Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  06/06/2007
Date Climbed:   06/03/2007
Author:  maverick_manley
 Columbia SE Ridge Ascent, Standard Route Descent  

Mountains: Mt. Columbia (14,073')
Route: Started at Harvard Lakes TH (9420') and climbed Columbia's SE Ridge to summit. Descended down standard route to Horn Fork basin to North Cottonwood TH
Elevation Gain - 4900' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 13 miles (approx)
Roundtrip Time – 9 hours 40 minutes

Columbia had been evading us for a while now and our determination was pretty grim this morning. Castle and Conundrum had been a great morale booster the previous day and we were feeling good about Columbia. The plan was to go up the SE Ridge and return the same way unless thunderstorms drove us down the standard route. Debbie and I drove up to the Harvard Lakes TH at 4AM. We were aware that the SE Ridge was bone dry but we packed snowshoes and gaiters to support our contingency plan of descending into Horn Fork basin in case of lightning strikes on the ridge. We started hiking up the trail at 4:40AM. We made our way up the Colorado trail quickly and started hiking up the SE ridge crest by day break.

This part of the hike is steep but plenty of fun. The trail is not explicit but we found cairns occasionally. We stopped for a relaxed breakfast at about 6AM and took in a breath-taking view of the valley below us.

Yale's NE Slopes looked pretty divine with the moon above … Several people ask me why I climb… I think that question is very silly.

We resumed the hike at 6:25AM, staying on the ridge crest throughout.

There were a few isolated snow banks on the trail and since we didn't want to use our snowshoes we needed to do a little bushwhacking to avoid it while staying on the ridge crest. We were doing a decent 1400 ft/hr pace until then but the bushwhacking and avoiding snow banks slowed us down a bit.

The route becomes pretty straightforward past tree line. We wondered why this wasn't the standard route instead of the deplorable scree madness that is currently listed as the 'standard route'.

One thing to keep in mind though is that this ridge entails a long super-treeline hike and it would be wise to anticipate having to roll down some scree into Horn Fork Basin in case of lightning.

Debbie and I were discussing the merits of this route when a blanket of evil descended right over the ridge, with some crazy vertical build. We started moving fast. We ditched our packs 300' below summit and half ran up the rest of the route to summit at 9:50AM… 5:10 to summit.

Here's an illustrious neighbor… This is such a beautiful mountain.

We decided to descend down the standard route. The scree was mad fun and I took 3-4 tumbles. Debbie navigates scree like a pro.

Here's my favorite part of the descent though

These guys are so curious it's awesome. I uploaded a video of this dumbass munching on my shoes and sunglasses. Later he was so disappointed that we were leaving that he followed us around and periodically sprawled out on choice boulders ahead of us along the route. I used to think of marmots as greedy disgusting beasts, but now I think they're pretty cool. They're a bunch of loons… a regular ol' Will Ferrel of the woods.

We got down to treeline by 11AM. Once down at treeline though we needed to route find and bushwhack a whole deal to keep from postholing down to our thighs. This slowed us down considerably. There were some route finding issues too since snow banks covered large sections of the trail and we strayed for a bit, but then decided to head for the creek. That was a good tactic and frequently got our wandering soles back to the trail. Once on the trail though it was brutal… there would be sporadic snow banks 50-60 feet long and 3-4 feet deep followed by 50-60 feet of dirt trail. We needed to use snowshoes for the snow and then navigate over the dirt with them too to avoid having to take them off each time. We saw hopeless posthole marks over the snow. We thanked some poor unfortunate soul for making our lives a whole lot easier.

The route below 10,700 was pretty easy though and went quickly. The Aspen grove down by the trail looks amazing.

We also found our first beaver dam of the season…

We were back at the trailhead by 2:20PM for a round trip time of 9:40. It had been a great day barring some crabby moments when we were postholing. An extremely successful day, and weekend overall… 3 out of 3 ain't bad… 4 would have been better .

 Comments or Questions

02/05/2011 00:22
Great pics! In that last phot I was taken by how clear you could see the clouds and the sky in the pond! Very cool. Great job!


11/30/2010 17:28
Nice trip report - kinda makes me want to give it a try. I love snowshoeing, but I've had it with snow for the time being. Where are the dry trails?

Chris P.

You're welcome
11/30/2010 17:28
A lot of those postholes were mine from earlier that morning. It wasn't too much fun having to slog through that snow, but Harvard was worth it. I agree, it's a beautiful mountain.


11/30/2010 17:28
Nice TR from the sandy beaches of oah'u. And thanks to chris p for plowing the way!


11/30/2010 17:28
for the votes and comments...

Spam: Although, I must admit I wasn't shooting for that effect

Chris P: It must have been quite a day heading all the way to Harvard, postholing like that. Thanks

Greenhouseguy: The SE Ridge is totally dry and with a very early start you stand a good chance of being able to return over the ridge too.

debbie: are you getting enough school work done at Oah'u?


06/10/2007 02:15
Awesome pictures as usual. Your trip reports are truy awesome as well. Looking forward to our hike tomorrow on Huron.


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