Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2019
Date Climbed:   09/14/2019
Author:  trkl9
 Day-tripping the Harvard/Columbia Traverse   

Harvard/Columbia Traverse (#10 and #11)

I've taken a couple weeks off of 14er routes to work towards my other RMNP 13er goals but just needed that 14,000 elevation fix this weekend. This route sounded epic so I thought I'd give it a try. The Sawatch range has been good to me this summer.

Most of this report will be of the traverse route, mainly because the standard routes have been well documented but I will say, as others have indicated, the new route on Columbia is looking really good and the CFI has done a wonderful job.

Miles: 15.31

Elevation: 5,707 feet

TH: North Cottonwood Creek

Start: 4:00 AM

Took on this route as a solo mission. As usual for routes like this, gotta get an early start. Walking through the dark forest alone is never too much fun, especially when you get surprised by animal sounds (I think it was only elk??). Passed a couple groups on the way up. Started with Harvard and then traversed to Columbia as described in the route description.


The sun began to rise around 6:30 AM and by this point I was already nearing the final ascent up to Harvard. This picture is looking back towards the valley and my route so far.


Adrenaline pumping as the first glimpse of my route to Columbia come into view. Columbia is on the right side of the picture above.


Final push to the summit of Harvard.


Summited Harvard at 7:33 AM. Pictures above encompass a 360 view. Shaping up to be an awesome day without a cloud in the sky. After Harvard is where the real fun and test begins. After a short break, I began the down climb at 7:58 AM.


Descending off of Harvards summit along the ridge. The route up Columbia begins to come into view. You can see the final ascent up Columbia on the its northern slope.


Further along the trail Point 14,100 is now visible. You have to descend this rocky slope towards the left and then around the point on the right.


This picture is just to the right of Point 14,100. Some scrambling is required through this section but isn't terribly difficult or long. You can see the trail on the far end where it meets with the tundra. Made it to this point at 8:22 AM.


Next, a bit of easy tundra to walk over before it starts to get a bit more tricky. You can see a faint trail to point 13,516 in the middle of the pictures above.


These pictures are taken just to the left of point 13,516. This is where the trail becomes undefined and a bit more tricky as the route description suggests. You have to descend this mixed tundra and rocky slope a ways to a point were you feel comfortable entering the gully below. I entered around 13,000 feet but going even lower would be easier class 2 terrain. From this vantage point you can see nearly the rest of the route up to Columbia. In my opinion, this next section to just below Columbia slope is the toughest section of the entire route. Although not too technical, large rock, talus and some difficult terrain makes it a good physical challenge. Made it to this point at 8:50 AM.


After descending the slope, I made my way back up the talus pile towards the "rabbit" and "point 13,497". Mixed rocky terrain in this section made route finding fun. You can see Columbia in the distance.


A little further up showing the route and mixed rocky terrain that you need to climb. 9:23 AM


This photo is looking back towards my route from Harvard. The prominent point is point 13,516 and you need to down climb the ridge on the right hand side and then boulder hop up back to this point. The second picture of the two is even further up the trail and you can see Harvard in the distance on the top and left hand side.


These next 3 picture are in order of the remaining route before you start the final ascent up the Columbia. Gained this ridge at 9:57 AM and took a break.


From the grassy saddle, it's about 1000 feet of gain to the top. This next set of photos above gives different vantages at various places on the ascent. Relatively simple boulder scrambling but I did run into larger rock which I would rank as non-exposed difficult class 2 rock. There probably is an easier way up with good route finding but I just went straight up the slope.


Summited Mount Columbia at 11:00 AM. The pictures above from the summit look at the complete traverse from Harvard to Columbia. At this point the fatigue was starting to really kick in. It took me almost 3 hours to traverse the nearly 3 miles from summit to summit. Definitely a slow pace for me. There were two nice ladies at Columbia's summit that offered me some of the pizza they brought up. Of course I ate some (Thanks again, if you're reading). Spent about 40 minutes at the summit to regain my strength and take in the views. Saw another 5ish people summit from the standard route while I was resting. I could not have asked for better weather. I don't think I saw a cloud in the sky all the way down the 6 miles left to the car.


Last picture from this report is the descent off of Colombia with good views of Mount Princeton and Mount Yale. Mount Antero is in the distance. Made it back to the truck at 2:17 pm, 10 hours and 17 minutes after I started.

What a way to knock off 2 awesome 14er summits. This climb really tests your physical endurance and strength. Although not too technical, I'd rank it up there in the top 2 of most physically challenging of all the 13er and 14er summits I've done so far. Knocked out 14er #10 and #11 with this one. Another amazing day out here in the Colorado rockies.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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