Peak(s):  PT 13,374  -  13,374 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
PT 13,580 C  -  13,580 feet
Date Posted:  06/30/2020
Date Climbed:   06/07/2020
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh, MWatson, Garrett
 Harvey Junior, Harvard, and Harvster III   

This year I've gotten intimately familiar with Frenchman Creek on the east side of Mount Harvard and Mount Columbia. Between winter climbs of Harvard in mid-January followed a week later by an ascent of Columbia, both via Frenchman Creek, I've spent more time there than any sane person should. I clearly hadn't had enough though, having not gotten the two thirteeners near Harvard - Point 13,374 (Harvey Junior) to the east and Point 13,580 C (Harvster III) off of Harvard's southwest ridge - so I designed a one-way route starting at Frenchman and ending at North Cottonwood that would bag all three peaks. Since these thirteeners were among the only southern Sawatch thirteeners that none of us (myself, Garrett, Marisa, and Whiley) had climbed yet we decided to make a day of it. The kicker on this one was that we knew next to nothing about soft ranked Point 13,580 C. There's a Class 2 route described in Gerry Roach's Colorado's Thirteeners: From Hikes to Climbs, from the floor of the basin, but we all wanted to take the ridge direct because it's, well, direct, and also has absolutely no information anywhere except the guidebook. There's something exciting about the unknown.

The weather was predicted to be exceptionally windy - 15-30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour - but we figured we'd go for it and reassess as we went along. What we didn't know was that the Frenchman Creek Road is closed from December 1 through June 30th, which would add 3.25 miles and 1,700 vertical feet on our one way ascent. Not a ton, certainly, but not nothing either, especially on an already big day when we knew next to nothing about our third peak, soft ranked 13,580 C. If nothing else we knew we could get 13,374, judge wind there for the rest of the day (since there would be less opportunity to retreat if we continued after), do Harvard, and add 13,580 C even if it meant doing it via Roach's way. We were on the move at around 6:15am and it was quite nice below treeline.

Well that's certainly not ideal for a hike.
Marisa, myself, and Garrett at the closure. Photo: Whiley H.

Despite going up and down this road twice before I had no idea what it was actually like; snow cover, snowshoes, and heavy winter packs change everything. When dry the road's not bad and we made quick time up the 3.25 miles to the upper trailhead, where the road ends and trail begins.

Marisa and I showing off the goods. Yes, every trip report up Frenchman Creek must show this sign. Photo: Whiley H.

Along the way we'd gotten some views of what we thought was 13,374 far in the distance.

Turns out this is a false summit of 13,374, but it gives an idea of how far away it is.

We crossed Frenchman Creek first on a good and familiar log bridge prior to the Colorado Trail, then hopped on the Colorado Trail north for a short distance to another creek crossing on a damaged bridge.

Whiley prancing across the first bridge.
The broken second bridge.

Once past the second creek crossing the trail began to drop, which we obviously didn't want to do. 13,374's east ridge is massive and wide, so we simply left the trail and began to hike steeply up the wooded hillside. At treeline we stopped to put on our wind shells, as we could hear things howling just ahead.

Steep but not difficult terrain. Photo: Whiley H.
Plenty of rollers on 13,374.
We came all the way up from the valley, to give a sense of just how big even the first, lowly thirteener is. Photo: Marisa W.

At treeline was a grove of both living and ancient, petrified bristlecone pine.

Gnarled and gnarly.
Sporadic bristlecone.

Across Frenchman Creek drainage Columbia's east ridge, which Whiley and I had climbed for our snowflake, stood proud.

Columbia's east ridge, a far, far better route than the awful west slopes.

The route above treeline became easier, a moderate tundra and boulder hop around the false summit and into an open meadow to the true summit.

False summit.
True summit.
Mount Harvard.
The whole area before the summit.
Red Mountain Guides for hire. Photo: Whiley H.

There was some wet, soggy ground along the way to the summit, and one snow field we could avoid; the last 100 or so feet were rocky, but easy, and we were on top.

Coming up the summit bump. Photo: Whiley H.
Harvard looking enormous.
Down 13,374's east ridge.

We had to make a decision here: was the wind too high to continue? No, not really. Irritating and cold, surely, but not a show stopper. We did have a ton of ground to cover though, including a peak we knew nothing about. We talked for a minute or so and agreed to go on since there were bail spots along the way, if needed. We'd also try and shorten the route by dropping into Horn Fork Basin prior to Harvard, since we all had done Harvard before.

From the summit of 13,374 the ridge near the saddle with Harvard looked like it might contain some scrambling. We couldn't tell from where we were so we had no choice but to give it a try. It ended up not being as bad as it looked from a distance, just grassy, boulder-strewn Class 2.

Taken from near the saddle. From 13,374's summit all you can see is the top of the pointy stuff, which was deceptive.
Back on the uphill! Photo: Marisa W.

We crossed the ridge then made our way all the way across the upper slopes to the ridge with Columbia. Garrett inspected several options to descend directly into Horn Fork, and while they looked like they might go they also looked steep, incredibly rotten, and we couldn't see if there were cliffs at the bottom. Our hand was forced to go up and over Harvard, which I was personally happy about. The scrambling on my winter ascent was tons of fun and I knew this would be no different.

Crossing under the big, sharp point that marks the terminus of Harvard's east ridge.
The Harvard/Columbia traverse trail, which fades in and out as one goes along. Route finding, for the most part, is both obvious and with numerous options.

The east ridge of Harvard is pretty rough, with several bumps and notches, and is rife with opportunities for scrambling on excellent, sticky granite. The ridge goes at Class 2+ with careful route finding, but as I found out in winter there's some Class 3 and Class 4 one can get into in there if the hankering is strong enough. I won't describe the ridge in detail, but I will say it's a ton of fun. I'd highly recommend the east ridge route for those who want an exciting alternative and some solitude from the hordes in Horn Fork.

Beginning of the ridge.
Some of the scrambling in the middle of the ridge.
Point Pointerson and Mount Columbia. Photo: Whiley H.
Awww, wee lil' Harvey Junior! Ain't he cute?! There's even a herd of Buffalo Peaks in the background!

Almost exactly an hour and a half after leaving 13,374 we reached the summit of Harvard. Time to take the leap into the unknown with 13,580 C! We hung out and discussed the plan. Winds had died down on Harvard's summit so we felt comfortable staying high on our way to 13,580 C. The ridge looked easy at first, then likely to have some scrambling. There were two points and we couldn't tell which was the higher of the two, just that things got significantly steeper and rockier near the first.

This shows the general demeanor of the ridge; super steep and rugged to the west and more moderate to the east. Sorry for the cloud over the first point!

We spent about fifteen minutes on Harvard then scrambled down the glorious upper slabs. I was thrilled to do these again, since it had been about four years since I'd been in Horn Fork!

Nowhere near as difficult as the photo makes it look, and solid as well... a rock.
Remaining slopes down. Both the trail and the route we took goes right to the ridge; we kept going on the ridge when the trail dropped down snow to the basin.

The ridge began as expected - grassy slopes and some rocks here and there - before dialing up a bit.

A little snow we needed to avoid, but overall easy so far.
Picking our way through the easy first half of the ridge. Check out those sharp towers! Photo: Whiley H.
Marisa enjoying the ridge! Photo: Whiley H.
The character of the ridge becoming much more clear. Photo: Whiley H.
Upper ridge back to Harvard. Photo: Whiley H.
Some of the rugged goodness on the western side of the ridge.

The closer we got to the first of the two major points the more clear it became that this ridge wasn't going to give up easily.

I'm liking the look of this. Photo: Whiley H.
Aww hell yes!

To this point the ridge had been Class 2+, perhaps Easy Class 3 if we just blindly took whatever was directly in front of us. Things would get more difficult from here as we bypassed the first point - it had long become clear that the second was actually the higher of the two. We opted to skip the first's summit despite the easy looking grass ramp to the top, but to get around it we'd have to get our scramble back on.

You can see Garrett and Whiley ahead.
Garrett and Whiley now spread out; this shows a great ledge to traverse on. The scrambling here is Class 3.

The scrambling around the point went at solid Class 3 with one or two short sections of Class 4 down climbing. As with the rest of the rock in this area it was nice and solid, which was good with the high exposure of the ledges. Rounding around the backside of the point the true summit became obvious, but there was still more scrambling and one hairy, extremely exposed, and thankfully short snow tongue to cross over.

Point 13,580 C is almost ours!
The snow was good and soft and there wasn't any ice underneath. Immediately to viewer's right is a several hundred foot drop. Photo: Whiley H.

To finally get back down to the saddle between the two points was a Class 3/Class 4 series of slabs and corners that finally led to Class 2+ or easier terrain.

Class 4 slabs. These didn't feel particularly hard, but the great rock quality helped. Note the running water on the left.
A short, easier spot between scrambles.
Some more Class 3. Photo: Garrett M.
Last real bit of scrambling on the way down this sub-peak. Photo: Whiley H.
Difficulties beginning to relent, with Bear Lake below.
And scrambling over, hands can go back into pockets. Photo: Whiley H.

Upon reaching the saddle I had to remark on just how awesome the scrambling was around the point. Of course I did, you don't think I could have resisted, do you? Everyone was in agreement, at least. Stoke was super high that that had been doable and that we only had a little bit of uphill left to get our mystery peak.

Point 13,580 C, and then we're almost done.
Harvard and the first point.

All that was left as far as ascents today was the final summit bump, which looked worse than it actually was.

Nice ring of cliffs!
Cruddy looking upper slopes.

The last few hundred feet up Harvster III went at a loose Class 2+ with opportunities for some Class 3, especially near the top, if desired.

Marisa choosing the more difficult but more stable route up. The orange colored slope was pretty rotten.
Some of the possible Class 2+/Class 3 right below the summit.

From 13,580 C's summit we had unique views of all of the nearby Sawatch peaks, many of them 14ers.

Harvard and our yummy ridge. Photo: Whiley H.
Mount Columbia's just falling to pieces.
Mount Yale and Mount Princeton.
Peaks on peaks on peaks, ranging from bulky Point 13,762 on the left through Missouri on the right.
Bear lake. If you squint really hard it actually does look like a bear!

To get down off 13,580 C we descended back down the loose slopes northeast towards grassy ramps that would take us back to the basin. Roach's described route goes south along the ridge but we could already tell this route worked just as well, if not better. Once down several hundred feet the rotten rock gave way back to the typical solid granite of the area.

Down to the grass on the left.
That's better.
Point 13,580 C on the left with the obvious grass ramp we took down.

We reached the trail quickly and easily and began the long descent to North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead, which came in at about six miles.

Upper Horn Fork Basin. Photo: Whiley H.

Along the way we passed some incredible, rugged peaks and ridges, all of which I had forgotten from my one trip up here years ago.

Horn Fork is amazing. Photo: Whiley H.

The trail became increasingly wet and snowy as we approached treeline, and postholes abound. Once in the trees the trail once again dried out, and we even had the privilege of a cow moose encounter!

Horn Fork, you continue to outdo yourself.
That looks like one pissed off moose. Just look at those raised hackles!

The rest of the hike down to my car was without note, as expected. We drove back over to Frenchman Creek and departed our own separate ways from there. We all agreed that Point 13,580 C was the highlight of the day and was a spectacular scramble on an unfortunately overlooked peak. Unranked or not it was a great addition to the day and one that makes a very worthwhile addition to a trip of Harvard. That Harvard sees hundreds if not thousands of ascents per year and 13,580 C probably sees 10 or less (hell, there are only seventeen members with recorded ascents here on, and three of them are Whiley, Garrett and I) is kind of a bummer. Both peaks are great and if only the latter were a few feet taller, or its saddle a few feet lower, it would reach some magical criteria of "worthiness," but I don't believe an arbitrary number to prove any kind of value at all. There's worth and joy to be found on all summits, big and small. Reaching any high place is always, always a worthy endeavor.

Mountains = happiness. Photo: Garrett M.


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H., Marisa W., Garrett M.
Trailheads: Frenchman Creek winter closure (start), North Cottonwood Creek (finish)
Total distance: 17.82 miles
Total elevation gain: 6,707 feet
Total time: 8:49:48
Peaks: One fourteener, one ranked thirteener, one soft ranked thirteener

  • Point 13,374
  • Mount Harvard, 14,420'
  • Point 13,580 C (soft ranked)


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Frenchman Creek winter closure Frenchman Creek 4WD Trailhead 1:09:11 1:09:11 0:00
Frenchman Creek 4WD Trailhead Frenchman Creek/Colorado Trail junction 0:28:45 1:37:56 0:00
Frenchman Creek/Colorado Trail junction Point 13,374 1:53:54 3:31:50 10:50
Point 13,374 Mount Harvard 1:30:12 5:12:52 16:09
Mount Harvard Point 13,580 C 1:03:18 6:32:19 11:17
Point 13,580 C North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead 2:06:12 8:49:48 Trip End

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

how dare you!
06/30/2020 18:24
You didn't take the hardest line on the ridge! The horror!!!!!111

In case "you know who" doesn't comment. Haha
PS I mentioned the closed road if you had read my trip report on 13374


06/30/2020 20:37
Be nice now, it's not nice to poke the hornet's nest. I haven't read your report on 13,374, so you know what I'm going to do this evening? Read your report on 13,374, that's what.

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