.
We summited Harvard at about 6:45 just as the sun began to rise. It didn't take long for a cool breeze to kick in, putting a chill down our sweaty backs. Our summit stay lasted for about a half an hour before setting off for Columbia via the connecting ridge.
Harvard summit view to west.
Connecting ridge to Columbia.
Looking down on Bear Lake.
Point 13,516 is a short class 3 scramble to the top, definitely a worthwhile side trip.
From Point 13,516 we descended south along the Harvard-Columbia saddle (13,180 ft). As we neared the "Rabbit" pinnacles and having gotten closer looks at the class 5 pitch, with an abundance of loose rock everywhere, we decided to make our way down a very steep scree shoot to the west. We descended to about 12,800 feet into the Frenchman Creek drainage before beginning our ascent back up to Columbia.
Looking back at Harvard & connecting ridge.
For the most part we were able to pick our way up utilizing steep patches of tundra to the east side of Columbia.
On the way up we came across several more groups of mountain goats.
Upon making it to the ridgetop to the east we picked our way up the boulders on the east side to the summit. We summited Columbia at about 10:00am.
Summit view towards Bear Lake.
Summit view towards Harvard.
Summit view SW.
Summit view SE.
The summit view from Columbia was, in our opinion, little more scenic than from Harvard. Not that the view from Harvard was bad by any means. Of course it was no longer below freezing and the breeze was a bit warmer on Columbia. We enjoyed the summit of Columbia for about an hour before beginning our descent.
Summit view to south - descent route.
The descent down the west side of Columbia turned out to be the hardest part of the trip for us. The route down the west side drops abruptly over 2,000 feet back down into Horn Fork Basin. Emphasis on "abruptly." This route is very steep and nothing more than a scree and rock rubble shoot that is miserable. From a safety stand point, I would not recommend going up this way with anyone coming down.
Descent route off west side of Columbia.
Descent route continues.
Looking across at Bear Lake on descent.
Looking back up at descent route.
It took us about the same amount of time to descend this route as it took to traverse from Harvard. My knees were very happy to be on flat ground upon reaching the basin bottom. Once back on the main trail it was smooth sailing back to the trailhead. After a few pit stops along the way we were back at the trailhead at about 3:00 pm.
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