Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Date Posted:  05/28/2007
Modified:  05/29/2007
Date Climbed:   05/26/2007
Author:  summitseeker
 Harvard: Still plenty of snow- North Cottonwood Creek Trail  

Feeling optimistic about the extended holiday weekend, I set out to tackle both Harvard and Columbia with my hiking partner Mtnhiker Friday evening. We arrived at North Cottonwood Creek TH around 10pm. The road up there has a few sketchy spots for low clearance cars. A few rocks managed to make their presence known under my Suby Impreza.

We set out around 1030pm and managed to avoid postholing for the first couple of miles. As we approached 11,000ft the snow became much more prevalent and was still not frozen enough to support our weight with full camping packs. We managed to stumble onto the only campsite not covered and promptly set up camp at 1230pm. If you plan on heading up this week to camp I advise doing it in daylight.

It was quite cold through the night! My 15 degree Marmot bag was not up to the task (perhaps because the ground was wet?). After a few hours of sleep and breakfast, we departed at 7am for Harvard. If the conditions looked promising, on earth and sky, we would shoot for the ridgeline from Harvard to Columbia. Initially it looked quite promising.


Not a cloud in sight

We made steady progress on the hardened snow up past treeline.

This is the route we ended up taking

Looking back down at Horn Fork Basin

About 2.5 hours into our journey, it was time to strap on crampons. The slope became steep and the snow surface was icy. If you make this trek in the next couple of weeks with similar snow conditions, I highly recommend crampons and an ice axe for your safety.

Our traverse across the snow field (red going up, blue coming down)

Looking back at the snowfield and Mt. Yale

Columbia conditions with connecting ridgeline

The conditions slowed us down and after 4 hours we finally achieved Mt. Harvard's summit. I felt a bit more tired than I expected and with the clouds rolling in, we decided to call it a day to be safe.

Summitseeker on Harvard's summit looking south at Horn Fork and Yale

Mtnhiker on Harvard's summit looking north

More Beta on snow conditions of the ridgeline traverse to Columbia


After a brief refuel, we started the descent. There were a few class 3+ moves off the peak, but beyond that things seemed ok. That was until we encountered the snow field route we used on the way up. The snow had softened up and I sank through to my hip and could not get out!

It took about 10 minutes to free my leg, which freaked me out a bit. We decided to head for higher ground where the snow was a bit more shallow and to avoid any avalanche danger. A few glissades later and we were down to tree line at 230pm. This is where the postholing nightmare began! I highly recommend snowshoes for this portion! It took us 2 hours to travel 1 mile back to the campsite. Thoroughly exhausted, with most of our food used up, we decided to forgo climbing the next day and pack up at a relaxed pace.

On the drive down there is a sweet aspen grove!

Overall a very enjoyable trip (aside from the postholes).

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice insight
11/30/2010 17:20
Plan on climbing Harvard in August. Pictures. Don't need the snow.

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