Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
PT 13516 - 13,516 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2008
Date Climbed:   08/14/2008
Author:  Pappy
 Harvard & Columbia Traverse  

Peaks: Harvard (14,414 ft)
PT 13516
Columbia (14,071 ft)
Trailhead: North Cottonwood Creek
Elevation Gain: 6,060 ft.
Mileage: 13.75 miles

8/14/08 After a relaxing day prior, Colton and I decided to depart the North Cottonwood trailhead at 3:00 am in an attempt to make to the summit of Harvard by sunrise. Hiking in the wee hours of the morning made for pleasant temps and stars O plenty. The summit of Harvard is a little over 6 miles from the trailhead, gaining about 4,554 feet.

As we approached the head of Horn Fork Basin there was just enough light to make out ridge-top features. As we made our way up the switchbacks below Harvard, we awoke a couple different groups of mountain goats.

Looking back at Columbia before sunrise.

Short class 3 climb option below the summit.

We summited Harvard at about 6:45 just as the sun began to rise. It didn't take long for a cool breeze to kick in, putting a chill down our sweaty backs. Our summit stay lasted for about a half an hour before setting off for Columbia via the connecting ridge.

Harvard summit view to west.

Connecting ridge to Columbia.

Looking down on Bear Lake.


Point 13,516 is a short class 3 scramble to the top, definitely a worthwhile side trip.


From Point 13,516 we descended south along the Harvard-Columbia saddle (13,180 ft). As we neared the "Rabbit" pinnacles and having gotten closer looks at the class 5 pitch, with an abundance of loose rock everywhere, we decided to make our way down a very steep scree shoot to the west. We descended to about 12,800 feet into the Frenchman Creek drainage before beginning our ascent back up to Columbia.

Looking back at Harvard & connecting ridge.

For the most part we were able to pick our way up utilizing steep patches of tundra to the east side of Columbia.

On the way up we came across several more groups of mountain goats.

Upon making it to the ridgetop to the east we picked our way up the boulders on the east side to the summit. We summited Columbia at about 10:00am.

Summit view towards Bear Lake.

Summit view towards Harvard.

Summit view SW.

Summit view SE.

The summit view from Columbia was, in our opinion, little more scenic than from Harvard. Not that the view from Harvard was bad by any means. Of course it was no longer below freezing and the breeze was a bit warmer on Columbia. We enjoyed the summit of Columbia for about an hour before beginning our descent.

Summit view to south - descent route.

The descent down the west side of Columbia turned out to be the hardest part of the trip for us. The route down the west side drops abruptly over 2,000 feet back down into Horn Fork Basin. Emphasis on "abruptly." This route is very steep and nothing more than a scree and rock rubble shoot that is miserable. From a safety stand point, I would not recommend going up this way with anyone coming down.

Descent route off west side of Columbia.

Descent route continues.

Looking across at Bear Lake on descent.

Looking back up at descent route.

It took us about the same amount of time to descend this route as it took to traverse from Harvard. My knees were very happy to be on flat ground upon reaching the basin bottom. Once back on the main trail it was smooth sailing back to the trailhead. After a few pit stops along the way we were back at the trailhead at about 3:00 pm.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice photos!
02/05/2011 00:22
Thanks for the great photos of the route!


11/30/2010 17:28
You made better time than we did last summer, and your report makes me wish I'd taken the time for that little detour to 13,516. I think you made the same unnecessary mistake we did on the way down: bailing off the ridge too soon! If you follow the S ridge from Columbia farther to the SE, you can reach a point where there is only a shot bare rock downclimb and a gentle forested downslope between you and the trail, plus you hit the trail closer to the TH. But you have to hang in there on the ridge until you get there! I believe the optimum place is near a saddle just above 13,200 ft., at approx. 106º 17' W long.


Thanks for the feedback!
08/24/2008 18:14
I concur cftbq. The routes we took is the 1.6.8 route as described in Dawson‘s guide, not a great route of off Columbia. The route you described which is probably much better is the 1.6.6 route. These things ya just never know sometimes until ya give‘m a whirl.


Question for ya...
12/01/2008 21:50
I am considering the same course you took, minus the 1.6.8 route, what was the total time it took you from start of the trailhead to return, was it 12 hrs?


Actual hiking time
12/01/2008 22:37
Our trip took about 12 hours total, minus some chilling time, would be about 9.0-9.5 hours actual hiking. Have a great trip ChrisH!

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