Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  07/10/2007
Modified:  07/14/2007
Date Climbed:   07/10/2007
Author:  Hunter
 Harvard & Columbia N Cottonwood CK TH  

I left Castle Rock at 10:15PM on 07/06/07 and met my friend at a park-n-ride at I-70 & C-470 at 11:00PM. We arrived at the N Cottonwood Ck TH at 2:00AM 07/07/07 where either an eagle or hawk flew over the car with a fresh bunny for breakfast. It was no more than 5 feet above the window! We geared up and started at 2:15. We reached Harvard's summit in 4 hours flat. It was at this summit I took my first sip of water. Let me tell you, I knew to conserve my water as long as I could. Later we would realize that Harvard's assent was the easiest part of the day. Harvard just by itself really is an easy hike. You really don't gain more than 500 feet per mile until you hit mile 5. The last mile an a half or so does climb fairly quickly. Also, Harvard's ascent was easy to follow in the dark. Just bring backup batteries and keep them warm. The cold air (circa 35 degrees F) really zapped the life out of them. I usually keep my batteries in my pants pocket or shirt zip-pocket.

We left the summit at 7:20 and started the traverse. Note- there is no bail out from the traverse once you commit to it. Also, your view of building storms to the West and South are also blocked when on the traverse. If anyone were to ask I would advise them to camp in to the basin between the two peaks and DO NOT START THE TRAVERSE LATER THAN 6:00AM. About half way across this we joked about how we wanted to radio for a Blackhawk to take us out of the hell we were climbing through. Also, looking back I believe the Harvard to Columbia direction of the traverse would be easier than the opposite direction. I think it's easier to slide down scree than to hike up it!

We arrived at Columbia's summit at 12:20 and the storms were really rolling in. We took two photos and headed down. Lightening and snow forced us to take an immediate descent down a 35% scree, boulder, and loose gravel non-trail instead of staying on the ridge longer for a shorter return to the TH. People above us could hear the static electricity in the air. We ended up descending 2,100 feet in 30 minutes. At the bottom we met up with the trail and I ran out of water at 1:00 somewhere between 3 and 4 miles in from the TH. I could have easily used my tabs and drank water from the Horn Fork, but I knew I could make it to the car where I had 1 1/2 gallons on ice! I highly recommend always taking a cooler with you filled with an extra gallon for every two people just in case.

We made it back to the car at 3:40 where I chugged two liters of water. I got home at 7:40.

I was just a little tender the day after and really feel fine, but it will be good to take a weekend off after two weekends in a row of having less than 1 1/2 hours of sleep before a hike. In all it was a very good learning process and a definite test of physical ability to say the least. Roach's book describes this loop as "arduous" and I'll have to agree. The combo out of N Cottonwood Ck is much more difficult than Longs Peak's Keyhole route. We ended up with over 6,000 feet of elevation gain and hiking over 14 miles. My buddy went through most of his 200 oz of water he brought with him. I learned I need to bring more than 100 oz of water on these longer hikes . TalusMonkey did this last year and finished the loop in 9 hours 10 minutes. Now having followed in his footsteps I regard his hiking pace as superhuman. It took us 13 1/2 hours including 1 1/2 hours worth of breaks.

 Comments or Questions

how much H2O
07/11/2007 02:54
how much water did you take? On the 2nd we took 3 liters and ran out conserving water before the summit of Columbia, but we started much later.


07/11/2007 13:38

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