Peak(s):  Mt. of the Holy Cross  -  14,005 feet
Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Missouri Mountain  -  14,067 feet
Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Date Posted:  06/30/2020
Modified:  07/26/2020
Date Climbed:   06/22/2020
Author:  SpeedWalker
Additional Members:   MounTimo
 Sawatch 14ers in a Week (almost...)   

Sawatch 14ers in a Week (almost...)

Alex "SpeedWalker" Walker

Introduction

Hello 14ers.com! This is my first time posting here, so here's a brief introduction. I'm Alex, and my good friend and usual hiking partner is Tim. We met years ago in Boy Scouts, where we also climbed our first 14er (Bierstadt) on a camping trip back in 2016. Being not at all athletically inclined, I remember the hike as extremely long and difficult, having to stop and rest after every few steps past around 13,000 ft. Soon thereafter, Tim persuaded me to join the high school Track team and introduced me to distance running, which at first sounded like torture. But after discovering some natural talent (both my parents were runners), I became fairly competitive in Cross Country and distance Track, eventually surpassing Tim. So in June 2019, after agreeing to join him and some other friends on Grays and Torreys, I found the hiking at altitude infinitely easier, and had a lot of fun despite the foot of snow still covering the entire route. I became the default 14er trip organizer, and we returned to complete 8 more peaks last summer.

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Mount Bierstadt Summit - August 12th, 2016

Now the planning for this trip actually began last August. After just those 11 ascents, I knew I wanted to finish all of Colorado's 14ers, so I started to research just how fast they could be done. I mapped out each route by hand and created a rough schedule to hit every peak in 4-5 week-long trips, then convinced Tim to try to finish them all with me within the calendar Summer of 2020. After many months of physical and logistical preparation, we were finally ready to attempt our first 7-day journey: the 15 Sawatch 14ers. I chose this range first because of the relatively easy nature of the peaks, while still being among the harder ranges to finish in a week. I figured it would test our endurance and see if our bodies could hold up to so many difficult days in a row. Here was our basic daily plan, which we ultimately stuck to very well, although I ended up shuffling around the order due to weather and timing concerns:

  • Holy Cross
  • Massive, Elbert
  • La Plata, Huron
  • Belford/Oxford/Missouri
  • Columbia/Harvard
  • Yale, Princeton
  • Tabeguache/Shavano/Antero

Oh yeah, and there's still that "almost" in the title. Things didn't end up exactly as planned for reasons out of my control, but I'll explain that later.


Day 0 - June 21, 2020

We headed up to Half Moon TH on Father's Day afternoon, the day the gate was scheduled to open. Our general plan was to finish the Sawatch 14ers from north to south, meaning we would start off with Holy Cross. We ordered and ate a pizza along the 3 hour drive, arriving at around 7:30 PM. The 2WD road seemed a little rough at the time, though looking back I would prefer it to any other dirt road we would drive up over the coming week. Everything went very smoothly once we got up, other than the couple of drunk guys in the parking lot trying to make conversation with us. We set up a mattress and sleeping bags in the back of the car, set our alarms for 4:00 AM, and went to sleep for the night.

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Road up to Half Moon Trailhead


Day 1 - June 22, 2020

Mount of the Holy Cross - Halo Ridge

Class 2+ | Distance: 13.51 mi | Gain: 5,301 ft

  • 3:09 to Holy Cross
  • 0:41 to Holy Cross Ridge
  • 1:33 to PT 13,248
  • 2:08 to TH

When the alarm went off, we already had our bags packed and ready to go. Still, it took us over 30 minutes to get out of bed, eat breakfast, get all our gear on, and start moving. We started out at 4:35 AM, guided by our headlamps, into the Holy Cross Wilderness. The sun began to rise as we reached the mile or so of descent on the standard route up Holy Cross, revealing a beautiful view of the peak ahead of us.

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Sunrise on Mount of the Holy Cross

The remainder of the standard North Ridge route was unremarkable yet nice: a creek crossing, some dirt slopes up to treeline, a well-defined path through a boulder field, and a walk along a ridge, revealing another great view of the summit.

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The trail was melted out most of the way, but walking along the frozen snow was easier.

The final slope up to the summit consists of a moderately steep hop up many large boulders, without a particularly well-defined trail. We hit the top in a little under 3 hours and took our first summit picture.

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#1 Peak of the Summer - Mount of the Holy Cross

I believe we were the first to the summit for the morning, but we immediately saw someone with snow climbing gear pop up from the opposite side of the mountain. It looked like he headed down to the saddle with Holy Cross Ridge, and we soon followed after him to begin our trip around Halo Ridge. This route follows the remainder of the ridge from Holy Cross to the Notch Mountain Shelter, then back down to the trailhead to form a loop. The terrain is similar to the final rocky slope up Holy Cross, but for 3 miles, at or above 13,000 ft for most of the time. There were a few snowfields to cross, but they weren't bad this early in the morning. It's certainly worthy of the rating "Difficult Class 2," as no real scrambling is involved, although sometimes I wished I were scrambling rather than jumping off yet another large rock while descending some of the steeper, loose sections. There's practically no trail, and I definitely underestimated it from the map. We passed over centennial Holy Cross Ridge and unnamed 13er PT 13,248 along the way, making it around to the lightning shelter and the beginning of the trail off the ridge in a little over 2 hours from Holy Cross. The weather was great all day.

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Mount of the Holy Cross (right) and Holy Cross Ridge (left) from PT 13,248

It was still around 5 miles back to the trailhead at this point, but it's all descent on an easy trail. We took our time after what our knees had been through on the ridge, making it back to the car just past 1:00 PM. We ate a quick lunch and began the 2 hour drive to the North Halfmoon Creek TH as fast as possible. We had been hoping all day to make a quick ascent of the Southwest Slopes on Mount Massive this evening in order to get a little ahead of schedule. I planned to park about a half mile from the trailhead, where I had heard the worst of the road started, then quickly complete the 8 mile hike. However, the 4WD part of the road took a lot longer than I had thought, and the navigation on Google Maps for some reason was leading me about a mile further on the road than I wanted to go. Needless to say, I was very confused when I ended up facing of the crux of the road, a huge rocky section requiring good clearance and a great spotter, which I had planned on avoiding. I stopped the car and wondered what to do, not feeling comfortable going up or trying to reverse, when a Jeep pulled up coming down the road towards us. Luckily, a very nice driver came out and gave us some advice on how to proceed. He tried spotting us through the crux, although our car couldn't quite get enough traction to make it up onto the rock. But he also showed us a spot to turn around, and we soon found a nice pull-off nearby to park the car. It was late enough at this point that attempting Massive didn't make sense, so we set up for the night to get an early start the next morning.

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The crux of the 4WD road to North Halfmoon Creek TH


Day 2 - June 23, 2020

Mount Massive - Southwest Slopes

Class 2 | Distance: 8.20 mi | Gain: 3,897 ft

  • 2:33 to Massive
  • 2:20 to TH

We managed to get out of the car and moving a little faster this morning, beginning our hike around a quarter mile from the trailhead for a total of just over 4 miles each way. The trail starts out rocky but fairly gentle for the first half, then begins shooting straight up through mostly rocky terrain. Despite the steepness, the trail is well-constructed most of the way up.

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Morning light on the slope up Mount Massive

After making it up to the main ridge, the terrain flattens out a little, and you encounter your first of many false summits. The real summit is still over a quarter mile away. There are a few different paths along the final ridge; we stayed mostly just to the right side.

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A few of the many false summits on the way up Mount Massive

We reached the summit a little past 7:00 AM, took some pictures, and headed back down knowing we still hadn't reached our highest point of the day. As soon as we were done, we would be racing over to begin Mount Elbert.

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#2 - Mount Massive


Mount Elbert - East Ridge

Class 1 | Distance: 11.37 mi | Gain: 4,196 ft

  • 2:38 to Elbert
  • 2:22 to TH

After making it back down to the car and down the slow, boring 4WD road, the obvious choice would have been to park at the North Elbert TH and begin the standard route. However, having already done this route the previous summer, I opted to burn an hour driving over to the "South" Elbert TH to head up the East Ridge route, which was supposed to be just as easy. As this wasn't the route I had planned out in advance, I had no idea what the overall distance would be, and most sources (including the sign at the trailhead) estimated around 8 miles RT. However, with a lot of sections of the trail that seem to have been rerouted recently, it was actually close to 11. We again made to about a quarter mile away from the upper 4WD trailhead, where a rocky section followed by a large creek crossing blocked our path. Starting just past noon, we set off as fast as possible, hoping that the weather would hold for a late summit.

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Tim heading up a newly-built section of trail around treeline

Still hoping it would be just 4 miles to the summit, the trail seemed to go on and on. Still, it was entirely class 1, and many of the lower sections where trail work had taken place were very nice. Some of the upper sections were pretty rough though, seeming to mindlessly shoot straight up the ridge with all sorts of erosion and braiding. I can understand why the Northeast Ridge is standard now.

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A rough section of the route: a large volunteer crew was working below this to close off all but one trail on the right.

We made it to the summit around 3:00 PM, which would be our latest time of day to reach a summit all week. Though there was some light rain on peaks in the distance, the weather was nice and sunny on Elbert all the way up and down. We again took some pictures and headed back down to the car.

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#3 - Mount Elbert

At this point, we made a slight change in the schedule. I wanted to see if we could squeeze the shortest hike, Huron, into the same day as the Belford/Oxford/Missouri combo, in order to give ourselves more time for the end of the week. This ultimately wouldn't work out, but I decided to skip ahead and do Belford/Oxford/Missouri next, just in case we could fit Huron in. We first headed into Leadville to refill on gas and ice, then arrived at the Missouri Gulch TH at almost 8:00 PM, getting the car set up and immediately falling asleep.


Day 3 - June 24, 2020

Belford/Oxford/Missouri - Combination

Class 2 | Distance: 14.52 mi | Gain: 6,724 ft

  • 2:54 to Belford
  • 0:43 to Oxford
  • 2:03 to Missouri
  • 2:22 to TH

This morning started off like all the others: a 4:00 AM wake-up, quickly getting our things together, and getting off on the trail. The beginning of the trail up Missouri Gulch was much steeper than I expected, gaining around 1000 feet in the first mile. After seeming to level off slightly, there's a solid mile and a half of switchbacks for the last 2000 feet up to Belford. I was still feeling surprisingly good for 3 days into the trip: tired, but still able to keep up a fast pace. Tim, on the other hand, was starting to struggle on that final, long uphill stretch. I tried to stay patiently behind him as we managed our slowest mile of the entire week: 98 minutes.

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Tim at the base of the steep section up Belford

Nonetheless, we eventually made it to the top together. He didn't seem to be sick or injured, and it didn't seem to be the altitude affecting him. He said he was just exhausted from the days before, and needed more time to recover between peaks.

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#4 - Mount Belford

At this point, Tim also said he wanted me to continue on to Oxford and Missouri, since I'd already done most of the gain for the day, while he steadily made his way back to the car. I told him to descend the trail off the opposite side of Belford down to Elkhead Pass, then to wait for me at the junction for Missouri (he of course had a map as well). This way, he could have a much easier descent, plus I could check in on him halfway down, after completing the out and back to Oxford.

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Mount Oxford (left) and Mount Harvard (right) from Mount Belford

So, I set off on the ridge over to Oxford alone (well, minus the dozens of other hikers everywhere). The trail was nice and easy, and much more gradual than coming up Belford. It was however a bit longer than it looked on the map, around a mile and a half each way. It went pretty very smoothly, except that I got my first of many nosebleeds of the week on the final stretch. Turns out that it's really hard to stay hydrated during a week of constant exercise. I never felt very thirsty, but just had to keep drinking and drinking constantly.

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#5 - Mount Oxford

Now begins the fun part of this combo: getting down to the junction to Missouri. You have to retrace your steps down around 650 feet to the bottom of the ridge with Belford, then reascend back to above 14,000 ft before reaching the gradual trail which leads down another 1500 feet to the turnoff. I found Tim lying there, having arrived around 30 minutes before me, and we ate a quick snack before he headed off back to the car, while I took on Missouri.

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Tim relaxing at the turnoff for Missouri

The hike up Missouri Mountain was a bit sketchier than I had expected. You hike up a few switchbacks on the side of a steep slope up to the Northwest Ridge, at which point there's around three quarters of a mile still to go to the summit. One major snowfield just under the ridge was especially steep and precarious, although with my trekking poles while following the footsteps, it could be done cautiously without any traction.

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Steep snowfield up the final ridge to Missouri

Upon gaining the ridge, I noticed some rain clouds off to the west. It looked like I had enough time to be off the summit ridge by noon, and it looked like I could avoid the clouds if I moved fast. So I raced across the final ridge, which still felt a lot longer than I had expected, before reaching the summit with some iffy weather moving towards me.

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#6 - Missouri Mountain

I made my way back across the ridge as fast as possible, which wasn't too hard except for one Difficult Class 2 section. It can be done purely on foot, but I found it easier to use my hands to scramble down one rock and up the other.

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The crux of the route, maybe 6 feet of steep rock that could be walked up. It looks way scarier in the picture.

I made it off the ridge, back down to the junction, and began the long descent back to the car. It's a little over 5 miles from the summit of Missouri to the trailhead, but you have to descend around 4500 feet. It's all very easy once you get off the ridge though, so I figured Tim had made it just fine.

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Log crossing on the way down Missouri Gulch

I got back down to the car just after 2:00 PM, just as we heard the first thunder of the week. Tim had been relaxing there for awhile, so I ate a quick lunch, then we packed up the car and headed off to the South Winfield TH for Huron. I knew this would be a moderately hard 4WD road, and there were two sections that were probably harder than what we had done so far on Massive (up to the standard stopping point before the crux). The first was about a half mile from Winfield where it seems most people in lower clearance cars have to stop: a really bumpy part that you have to pass through at just the right angle, followed by a very narrow section.

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First crux on the road to the South Winfield TH (you can see the tire tracks showing where we went)

The second difficulty was a big hole full of mud and water, which again wasn't too bad with decent clearance, you just have to find the right angle and commit to it.

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Second crux (we went into it just over the center, then swung to the left side to get out)

I was happy to have made it to the very upper 4WD trailhead, it would make my hike in the morning only around 6.5 miles long. Tim and I decided that he would sleep in and recover for the day while I sped up and down Huron and La Plata. I was asleep before 8:00 PM.


Day 4 - June 25, 2020

Huron Peak - Northwest Slopes

Class 2 | Distance: 6.63 mi | Gain: 3,314 ft

  • 1:43 to Huron
  • 1:39 to TH

I woke up at the same time this morning and got started quickly without Tim, now by 4:20 AM. The route is fairly steep with lots of switchbacks the whole way, because of how short it is. Still, it was uneventful, easy, and quite nice until the final loose section up to the top.

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The last couple hundred feet as the sun rises over the ridge

As with most peaks, the final slopes up to the summit were just a mostly-undefined trail up a steep pile of somewhat loose rocks. I passed a group along the way who we had heard starting at the trailhead earlier, then I reached the summit and took my pictures.

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#7 - Huron Peak

I also met someone on the summit taking pictures who must've hiked up before sunrise, along the North Ridge I believe. There really is a great view from Huron in all directions, so I took a few more panoramas.

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Morning views from the summit of Huron Peak

I couldn't stay long though, as I still had another peak to climb today. I checked the weather for La Plata in the early afternoon, and it looked great: barely a chance of rain. Still, I headed back down as fast as I could, though it ended up taking exactly as long as it took to get up. It seems like the aerobic challenge of hiking up this peak (average heart rate 96) was roughly equivalent in duration for me as the physical challenge of heading down those steep slopes without hurting my knees too much. After making it back to the car at just past 8:00 AM, Tim had barely woken up, so we got everything packed before leaving. We drove down the South Winfield TH and back up the West Winfield TH to hike La Plata. The drive alone took over an hour, and we stopped before a difficult looking creek crossing about a half mile from the turnoff just before the official upper trailhead.


La Plata Peak - Southwest Ridge

Class 2 | Distance: 8.59 mi | Gain: 3,707 ft

  • 2:06 to La Plata
  • 1:58 to TH

I got out of the car and started around 10:00 AM, soon emerging above treeline to face some intimidating clouds.

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Dark clouds forming on the way up La Plata Peak

I watched the clouds closely as I hiked towards the ridge. There was a brief amount of snow/hail, but everything seemed to be moving east as predicted, and I saw clear skies far to the west. Hoping I could trust Google's weather forecast, I ascended the main ridge before the final slopes to the summit. There was one more dark cloud that passed over with a bit of rain as I stayed low on the slopes, then I raced up the final mile or so to the top while everything looked fairly clear. Admittedly it did take a lot longer than I expected: the Southwest Ridge route seems very poorly maintained with very little trace of a trail up these final miles. Combined with the extreme amounts of rock for a thousand feet below the summit, it's basically a big free-for-all mile-long boulder hop each way. I took this picture at the summit, where you can see the darker clouds to the north/east, with nothing but blue skies moving towards me from the west.

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#8 - La Plata Peak

I was heading back down within 2 minutes of reaching the top, jokingly saying to myself that I hope the wind wouldn't suddenly change directions and blow the storm towards me. Then it actually did. While still at nearly 14,000 ft, the wind picked up like crazy in the exact opposite direction, and the dark clouds that I had patiently waited to move east enough to summit were now coming quickly back towards me. I practically ran down the steep rocky slope back to the initial ridge, hearing thunder pretty close behind, the hail catching up to me at a few points. I passed a few groups of people on the way down who had all summited just before me; they all said they could feel the electricity from the storm. I think I had managed to follow an opening in the clouds perfectly, so that I reached the summit just as they were far enough away, and they chased me back down in the opposite direction, too.

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Dark clouds on La Plata Peak moving away from me... until they decided to change directions!

If I had known the weather was going to be anything like this, I'd like to say I would've turned around much earlier, or at least waited it out in a safer spot. Nonetheless, I certainty l learned a lot with my first close call with a thunderstorm, the first being not to trust a forecast even from just a few hours ago. Luckily, I and all the other people up there made it down just in time, and I would be back down to the car before 3:00 PM. I told Tim about the adventure as we drove around to North Cottonwood Creek, where I would tackle the Columbia/Harvard traverse the next day. Tim decided to at least ascend Columbia with me, then see if he felt up to do the remainder of the route.


Day 5 - June 26, 2020

Columbia/Harvard - Combination

Class 2 | Distance: 14.03 mi | Gain: 5,431 ft

  • 3:05 to Columbia
  • 2:52 to Harvard
  • 2:42 to TH

I woke up for my fifth day of hiking in a row, still feeling about as good as I did on the second. I was definitely pretty worn out from the constant mileage, but I still felt I had plenty of energy for a few more days. Tim also seemed to be feeling much better, keeping up a pretty good pace most of the way up Columbia. The 3.5 miles of hiking just to reach the first turnoff felt annoyingly long and flat, barely gaining 1500 feet. The next two miles to the summit shoot straight up in comparison, but I was surprised at how nice most of the trail was. I know they've been working on rerouting this path for years now, and it was actually really nice to walk up, aside from one small section just before reaching the ridge (this must be where they're finishing it up this year). I can't imagine how annoying hiking up (or sliding down) the old, steep screefield must have been.

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Tim working his way up Columbia on some newly-constructed steps

We made it to the summit in decent time, and the weather was still looking great. We took some pictures and hung around for a while.

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#9 - Mount Harvard

Still, Tim wasn't feeling extraordinarily great, so I suggested he descend back the way he came, unless he wanted to deal with 2.5 miles of annoying, off-trail rock-jumping. It turns out this description of the Columbia/Harvard traverse was pretty much spot on, and I eventually told Tim he should be happy to do Harvard later, separately. I put my helmet on, hoping I wouldn't need it, and headed down the ridge off Columbia.

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Looking down at the ridge from Columbia, showing most of the traverse route

The traverse starts out following the rocky ridge towards the first low point; you just have to take it slow and avoid anything loose. You take a right across a nice open field, then turn the corner to see most of the remainder of the route, which for me was still filled with snow. I stayed pretty high on some steeper, loose rock to avoid the first big snowfield, then continued close to the normal path, occasionally descending to minimize time in the snow.

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Crossing one of the steeper snowfields, but not too bad in the morning and with trekking poles

The traverse probably wouldn't be terrible in perfectly dry conditions, but it sure would take a good few hours. Unfortunately, dodging all the snow forced me off-route into some annoying non-standard descents on extremely loose rock, which would cost me one of my almost brand new $150 Leki trekking poles. I stuck it next to the base of a large boulder that I never thought could move, stepped on it, and it shifted just a few inches, instantly snapping the pole in half. While I'm hoping they'll send a replacement under warranty, I'm just glad it was the pole and not my leg that was broken.

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RIP Leki Trekking Pole, June 2, 2020 - June 26, 2020

I continued my way across the snow, just one pole in hand, until eventually making it to the easier section. Thinking it was time to reascend the ridge, I headed up a series of steep dirt gullies that almost looked like the correct trail, before looking back at the map to realize I still I had while to go before ascending. I practically slid back down to the correct route, made my way back to the ridge, and took a quick break while looking back on the most difficult part of the traverse.

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Traverse as seen from the beginning of the ridge to Harvard, the route perfectly follows the series of high snowfields

After one more steep section you're finally back on the ridge, with just one more snowfield that's easy to walk around. A trail reemerges which leads the remainder of the way to the summit of Harvard. The final portion of the ridge has lots of different paths to follow, but it's easiest to just stay high wherever possible. I made it to the top a little under 3 hours after Columbia.

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#10 - Columbia

At the top, I tried to talk a couple of guys out of continuing onto the traverse given the time of day. While the weather was still looking nice, it would be late into the afternoon before they could descend from Columbia. I think they still went for it as I made my way down the standard route of Harvard.

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Descending the standard route of Harvard, with a view of Columbia (left) and Yale (right)

Sure enough, an intense thunderstorm sounded like it was right on top of Columbia before I even made it back to the car a few hours later. I hope they were able to wait it out and make it down safely.

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Very loud thunderstorm above Columbia

I made it back to the car around 2:00 PM, where Tim had been relaxing for a while. We packed up and set out to the Denny Creek TH to hike Yale the next morning. Tim wanted to sleep in and join me for the shorter hike on Princeton later in the day. This was the only paved road to a trailhead we visited this week, and it had a full-on paved parking lot with room for dozens of cars. I laughed, wondering when there would ever be near this many people wanting to hike Yale all at once. I would find the answer the next morning, a Saturday.

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Giant, perfectly smooth Denny Creek TH parking lot


Day 6 - June 27, 2020

Mount Yale - Southwest Slopes

Class 2 | Distance: 9.24 mi | Gain: 4,242 ft

  • 2:09 to Yale
  • 1:49 to TH

By the sixth day of hiking, waking up had become perfectly routine. I was a little surprised about how packed the parking lot was, with a car even finding its way to the right of ours, which I thought was the rightmost parking spot. Still, I got moving quickly on the trail, which started out fairly gentle, then became fairly steep just before treeline. It was still one of the nicer routes I would hike on all week, with a pretty well-constructed trail. The wind picked up like crazy once I hit the final ridgeline, though I managed fine after putting on some gloves. I passed exactly 6 people (and 1 dog) on the way up, before presumably being the first person to summit for the day. I had no idea what I was in for on the way down.

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#11 - Mount Yale

I took some pictures and soon got off the windy ridge, passing just one person along the way. I thought everything was going like normal until I had my first view down the slopes, where I saw a few dozen people all coming right towards me. It doesn't sound or look like much, but after a week of hardly seeing this many people throughout entire hours-long hikes, I found it pretty amusing.

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The beginning of the hoard coming up Yale

But this was just the beginning. Soon I had passed 50 people, then 100, getting close to 150 people before even reaching treeline. At this point it hit me: it was a Saturday. I had completely lost track of time and figured it was still the middle of the week. Luckily, it seems like most of the people had started in one big burst right at sunrise, so below treeline there were actually much fewer hikers. In the end, the total came out to 196 people passed on the way down, plus 21 dogs. I could only imagine what a more popular peak like Bierstadt must look like right now.

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A break in the long lines of people on the descent of Yale, becoming surprisingly peaceful after treeline

I made it back down the car, asked Tim to guess how many people I saw (his first guess was 40; yeah right), and we headed off towards Mount Princeton Road. We planned to park and start at the radio towers, but I had underestimated this 4WD road a little. It wasn't particularly rocky compared to all the others, but it was quite eroded away in places, creating giant bumps and dips to maneuver around constantly. It was also incredibly narrow, which was scary enough while driving on the side of a sheer drop off, not to mention the challenge of trying to pass a car moving the opposite direction. This happened a number of times on the way up and down. Once we had to reverse a tenth of a mile to a curve with just enough space for the other car to get by; once a crazy Jeep just sped by, practically driving onto the side of the mountain while I had barely pulled over; once another car drove up at nearly a 45 degree angle on the high side of the mountain while we sketchily slid within inches of him, trying to avoid the drop off; and once we did the same for another car, feeling as if we were about to roll over onto him. The road is difficult enough when you're alone, but definitely avoid driving it at any busy time of day, or on a Saturday.

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Finally made it to the radio towers, with maybe a dozen "parking spots" (as in, finding a spot between some trees that's not too steep)


Mount Princeton - East Slopes

Class 2 | Distance: 6.98 mi | Gain: 3,264 ft

  • 1:56 to Princeton
  • 1:55 to TH

We were at the standard trailhead a little past 10:00 AM, and started hiking immediately. The route follows the road for about a mile and a half, then traverses along a rocky slope for around a mile, before switchbacking up to the ridge for the final mile to the summit. The road is fairly gentle, the rocky sections are a little steeper, and the last quarter mile or so to the summit are practically straight up; lots of sliding down dirt slopes may ensue.

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The middle section, a half-decent trail made entirely of rocks

Tim and I made good time up to the ridge, somewhat irritated by the constant rocky trail. Once you get there, it's best to just stay as high as you can (bypassing the one major bump along the way), follwing the ridge to the summit. We ended up a little too low at one point, and saw a lot of people way too low; it's just hard to make your way back up once you're too far down.

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A steep section of loose rocks and dirt just under the ridge, near the summit

The last section was pretty annoying, buy staying high on the ridge made it bearable. We made it to the summit right around noon, with the weather still looking pretty good.

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#12 - Mount Princeton

I suppose it's now time to tell you about the "almost" in the title. I had originally told our parents that this would be a "6-7 day" trip, and I had originally set the first day of climbing as the first full day of Summer, June 21. Unfortunately, the starting day had to be moved back by one once I realized it was also Father's Day, and I should've said something like "7-8 days." This bad communication resulted in a family event being scheduled on June 28, meaning we had to be back in town the next morning. I do of course plan to return for the final 3-peak day of Tabeguache/Shavano/Antero, for which I have a 16 mi/8000 ft route planned out from Jennings Creek TH, that I believe can be done with a reasonable weather day. Once that's done, I think I'll be happy saying that I "did the Sawatch 14ers in a week," even if it wasn't quite continuous for reasons out of my control. Anyway, time to get down from Princeton before the storms roll in.

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Dark clouds moving in towards Princeton

We made our way back down to the car slowly; it look just as long to descend as it did on the way up, even though we sped down the last mile or so of road. The rockiness of this route just makes it take forever, and it kills your knees going down. Oh well, at least it's short.

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View of the valley while descending the upper stretch of Mount Princeton Road

We made it back to the car around 3:00 PM, just under a week after the Summer Solstice last Saturday at 3:43 PM. We packed things up for the final time, made our way back down the road (having to pass a few cars along the way), stopped at an IHOP for dinner back in town, and arrived home 3 hours later. We'll be off to the Sangre de Cristo range one week later to continue our Summer 14er journey.


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
CaptCO

Crushed it!!
07/01/2020 22:44
Great first report and well done! You'll be doing Nolans in no time! ;)


Will_E

Nice work
07/05/2020 21:49
That€„¢s a great week!


masonpips

Nice report!!
07/11/2020 18:54
thanks for all the details on the roads especially!


PURISTHUNDERWRATH

good job
07/13/2020 19:18
mirin yall ability to dedicate 1 week at a time for that.


rmichelson
Impressive!
07/16/2020 13:08
Fun report to read and cool pictures. Your week of hiking is impressive.



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