Peak:  Mt. Columbia
 Route:  Southeast Ridge
 Range:  Sawatch
 Posted By:  IanJSmith
 Date of Info:  1/14/2023
 Date Posted:  1/15/2023

Someone go get the Columbia snowflake! I couldn't...

Harvard Lakes trailhead accessible to Trucks or Large SUVs with good treads. Although any AWD vehicle can make it about 0.6 miles from the trailhead (38.8605389, -106.2301959), which is what I did in a Subaru.

I started at 4am, and I'd recommend doing the same if attempting to summit. No tracks to be found when I started the day, but I broke trail and 2 others followed them to tree-line leaving a decent trench to treeline - snowshoes necessary. It should be a little easier going for the next few folks unless the trench gets covered up. Above treeline is much easier going and is either dirt or wind scoured snow - microspikes were all I used above treeline.

I made the decision to turn back at about 13,300 and 1 mile from the summit due to annoying winds, general slow-going throughout the day, and worry that trudging back through the trees would be difficult.

I ended up making it down relatively quickly with the trench well in place from the 2 other hikers. I would say I wish I had gone for the summit, except ear-popping, knock-you-over winds making it very difficult to walk came from nowhere midway through my descent. Probably best not to have continued further away from the shelter of the trees afterall.

A tough but doable climb winter climb. Go get it!

Quick note about Avy Danger: This route avoids most avy danger being on the ridge, but I did cause 3 medium sized "crack-womphs" in the trees resulting in a fracture in the snow about 10-20ft around me. The slope was not steep enough to slide, but may have on steeper slopes. I became hyper-aware of where I might end up if a small slide occurred, keeping close to trees of possible. The snowpack is fragile, indeed! Above treeline, very little snow or steep slopes exist on the route, and avy danger didn't feel like a concern.

#1) Trail breaking in the dark#2) Trail breaking in the dark#3) Looking back near treeline.#4) Looking up at around 12,500ft#5) Some elk#6) Looking back around 12,500 ft#7) Closer up, still around 12,500ft#8) 13,300ft and 1 mile from the summit.  The rest of the route is visible in this photo.#9) Lenticular cloud.  Took the time to grab a photo once I was out of the heaviest winds, near treeline.

Comments or Questions
Number 2
01/15/2023 10:04
Hey Ian! I was one of the two hikers behind you, very thankful for your trail breaking! I parked right behind you in a white 4Runner but I got there after you and left before you haha. I made it a little past your snowshoes and turned around for the same reasons, I was moving painfully slow compared to usual and should have started way earlier. Let me know if you ever wanna get together and tackle this one again, Im not giving up on it! Safe travels my friend.

01/20/2023 10:07
Great pics!

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