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 Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
 Post Date:  07/12/2009
 Date Climbed:   07/11/2009
 Posted By:  emcee smith

 The traverse from hell, and the armpit of 14ers (Columbia)   

Harvard and Columbia
7/11/09

Hike in approximately 3 miles
Start from camp: 5:40am
Harvard summit: 8:30am
Left Harvard: 9:00am
Columbia: 12:36pm
Return to Camp: 3:25pm (including about 1 hour of rest)
Packed camp: 3:59pm
Return to car: 5:24pm

Thoughts:

This hike was brutal. We did well up to Harvard, but the traverse was a huge undertaking. Although I heard the advice to drop lower than you think, we stayed high and traversed across a talus field. Once we could see the high traverse, we elected to drop very low into the basin and come up the grass slopes to Columbia. If I had paid more attention to trip reports (and stayed on the grass the whole time), I think we could have saved approximately 1 hr on the traverse by going way low. Since we had a dog with us, the higher traverse would have been difficult for us, but I think that either route would take about the same time.

The other guy in our group wasn't feeling well on the traverse. It is a horrible feeling to be on the wrong side of a peak from the tent/car. Very fortunately for us, the weather never came in above us, although we could see dark clouds all around. I was pushing as hard as I could, and by the time we got back to the summit of Columbia, we were beat.

The hike down from Columbia was steep, loose, and long. It seems that a lot of folks dropped off early into gullies. Here the research helped, as we stayed on the ridge to the point where it turns east, then saw the trail coming down the ridge. I thought that the trail was predictable. There were solid rocks, loose dirt, and scree, and it seemed that I was never surprised by what I put my feet on.

My take is that one needs to be very fit for this traverse, and unless you are a speed demon, need to be on your way by 9am with a confident step and a sure route. I think that we dropped down and had to regain about 1,700' to regain Columbia. Perspective, that is about 3 times the elevation regain from Grays to Torreys. I would not recommend this as a first (or second, or third) 2 peak traverse.

I didn't have good photos on the traverse, but this maps shows our route in orange, where we should have gone in green, and approximately the higher traverse

Image

Coming up the basin from camp, below treeline. The trail was wide and fairly gentle to here
Image

Climbing up and over the first rise, obviously the trail is rocky here, but still a good trail.
Image

Top of the rise is the saddle in top center. Up through the snow, and now we are on the final slope up to the summit
Image

Looking up toward the ridge, a hiker (Steve) in the saddle
Image

Near the top, about the only real snow to cross
Image

The final pitch. These are people size rocks that provide very good scrambling. Steve is in there somewhere
Image

Close up shot of hiker near the top
Image

After a brief rest on the summit, starting down the ridge toward Columbia
Image

Looking down the ridge
Image

Coming off the hump
Image

Down a dirt gully
Image

And traversing slightly below the ridge
Image

Our point of wrong turn. We should have gone down left out of the picture on the grass, but rather traversed just below the snowfield. This choice cost us about 1 hr.
Image

After coming down ridge on the right (from quite high up) and then down the grassy area into the snowfield
Image

After coming around on the grass just below the rocks, and starting up the slopes to Columbia. Fatigue definitely kicking in.
Image

Looking back from part way up Columbia. Our route in orange. We should have stayed more on the green route. The 1hr mistake for us
Image

Coming up the slopes to Columbia. Not difficult, other than the fatigue.
Image

Pausing below the summit. From this point, we traversed over to the east ridge, then came up
Image

Near the summit, about noon, keeping a close eye on the weather. Again, extremely lucky with the weather
Image

Nearing the summit of Columbia
Image

From the summit, looking back into the Harvard trail. Pictures don't do it justice how steep it is, and how demoralizing knowing that you are about to go (nearly) straight down to get back
Image

Relaxing on top. We were dog tired; the dog was just tired.
Image

Starting to come down. Good trail that will lead down a ridge and not into a gully. Traverses a few gullies, but look for a traverse exit (it is always there)
Image

Looking up from the bottom. Again, the photos don't do it justice
Image



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
JA_son27


Your Title is....     2009-07-12 08:27:31
PERFECT! I used munirider‘s and Aubrey‘s TR to help guide us down Harvard over to Columbia because it was hard to see down to the drainage from so high. I am glad we dropped so low, but then again the elevation gain to the 2nd summit was HELL, perfect description!


cftbq


Thanks for posting     2009-07-12 11:44:53
This one definitely needs more beta for first-timers. Having done this one twice, I certainly agree with you on all substantive points. Fatigue (unexpected) is your worst enemy approaching Columbia, but the absolute worst is the descent off of Columbia, especially if you bail too soon. Congrats on the hardest duo central Colorado has to offer!


mountainmicah83


Rough...     2009-07-13 15:41:29
We did that earlier this year and I was afraid to bring the dog. How did your dog do overall?


emcee smith


Dog     2009-07-13 16:17:11
The dog was my neighbor‘s, so my advice is a bit 3rd party (Note that she is 7 years old). She did well enough on the hike, but her pads were raw by the time we were done. Booties, or much trail experience would be needed. She needed a few boosts to get up to the summit of Harvard and off the very top onto the traverse. Coming off Columbia seemed to bother her for some reason, probably the same as us, tired legs and knees. Once we got back below tree line, although still tired, she seemed better, probably due to the lack of rocks on the trail.


4HClimber


Thanks!     2009-07-14 13:26:02
Planning to take this little trip on Thursday. Debating whether to do both peaks. If I do both of them, your report will be very helpful.


doggler


Second that     2009-07-27 10:40:17
I will stress over and over again - if you‘re doing to drop, you better feel you‘re going WAY out of your way initially, otherwise you haven‘t kicked out enough. Just look for grass!

Good work on a tough day!



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