Mt. Harvard - South Slopes
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(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
Ski: Intermediate, D4 / R2 / III
|Trailhead:||N. Cottonwood Creek|
|Total Gain:||4,600 feet|
|RT Length:||14.00 miles|
|USGS Quad.:||Mount Harvard|
|County Sheriff:||Chaffee: 719-539-2596
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
|Wilderness Area:||Collegiate Peaks|
Turn west on County Road (CR) 350 (Crossman Ave.) near the center of Buena Vista. This road is less than 1/2 mile north of the stoplight in the center of town. Continue on CR 350 for 2 miles and turn right onto CR 361. After almost 1 mile, turn left onto CR 365 (dirt). Continue on this road for over 5 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. Turn right into the wooded parking area which loops around counter-clockwise. The trail starts on the west side of the parking area.
Photo #1 and Photo #2 show much of the route. Locate the trail and hike down to a bridge crossing and the trail register. Follow the excellent trail for 1.4 miles and cross the river on a great bridge ( 38.87035° N, -106.29161° W) - Photo #3. Shortly after the crossing, there is a trail junction ( 38.871° N, -106.29299° W) - Photo #4. Going left will take you toward Kroenke Lake - the wrong way. Turn right toward Horn Fork Basin and Bear Lake. Hike another 2+ miles to tree line at 11,500' where Harvard can be seen ahead - Photo #5. Here the trail turns right and curves up and around to the left on the east side of Horn Fork Basin ( 38.89338° N, -106.3115° W). The trail weaves through the willows and crosses a stream as you approach the north end of the basin - Photo #6. From tree line, hike more than 1.5 miles up through Horn Fork to a trail junction ( 38.90899° N, -106.31431° W) for Bear Lake and Harvard - Photo #7. Turn right and follow the trail to a flat area near 12,600' - Photo #8.
The next task is to gain a shoulder that runs from Unnamed Peak 13,588 to the east and ends in the upper basin. Stay on the well-marked trail as it climbs into a talus field on the south side of the shoulder - Photo #9. There are a bunch of small switchbacks which make the ascent pretty easy, but the trail can be a bit hard to follow through portions of the talus. There has been trail maintenance done here - rock steps, gap filling, and cairns. Reach the crest of the shoulder ( 38.91388° N, -106.31727° W) at 12,900'. From here you can see the trail as it crosses a small basin below the final southeast face of Harvard - Photo #10. Taken from Mt. Columbia, Photo #11 is another look at the terrain ahead. Cross the basin and begin to climb toward Harvard's South Ridge - following the cairns and a good trail - Photo #12. There are some false trails on this slope so, if you lose the main trail, just keep climbing up the slope to reach the main trail on the ridge. At 13,600', you can see over the top of the Unnamed Peak 13,588' just behind you to the southwest. Follow the trail as it switchbacks up the slope to reach the ridge ( 38.91976° N, -106.32186° W) - Photo #13.
Hike along the right side of the ridge as you approach the summit - Photo #14. Finally, near 14,375', reach the base of the crux summit pitch - Photo #15. Pick your line and climb stable rock to reach the summit ( 38.924328° N, -106.320618° W) - Photo #16. If you take your time and look for the easiest way up, the difficulty is Class 2. Photo #17 looks down from the top.
Leaving the summit: Photo #18, Photo #19, Photo #20, Photo #21
Dropping into an exit gully: Photo #22, Photo #23, Photo #24
Descending the standard route: Photo #25, Photo #26, Photo #27, Photo #28, Photo #29, Photo #30
Exiting the drainage below the south face: Photo #31
The road to the trailhead is a bit rough but can be conquered by some 2WD passenger cars. 4WD is best when the road is wet. If you are going to pack in and camp in Horn Fork Basin, you will have to hike over 3.5 miles to get to tree line. Start very early if you plan to do this hike in a single day. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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