Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  10/08/2012
Date Climbed:   10/07/2012
Author:  14er Fan
 Snow in the Collegiates  

We set off on the standard route from N. Cottonwood Creek to start hiking up Harvard and Columbia early on Saturday morning. We completed all the river crossings in the dark without any problem. There is a large bridge, a small bridge, and a few tree bridges that are pretty solid and easy to cross. The trail through the trees was snowpacked and we reached treeline at about the same time the sun was rising. The peaks were snowcapped and breathtakingly beautiful.

Looking back down the trail from above treeline

As we followed the stream above treeline, the snow drifts got a little deeper and made for some potholing that continued all the way to the summit of Harvard. We stopped on the way to make a little snowman cairn. The snow was pretty fluffy and difficult to pack together.

Our snowman cairn before the final push up Harvard

We made it to the summit of Harvard and stopped for some lunch. The next picture looks at Columbia from the summit.

Looking at Columbia from the summit of Harvard

We set off for Columbia along Harvard's summit ridge until dropping down the gully through the snow. After several hours of trudging through the snow, we made it to the summit of Columbia. We didn't stay long, since we still had a little less than six miles to go to get back to the trailhead. Coming down through the scree was not much fun, but we were able to glissade/sled once we reached some snow about 500 feet from the Columbia ridgeline. The hike through the trees took a long time, since we were all pretty tired after such a long day. It seemed much longer on the way down!

We made it safely back to the trailhead after sunset. This is a gorgeous hike, but I would not recommend doing both Harvard and Columbia once the snow starts to fall. With 6,100 feet of elevation gain and 15 miles, it is a long combo under summer conditions. We were all pretty exhausted once we made it to the cars, but overall, it was another amazing and challenging hike in the high country.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

10/08/2012 19:32
Surprising amount of snow given some of the other recent accounts. I'll be visitng the Sawatch again in a couple of days and was wondering if you needed microspikes?


Microspikes or snowshoes below treeline?
10/08/2012 21:06
Thanks for the report. I was planning on heading to Harvard this weekend, but now I might have to change my plans given how much snow is up there. Beyond just microspikes, is the post holing deep enough that I would need snowshoes?

14er Fan

10/09/2012 03:24
I didn't wear microspikes or snowshoes while hiking up Harvard, but put microspikes on while doing the traverse to Columbia. The trail was snow-packed below tree line, had roughly 6 inches to 1 foot of snow above tree line, and had some deep pockets of snow in between the rocks for the final 1,000 feet. The backside of the traverse was pretty nasty with really deep snowdrifts, though I don't think that snowshoes would have helped much. I'd check and make sure they don't get more snow this week before you go. Good luck!

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