| Columbia/Harvard - Winter in June
So the weather wasn't looking ideal, but there was a potential window beginning Tuesday into Wednesday. The Sawatch have been holding well this spring and I felt like I needed to take advantage. Chris was down for an overnight in Horn Fork Basin as he tries to squeeze in a few more ski days before he moves out to the Golden State in a few weeks. We both agreed that weather would be a problem and we would need to play with whatever was dealt.
We met in Leadville and drove down to the TH. Packs were heavy on our shoulders with the addition of overnight gear. We made it up to 11,000ft in trail shoes, set up the tent, and left the camping gear inside.
A combination of rain and snow fell intermittently as we made our way up the summer trail towards Columbia's summit. We moved well with the lightened loads and we were at the ridge line as the clouds moved in and out.
The snow on the ridge line was still plentiful so shoes were exchanged for skis.
The fresh blanket of snow in the Sawatch transformed the landscape from late spring to winter. The inspiration for the trip came the previous week with a fine view of Columbia's Southwest Gully from the summit of Yale. As we traversed the ridge toward Columbia's summit, I made note of the potential to reach the gully on skis. It didn't look ideal, but certainly possible with a little work. We topped out and transitioned to downhill mode.
I skied east off of the summit and then traversed around to the south ridge before dropping onto the western slope. Skiing the western slope a few hundred feet brought me to the southwest gully just below the ridge. Chris chose to hike the last few feet along the ridge to the top of the southwest gully.
He attached skis and started what would prove to be a silky descent.
The snow was coming down fairly heavy by this time. The skiing was good enough that we didn't really care though. A soft layer of wet snow on top of a harder yet forgiving spring base. It was all smiles down to 12,000ft.
When the snow in the gully ceased to exist, we put the skis back on our packs and began traversing dry ground towards our camp. The snow turned to rain lower down and the route finding became dicey. We slid across steep grass and rock before finally hitting treeline.
We arrived back in camp in a soggy state. It was still early in the day though, so we set about the task of drying out.
Chris and Myself having a word with Jim, tent bound:
The rain continued throughout the afternoon and then turned to snow as the day's light faded. We awoke to a fresh helping of snow and clearing skies. Harvard was going to be good.
The weather and new snow was better than caffeine on Wednesday morning as we headed up the trail.
The sun fought the clouds most of the morning. Layers went on, layers came off. At one point, just below the saddle on the south ridge, visibility went to nil and we had some serious discussions about where to gain the ridge. Luckily it was only temporary and the 3rd highest peak in CO revealed herself once again. The fresh snow allowed us to skin all the way to the summit rocks. It was comfortable to use some different muscles.
Chris topping out:
It was great to see all of the new snow on the summit and we looked forward to the descent. A hop, step, and a huck later I was on good continuous snow all the way to the basin.
The skiing was a nice reward for the less than desirable weather we endured the day before. The surrounding scenery was a bonus.
Neither of us wanted the snow to end, but soon it did, and we were headed back to camp in what soon became thick heavy snow flakes, ahh mountain weather.
More than satisfied with the outcome of the trip, we packed camp and headed down the snow drifted trail. By the time we reached the trucks, it was summer again.
A few beers were opened as we reminisced about a memorable 2 days in the mountains. Another good trip Chris.