Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2009
Date Climbed:   07/03/2009
Author:  goatgirl

 More Massive than Massive? & Columbia? Really???  

Over the 4th of July weekend, I thought it would be good training to head down to Buena Vista and do Harvard on Saturday and Columbia on Sunday. We left on Friday the 3rd around 11:00am and headed down. We couldn't find a lot of info. about camping near Harvard or at the trailhead, so we decided to take our chances. Let me tell you, there is TONS of free camping (no outhouses and such, however) all along North Cottonwood Creek Road and at the trailhead proper. We found a great campsite right by the creek. In addition, if you want to hump (backpack) all your stuff in, there are a lot of cool places set up camp along the trail too. I also want to mention that the road is a bit dicey for sedans, unless you are really good at taking your car in places it has no business being. There are some really big holes and some washed-out culvert issues to contend with.

Like a dork, I forgot my camera on Saturday, so I don't have Harvard pics. It is not very snowy at all and the trail, for the most part, is pretty obvious. There is some scrambling/easy rock climbing to reach the summit, however, and some dogs were having difficulty getting purchase to reach the summit, so you may want to think about that. There is also some exposure, so if that freaks you out, this may not be your mountain. You should also get an early start (like 5:00am or so) because it takes quite a while to even get back to Harvard and then you need to climb. All the "this is a big mountain" stuff you've heard is true, so give yourself enough time to get up it and miss the inevitable thunderstorms in the early afternoon.

From the trailhead, proceed Image
until you see a fork in the trail
with this sign.
Take the right-hand fork leading to Horn Fork Basin and Bear Lake. Keep walking…

The Columbia trailhead is about 3 ˝ miles from the main trailhead and is rather subtle. It is simply a cairn on the right marking another trail leading off to the right into the woods. It is easy to miss.
Here I am looking back at the trail.
If you stay on the main trail, you will continue further back by Bear Lake and eventually up, to Harvard.

It is here that I want to mention that whoever said that Columbia is "easy" or "quick" is a lying dog.
It goes straight up,
and yes, I mean straight up.
No nice-n-easy switchbacks, just up until the ridgeline. I would not recommend this mountain to a newbie, nor to someone who is out of shape or has knee issues and such – not a good idea at all.
When you reach the ridge top,
you will then traverse the ridge and climb again to the summit. It is on the ridge top that we had to bail due to weather. We had noticed clouds moving in pretty fast as early as 9:30am but wanted to see what it looked like from the ridge – it looked bad. Quite bad. So we turned around and headed down. It was a good thing too, as all hail (pun intended) broke loose the minute we got down to the trees. We hotfooted it out of there (the 3 ˝ miles) in rain, hail, thunder, the works. There were several people still climbing when we were heading down and I hope there are all okay. The good news is; the mountain isn't going anywhere and next time it might be fun to backpack in and then climb.

We also met other really nice 14ers folks and it is always fun to put faces to avatars. Best of all, it was not super-crowded which I'm sure you can't say for this weekend if your were on Grays and Torreys!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great hike!
07/06/2009 18:22
Good to see your still out there!! Looks like you had a great weekend! That‘s a beautiful area.



”Easy” Columbia
07/06/2009 22:03
Absolutely agree with your comment about ”easy” Columbia. Climbed it last 4th of July, got up in the loose rock ascending and got our butts kicked. Descent wasn‘t any better with all the loose rock. Columbia will be a no repeat summit for me.


camping info
08/03/2009 03:46
Your camping info is VERY helpful! We‘re doing the duo this weekend and didn‘t know what camping options we had for Friday night at the trailhead.


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