| The Mount Harvard Exam
The beer is rich, aromatic, and floral. It smells and tastes like the mountains in early summer, when everything turns green again. I wish my tent were outside the brewery's front door. I'd drink another. And another. But I resist the tempation - it is 7PM and we must wake at 4 AM. Tomorrow we climb Mount Harvard.
We have come together at Eddyline's Brewpub, a recent addition to the Buena Vista restaurant scene. We try some different beers. The IPA is tasty - IMO one of the best on the scene. The Stout and Amber are good, but the Lager not so good. For dinner, I order the red chile pasta. My eyes fill with deviant joy when our server says, "I hope you like your pasta hot and spicy - we feel we need to warn our customers." The pasta smells and looks good, but my wide-eyes fill with dissapointment once I taste it. I want hot and spicy - I get mild. It's not bad, but it's not great - a let down considering the long wait we endure after ordering. The IPA is fantastic, everything else is underwhelming.
We leave the pub as the sun slips below the horizon. We drive west on the North Cottowood Road as twilight fades to darkness. My climbing partners drive ahead of me, their course marked by the erie glow of red tail lights masked by heavy dust. My window-less Jeep fills with the sweet aroma of dirt. We had more beer, we had fire wood, we had delirious anticipation - our Ride of the Valkyries had begun.
Mount Harvard - 14420 feet
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, San Isabel National Forest
Route: South Slopes Standard
Trailhead: North Cottonwood
There are many aesthetically beautiful peaks - Capitol, the Maroons, and Crestone come to mind. Mount Harvard is not on that beauty list. Like most Sawatch peaks, Mount Harvard is impressive in its size, not its shape. The mountain is ponderous and ungainly. Its bulk masks its height. From down in the Horn Fork Basin, the third highest mountain in Colorado appears to be no taller than Point 13,588 to its left and Mount Columbia to its right. Its appearance is deceiving, because once on top, the view is endless. Mount Harvard is earned, and in exchange the mountain lifts us closer to Heaven.
We drive through the dust and dark like rally cars in slow motion. Then brake lights flash like a siren - we are here. We chose a tentsite next to the road, about a 1/2 mile before the trailhead. We pitch tents, unroll sleeping bags, change clothes, and stuff packs - a blur of shadows cast in fire and full moon. We enjoy a handful of beers and a bundle of firewood. We retreat to our tents. The nearby stream fills my thoughts with the rhythm of nature. The full moon illuminates my tent like a stage light. Shadows of trees are cast on my tent like images in an old silent movie. The trees move with the breeze, my dancers in the dark. They lead me to sleep.
Tomorrow will be tough.
Captions on top of photos.
We wake at 4 AM and sign in by 5.
We hike through the dark.
The blanket of night recedes. A fantastic world is unveiled.
We step over ice as we approach treeline. In the distance, Mount Harvard glows in the warmth of the morning sun.
Behind us, Mount Yale wakens from its slumber.
We fill water bottles.
Crossing the frozen stream is the diciest effort of the day.
We walk towards the warm light.
An unknown but interesting peak rises in the east.
We ponder the ridge from Mount Harvard to Mount Columbia.
Behind us, the view expands.
We continue towards the saddle of Point 13,588 and Mount Harvard (out of photo on right).
Cairns show the way.
The trail rockets up the south slope towards the saddle ridge.
We reach the saddle ridge. The view expands into the basin on the West.
The steep trail continues into the sky.
We approach the summit block.
We stash our packs and trekking poles. The route to the summit becomes a scramble.
The summit of Mount Harvard.
The view to the North is sublime. The peaks of Belford, Oxford, Missouri, La Plata, Elbert, and Massive stand tall.
The summit is approached by a group of climbers below us. We enjoy ten minutes on the summit. The conditions are hospitable - not too windy and not too cold.
We depart the summit as the friendly climbers arrive. The silver-lined Horn Fork Basin, framed by Mount Yale, lays out below us.
We search for the sure route down from the summit.
An interesting and narrow couloir slices through the west slope of Harvard.
We continue down, down, down...
The frozen stream crossing has thawed.
The sun drops in the Western sky, illuminating the golden willows from behind.
We unpack beers and salute Mount Harvard.
We seach for King Kong's tracks - no luck.
Goodbye beautiful wilderness - goodbye.