| A Long, Grueling Independence Day
I knew this would be a long day on these two peaks, but if you think these two peaks together as a combination can be bagged with ease, well then just like Judas Priest says "You've got another thing coming." I left my house Friday the 3rd in anticipation of at least a 12 hour hike to set up camp at the N. Cottonwood creek TH. After joining everyone in their mass exodus to the mountains I found myself sitting in a traffic jam on hwy 285, which wasn't too bad but when you know you have to wake up at 2am every little bit of sleep counts!
I arrived at the TH at 8pm and squeezed my tent in between two other sites. The trailhead was very busy so I quickly ate dinner got my gear ready and went to bed. I woke up at 215am to an unusually loud alarm and began my prep. I started hiking at 3am and made quick work of the trail leading into the Horn Fork Basin, I really enjoyed this approach because of how smooth and flat it is. This trail is easily followed in the dark as well. After surmounting the 1st little hill before ascending Mt Harvard I was treated with some nice views of Yale.
It also gave me a chance to see the 1st part of my destination up close as well!
At Daybreak I immediately noticed the very long ridge connecting Harvard and Columbia, for some reason I kept looking at it throughout the hike. Was it the beauty of the ridge, or was it my nerves? I knew I wasn't going to traverse the ridge but the idea that I would be on the other side of it for so long was kinda cool.
This is looking down at the Horn Fork Basin from near the summit. Notice Columbia overshadowing most of the basin. You can also see 5 14ers in this pic too which I though was cool.
This pic was taken from the same place looking up at the final summit pitch, this was one of the more fun summit scramble I've done.
The trail leading to the summit was easily followed, it was obscured by 1 or 2 little snow fields which were easily surmounted without snow gear. It took me off trail for a few minutes but I quickly found my way back.
Success on Colorado's 3rd highest!
While on the summit I met up with a 14er.com member Michael aka Shogun. I asked him if he was planning on doing the traverse, he said he was so I asked if I could tag along and of course he agreed. I enjoy hiking with other people, it's made even better when they are 14er.com members. The weather was looking good so we went for it.
Shogun and I at the beginning of the traverse. You can see how far Columbia is from near the start.
The ridge line was fun as it involved some scrambling, one large snow field crossing and general easy hiking. Here is looking back at the snowfield
This part of the traverse was fun and easy. Shogun taking in the Views. We went climbers right of the rocky point
I thought the half frozen bear lake looked cool from high on the ridge. It looked very Blue.
Looking down at pt. 13,516.
We dropped down below point 13,516 to avoid the nasty talus/scree, and the potential for cliffing out. This made for some soft hiking on the beautiful tundra. Here is looking out from that tundra
Shogun enjoying it as well.
This is looking down at the final remaining down climb of Harvard. We aimed for the snowfield at the bottom of the picture and curved around the rock rib. Once down below we stuck to our plan of following the green ramps all the way up to Columbia's summit ridge. Easier said than done.
I remember thinking "Damn, Columbia keeps getting higher and higher." And this would be the last time I would see Columbia for a while.
Looking back at Harvard. Actually seeing how high we were on Columbia was highly motivating. Point 13,516 is on the left.
From this point I knew there was no going back, and looking up at the ridge confirmed it. The weather was still looking OK, but there were some dark bottomed clouds forming. This picture was taken from the same place as the last picture. I was now officially on the other side of the ridge. (east side)
After a long grueling ascent of Columbia's east side I looked across to see Harvard, this was definitely motivating because of how high we were.
We could finally see the summit of Columbia which spurred me on, but this part of the hike was physically extremely difficult. I'm glad I was well conditioned for this hike. Michael was awesome as well. Here he is leading the climb, but showing fatigue as was I.
It seemed the closer we got, the further it was! I tried to throw in some humor to take our minds off of the pain, but to no avail.
Finally, after 3.5 hours we did it. Later, Michael told me "I wouldn't consider this a traverse, since we did climb down to the BOTTOM and climbed our way back up, we actually climbed two mountains." I would agree emphatically.
Harvard as seen from Columbia's summit
Looking back at Columbia
These 2 mountains wiped us out, all Michael wanted to do was finish these beasts, so did I. Looking at both made me realize something....I'm crazy.
The hike down was brutally steep but made easier with trekking poles, and once down in the basin the hike was smooth but seemed endless. I was happy to finally see the TH!
My feet are tore up, my legs are sore, but it was still an awesome day! All total it took me about 11 hours.
I enjoyed hiking with you Michael, it made a very tough hike that much easier. I would have to say that physically, with both mountains together after 30+ fourteeners climbed that this was the toughest day I have had while climbing period. 1 more to go in the Sawatch!!
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