Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  10/06/2008
Date Climbed:   09/30/2008
Author:  MUni Rider

 Harvard-Columbia to finish the Sawatch 14ers!  

I hiked up to tree line to camp on 29 OCT 08. I didn't get away from the TH until 5:30 PM. A couple hours later than I would have liked, but I was slow in getting away from the house. The weather was nice, a few evening clouds and not any real wind to speak of. Hit tree line around 7:00 pm. the sun was gone and oight was waning. I gave myself 5 minutes to find the best place to drop the tent out of the 200 possible locations. By 7:30 I had the tent up, bed roll out, dinner and hot chocolate was hot and cooling slightly and I decided it was time to hang the food off the ground. Bag and twine in hand I set off to find an appropriate tree in the dark aided by headlamp.....

god damn it.....

The last thing I needed to see were those glowing eyes in the treeline. So there I am, alone, in the dark, without protection, holding food playing the stare-down game with some unknown creature 50 feet away from my tent, 3 miles away from my truck.

I have time to notice that the eyes are small, only an inch or two apart, and seem to be against the trunk of a tree about 18 inches off the ground. These signs point to "just a squirrel". I lobbed a few rocks at the eyes and heard something scurry off into the darkness.

I immediately decided that all the trees in this direction are no good. On my way past my tent, headed 180 degrees in the other direction, I grab my ice axe just in case I run into anymore glowing eyes. Usually I try to get the food/trash bag 10 feet off the ground suspended between two trees 15-20 feet apart, but tonight, feeling like the forest is watching from all around, a quick 8 feet up one tree will have to do.

I didn't bring a pistol because I was didn't think I would need it. Yeah, on a weekday, after the popular hiking season, alone-no other hikers/campers around, 3 miles up, camped relatively close to a lake named after bears. It's now 9:00 pm. I do the math and realize that I've been up for 28 hours, (I work the graveyard shift). The next thing I know, I'm rolling out of bed after a very restfull 10 hour nap. I had slept with the ice axe, a hatchet, pocket knife and extra tent pole next to my bag just in case a bigger set of glowing eyes decided to enter my camp.

After packing my camelbak and a quick breakfast and hot chocolate, I'm on the trail at 8:00 am.

I immediatly catch up to a couple of guys that had just passed by my camp. They had hiked up from the TH, car camping. We leap-frogged each other for the next hour while I stopped periodicaly to take pictures.

We all eventually reached the final plateau before the trial heads up the final saddle ridge.
After a good break for food and pictures, I left them and pushed on to the summit.

One hour later, I was eating an apple at 14,420 ft. The view was pretty good. The fall colors were really nice far below. Not too many clouds in the sky, yet.


The other guys caught up and we helped each other out with our summit shots. They were the last and only other people I would see this trip.

Time to go if I'm gonna hike Columbia. If I do, I've completed the Sawatch 14ers. I wasn't sure whether I'd stay on the ridge traverse or drop lower away from all the yucky talus.

the yellow thread is my route.

I followed the ridge up to the large point. The clouds had continued to grow in size and number. Not bad yet, but I still had a long way to go. I was wishing I had not gone back to bed when I got up to pee at 4:30 am. Too late now, and one look across the way as I reached the point, I decided that I could cover more ground by taking the path of least resistance, the low road. Well, there was no path or road or course, but as I rounded the point, I was able to see the entire rest of the route.

The yellow thread is the route I choose and stayed with. It appeared to have less talus climbing from way over here and indeed it worked out to be very good footing nearly the whole way. It would take me nearly 1-1/2 hours to get to the lowest point in the traverse hike.

On my way I found reason to dig out the camera.

A look back at Harvard from about 2/3 up the side of Columbia. Stupid clouds. They were growing, but still not threatening.

No more grass to walk on. Just a talus cone to work my way up. Clouds covered most of the sky above and behind the summit. Behind me, the Arkansas valley was cloud free. Go figure.

Success. I could relax a bit. The longer I rested, the more the clouds seemed to lighten. It had taken me 1-1/2 hour to climb up frm the low spot on my traverse, 3 hours total from the time I left Mt. Harvard's peak.

The view from Mt. Columbia is pretty good.

View down the valley and tree line.

Closer view of tree line. My tent is that blue speck hiding in the trees in the center of the picture.

Lots of fall color behind Mt. Yale.

I used the camera's timer to get a picture with that big cube rock on the summit of Mt. Columbia. Mt.Yale is behind us.

A little fall color up near the peak. These little guys are everywhere.

When hiking down the frontside, the trail follows the ridge before slipping down the face a bit. the trial comes to a split. I chose to stay left, (yellow), and not take the right, (red), down into the gully. The gully route looked super loose and yucky.

Another 100 yards or so and the trail will turn left down this path. It's marked by 2 or 3 cairns. It's much better than taking the gully from the top. It does eventually meet the gully path, but not until about 1/2 way down, give or take.

I was able to make it back to my tent 1-1/4 hour after leaving the sumit of Mt. Columbia. Not as long as I thought it would take.

I burind my camera in my pack, so no more pictures after that.

I did dig out the camera for some pics on the drive out. This one was the best.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
James Scott

great report
10/06/2008 16:08
I did this traverse earlier this summer, and really enjoyed seeing your pics. It looks like you dropped down farther on the Frenchman Creek under Columbia, but I did it when there was some really stable snow, so it was different. Now that the Sawatch is finished, what is your next aim?

MUni Rider

10/07/2008 15:48
Last year my peak list was in the 20s, this year it‘s in the 30s. As long as next year is in the 40s, I look at it as a success.

Next on the list is to finish the rest of the Sangres since they are close by, climb Longs (finally), set foot on my 1st Elks mountain(s), and Wetterhorn, Uncompahgre, then rest of the San Juans. I don‘t have good water proof or winter boots, no crampons yet: (I really have no idea what to look for when I shop for these), so I might be done for the year now. I give myself a 50/50 chance on completing the 14ers next year. If it‘s a heavy winter again, then no: I‘ll be too busy whitewater kayaking the rivers and creeks well into the summer like I was this year.


Thank you!
10/08/2008 00:56
for the awesome pictures, I‘ve been wanting some detailed pictures of this traverse and with your routes drawn in it makes it seem that much easier!

MUni Rider

Just know...
10/08/2008 05:11
I didn‘t stay up top on the true traverse. I dropped down, way down below for the route of least resistance, which I chose late in the game: In photo #6, it would have been better to stay to the left of the point, lower than the path I took high around that rocky cone covered in talus. In photo #9 you can see where I came around the point and turn straight down to the grass that would of been more efficient for the route I chose.


11/12/2008 03:28
I am heading up to the Harvard/Columbia area this weekend, your report of the traverse will be along in the pack... Thanks a bunch. Stay safe and Climb on!

Gerbi Gerb

You had better luck than we did!
11/14/2008 22:32
Hey Ed, nice trip report. Roach and I did this one back in ‘04 right after her knee surgury. Bad idea! The route up Harvard was a piece of cake, but with no trial to Columbia or down from Columbia, and all the talus, her knee suffered. We followed another group down the red line in your image 18. That was not fun. You made better route finding choices than we did! We‘ll have to climb together again next year (you lead)

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