Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Date Posted:  02/12/2009
Date Climbed:   02/01/2009
Author:  MtnHigh
 Super Bowl Weekend on Harvard   

I got a weekend pass from the family, the weather looked perfect, so why not go winter camping? The question was - where? We had two nights to go out, avalanche danger was stupid, everything west-facing was blown off, and we didn't feel like inhaling snowmobile fumes. After putting off the decision until Saturday morning at breakfast, Tom, Andy & I decided to head back to the area around Columbia and try to finish up an aborted attempt in 2007. (SE ridgeline in late February, carrying skis up and down the peak, never summitted, skied down south slopes, lost the trail in the dark, bushwhacked down the creek, face-plant on bare road, back to truck at 9pm). So, a quick drive from Minturn to Buena Vista, head up North Cottonwood Creek, repack all of our gear (again) at the trailhead, and we were off. With Andy using kick wax on his AT setup, Tom with kicker skins, me with tip skins, we made quick time of the 3.25 miles to the summer trailhead. We followed 3-5 day old tracks along the summer trail, discovering the trail that we failed to find in the dark two years ago. There is a good climbing detour around the section of trail .5 mile from the trailhead where the steep slope presents a minor slide risk. We caught up to the trail again at the wilderness boundary, a cruised up alongside the gently sloping creek. After crossing the creek, we tried to follow the summer tail into Horn Fork basin but somehow ended back on the main trail. Our packs were too heavy - so we made camp at 4:00 and got comfortable.

Andy enjoys some PBR.

Starting Super Bowl 43 party early....

No one got much sleep the night before as we were finding all of our gear, so we were out by 6:30pm, up at 7:30 the next morning. Ahh, the mythical alpine start can wait until after breakfast, coffee, old Peak 1 stove shooting flames, etc. About 9:30, we followed the creek up to timberline, scoping out possibilities. The snow level looked high on Harvard, and Columbia was bare, so we headed up the basin, enjoying the view south to Yale.

We stopped for a break at 12,500 at the base of the bowl below Harvard

looking again back at Yale,

and Columbia

We had a clear view of the summit route - ski to the saddle near 13,500 and hike to the summit. The last pitch of snow was steep, and we had to crawl the last 200' through the snow to the rocks. From there the easy hike to the summit seemed to take forever - are my lungs getting older or is Tom getting faster? There was just a light breeze off the summit ridge, and we made a quick scramble up the rocks to the peak, topping out at 3:40pm.
Tom enjoys the views, Columbia in the background

Yale to the south

I could have stayed on top a few hours just to enjoy the scenery - there's nothing like being surrounded by the peaks of the central rockies. Later that week a friend exclaimed that she can't understand why I do these "crazy climbs"?
Why? Because there's a great view from the summit - looking west into Missouri Basin

Tom and Andy starting back down


After an easy hike back to our skis, I stopped to enjoy the last direct sunlight and warmth on the ridge. (note - Garmont tele boots aren't great for hiking on rocks - the buckles kept bending). Skiing down firm windpack with a heavy backpack was challenging, legs were starting to bonk.

One last look at the peaks in the sunset, then back down the creekbed to camp.


Let the party start! Andy shows how to really travel light in the winter - no stove, disinfected water, and yummy mashed potatoes, forget the hot water.

We were all snoring by 8:30. The night passed in a trance, listening to the wind blow through the trees. We were up at 7:00, had a leisurely breakfast, packed camp, and hit the trail. 1:30 ski back to the trailhead, skating the few hills. What a fun and relaxing weekend.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

 Comments or Questions

Fun report
02/13/2009 16:29
Nice shots and good detail, though you said your packs were ”too heavy,” which made me wonder if the beer cans and bourbon bottle came back empty?


Empty Bottles
02/13/2009 16:54
Yep, all of the alcohol and most of the food, even the dried mashies, was consumed.


Good Stuff
02/14/2009 18:17
Nice TR, it is good to see the winter camping pics.

Great Pics and good info
02/15/2009 05:41
Thanks for the detail and pictures. Planning to do a 3 day trip on Harvard and Columbia this coming weekend, although will probably get the beer once we get home!

Ken Gross
02/17/2009 22:12
Hey Nice work getting the PBRs in the shot!!


Great trip report
03/25/2009 17:34
I love the Peak 1 mention. I haven‘t used those for a while... brought back memories...

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