Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  08/25/2015
Date Climbed:   08/23/2015
Author:  denvermikey
 Columbia SE Ridge (aka how to turn a 12 mile hike into a 14+ mile hike)   

Now that I am getting down to just a few 'closer to Denver' hikes, I needed to get the dreaded Mt. Columbia off my list. Nearly everyone lists the standard route (west slopes) as one of their least favorite routes among the 14ers. Not being a big fan of scree my self, and taking a last minute bit of advice from a trusted friend, I decided on the less traveled Southeast Ridge route. I am not going to go into a lot of detail as the route description is fairly good. I will, however, reiterate a few important items and make one suggestion/improvement to the route description.

1. The turnoff from the CT: Yes there is a good cairn to mark the trail departure. However, the route description does not state how far into the trail the turnoff is. IT IS ONLY ABOUT 3/4 MILE INTO THE HIKE. You come up on it fairly quick. A few hundred yards after your last switchback. Being a less traveled route, it is not the typical 'Y' intersection with obvious 'foot/boot-worn' characteristics. Someone in my party (I won't mention names...mostly because it was me) was not expecting to come up on it this quick and we continued hiking the CT for well over a mile before thinking...'Hey, wait a minute...'

2. Where it mentions that this route is more difficult in the dark, this a very accurate. Again being a much less traveled route, there is only a scarce bit of actual trail while ascending the ridge through tree-line. Several cairns and staying to the right of the ridge on our way up got us to the correct spot to leave tree line. I was very glad to have my GPS for the return trip. Actually it was kind of funny too. To us, it was easier to find the cairns on the way down. While descending through tree line I just had to laugh while comparing our route up vs down. Quite far apart in many spots.

3. Good weather is a must. You are above tree line for a vast majority of this hike. The ridge itself seems to go on forever. When we got up to enough elevation to see Columbia in the distance, we all kind of sighed...'wow, that's a long ways away'. It is a long hike along the ridge to get to the summit. We were very fortunate to have good weather for our long day, save a quick graupel shower at the summit.

Having not done the standard route, I would still probably recommend this route. It is a bit longer (even more so if you follow my tracks) and has more elevation gain, but on a Sunday in August, we hiked a 14er and saw no one until the summit. I actually liked the route finding involved too. Kinda reminded me of why I like the Centennials so much. All in all if I had to do it again, well, I probably wouldn't. But with decent route finding ability, this seems like a nicer, less traveled, and even safer route up Mt Columbia.



Comments or Questions
mtgirl

damn that trusted friend
08/26/2015 06:58
Sorry, I guess I should have elaborated more on how quickly that turn comes up off the CT. It’s been a few years, but I don’t remember the spot being hard to find. That being said, I think it was light out when I reached there, and darkness makes a huge difference.



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