As usual, I spent the night at the trailhead. I couldn't leave early enough the previous day in order to hike to Horn Fork like I did two weeks earlier. That was probably a good thing. If I had camped out, I would have had two choices. Considering the turn of events and the time it took, I would have been too tired to pack up after sunset and carry a 35 pound pack the nearly 4 miles back to the TH or stay another night. It was hard enough after 11.5 miles and 15 hours on the trail to go the remaining distance with a light pack. The day turned out to be 15.8 miles in 17.3 hours long with two peaks well earned.
A little alpine glow looking back toward the trailhead
Harvard is to the left of center and the traverese is to the right.
I kept an eye on those rabbit ears the whole day. They were always interesting to see, no matter the angle or direction
Go to the left for Bear Lake and turn right for Harvard
Columbia still looming in the morning shadows
The rabbit is still watching. Good thing, I never ran into a soul on the trail.
TH to Harvard
Having had the opportunity to check out the route to 12,200K a couple of weeks earlier in a weather induced altered attempt, the actual climb in excellent weather was finally realized. I found the route to actually be steeper than the Massive SW route that I climbed last week. As mentioned in the route description, the last bit of Harvard requires scrambling up stable rocks and the middle or right side is best. I found a trail going around to the north side which led up to the summit. There was some scrambling but nothing like I experienced on the summit pitch of Antero. The climb, about half in the dark went as planned. Dawn arrived at about 12,000'.
A look back at the trail to note the less demanding terrain. Did I mention there were a LOT OF ROCKS!
The traverse in a kinder, gentler, friendlier mood, sort of...
A good view of the change in terrain pitch in talus and of Bear Lake
Columbia on the left. Yale must be center and Princeton back and to the left of Yale.
7.5 miles, 4500' and nearly 6 hours later you can have this view in person!
Seemed like I was dancing around the summit. Had to put my poles down and grab big rocks. The summit does have a route but goes around the backside.
The summit pose. Beautiful day. Good views.
The road to Columbia
I was concerned about the traverse enough to go over it several times and put in waypoints along the way to ensure I didn't get off track. I had enough inputs about the gully to avoid it, but I couldn't get the route clear enough in my mind. I finally came to the eastern most part of the route, which turned out to be a nice little grassy area to sit a spell, and tried to figure out where to go next.
The route very well described and shown by an experienced climber in a 14er.com TR
What I saw was an eye popping view of loose scree, steep angles and no escalator. The rabbit knows for sure.
It all started out fairly simple with a cute little path and then the talus started up again.
The nice little grassy area is the little bump next to the small cloud. Picture view is from the bottom of the ravine on really huge boulders.
I could not see a trail and looking at the terrain and how foreboding it appeared, I decided to head down into the Frenchman Creek drainage area. I figured it would cost me time, but weather was on my side. Even if weather was degrading, I wouldn't take an unwanted risk. I also have a copy of the route drawn on a photo from another 14er member, but I wasn't comfortable.
This is about half way up the described route through talus
Turn 180 degrees from the previous photo and you have this rather restful view.
I wasted a lot of time searching for the best way up causing a lot of boulder hopping when I should have just cut a straight line across and then gone up the talus slope with Point 13497 on the right reaching the grassy terrain. I ended up there, where I was supposed to be, but just went about it a little differently than the standard route. It took me 6 hours versus the 3 I've heard from others. Needless to say, I was relieved upon reaching the saddle.
Turn a little to the right and you find yourself just short of the saddle between the Traverse and Columbia.
Columbia on the left coming toward the saddle. The ridgeline on the right is the route up.
Another perspective. Hey, you came this far, what's a little talus? This is the base of Columbia. It really doesn't look this bad, ha, ha!
Couldn't help looking back at my day at Harvard.
Having just spent over 12 hours of going up,… then down,… and up again, the final up to Columbia's summit was as physically challenging as it was mentally. The wind seemed extremely brisk on the ridge line heading up to the summit and it measured at 18 mph. The weather was still holding out for me, but darkness was going to be in the picture in about 3 hours. There was a great trail on the ridgeline.
It does look challenging, doesn't it? Trail is on the left, but not visible.
My favorite view of the French drain as I slipped and called it a few times.
I had to focus to getting to the top. I knew by now that I would be going home in the dark.
The thought behind this smile, "I really am going to get off this mountain, but will I be grounded again...
Columbia to TH
Hitting the summit of Columbia was the highlight of what seemed like the century long day. Then there was the never ending scree. After the summit, cairns marked the way, but the little bumps on the way down the ridgeline had me wanting to turn right and head down.
On Columbia's ridge heading for the right hand turn point.
Yikes! My entry point into the treeline is left of dead center to the left of that really big rock!
I had the right turn marked as a waypoint so I held out until reaching the correct spot to turn right and head down toward the path that leads to the trail out. I took 2 hours to go 2000' downhill. Not only was slippery scree and sliding rocks frustrating, but also was seeing where I needed to be and not getting there quick enough. Darkness came as scheduled and a two hour fast paced hike ended with finding my car in the dark, just like I had left it 17 hours and 20 minutes earlier.
Having less than two days to digest this terribly long and weary day, I am finding that I am feeling better about it. It is rare for us to have nearly three quarters of a day without a weather interruption or cancellation. I certainly could not have accomplished it had the weather deteriorated. My decision point was Harvard's summit. I had already spent plenty of time in the Frenchman Creek, which was my backup escape route, so I was totally acquainted with it! I totally underestimated the time it would take me and I changed the route down; however, I thought the prescribed route exceeded my climbing ability. That realization changed the plan and thankfully, the weather accommodated me (even though darkness did not). Finally, with both peaks summited, I don't need to go back and climb Columbia with scree and sliding rocks both ways. Maybe the CFI should consider some trail building on this slope before the mountain has slid completely into the creek. Risk is in the eye of the beholder and a personal decision. Thanks for reading. Only time few more to go this season.