Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  07/26/2009
Date Climbed:   07/25/2009
Author:  Perea

Our Group
Paul Perea
Barry Johnson/ bjohnson 17
John /Aconcagua08
John Cameron

Trip time from tree line to tree line(camp) 10 hrs

Yeah right quick stroll it was NOT! I knew it would be a long day so I was mentally prepared for this grind. We left Denver at 5:45pm Friday later than we would have liked to because John could not get out of work until then. After a couple stops and fighting traffic we finally arrived at the trailhead at around 9pm.
We quickly gathered our gear and set off on the four mile hike in to our camp at tree line. It was dark and warmer than I expected. The trail to the base of the Hork Forn Basin is really good and not too steep we gained elevation gradually during the 4 mile trek. There is a Y in the trail that confused us a bit but after looking at the GPS it made sense to go left if we were going to do Harvard first.
Once we arrived to our camp destination we all set up our tents and filtered water. It was 11:15pm by the time we went to bed probably later than that when you figure in tossing and turning time. I slept like a baby until 4 am and got out of the tent and was ready for the long day ahead. Let me just say now I enjoyed Harvard much more than I did Columbia in fact I did not enjoy Columbia.
Barry was a little disappointed we had to hike in so late and did not have the warmest greeting for Aconcagua08 when we picked him up yesterday but something about the fresh mountain air erased all those feelings and they made up about 6:30 am.
The trail up Harvard is great and the views are also.
The final 20 feet to the summit of Harvard is some nice scrambling over some big boulders. We reached the summit at I think it was 7:30 am.
We made a couple summit phone calls to let everyone back home know we are alive and on schedule. Then it was off to Columbia. A couple friends I talked to had suggested we down climb all the way to camp and climb Columbia via the West slopes. I'll be honest I get a F- for my route finding preparation. I did not study this route at all and I was all turned around as to what was N S E or W. My suggestion for anyone doing this in the next few weeks is DON'T go back down the Harvard trail but rather follow the ridge going to Columbia until it starts to get more technical. then down climb a couple hundred feet below the ridge and traverse from there. Both Johns did this and beat us to the summit of Columbia by about 40 minutes. Barry and myself down climbed after we realized it was too late to take the route of the other 2 because of a steep gully separating us. It will make more sense when you see the pics.
Here is the route the other guys went by the way it is on the east slopes not the west which is where most of my confusion came from hearing other people talking about down climbing back to the base of the Harvard trail which would have been twice as hard.
Barry and I still made it harder than what it had to be by losing too much elevation. We went all the way down to the little ponds below then began our accent.
This is looking back up the accent.
this is where I started to feel like my energy was becoming depleted. The sun was out in full force beating down on us I managed to find the only shade on the mountain to take a breather and the look on Barry's face says it all.
Here is a look at the final summit push up Columbia.
The summit of Columbia.
Here is a nice shot of Bear Lake which we had passed earlier in the day which seemed like light years back in time.
One thing about having a bright colored tent is it is easy to spot even from 14,000 ft. It is to the right of the trail below a little yellow dot.
Ok now it was time to get off the mountain as the clouds were building fast. This was the worst part of the day the scree ski decent down Columbia. It is a horrible trail full of loose scree on steep slopes. To make matters worse there is cactus everywhere so if you fall it could make for a miserable day.
Eventually we made it back to the tents and light rain became heavier. We took advantage of the down time by taking off the boots and rehydrating until we got a break in the clouds.
We packed fast and did a combination or trail running and speed walking down to the car where we all gave a big sigh of relief and accomplishment! 2 more 14er peaks to check off our list.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Crack me up!
06/02/2011 14:57
I am so glad that I can laugh so much at this report. Nice combo of honesty, funny pictures, and great beta on the traverse (thanks to John's GPS track). Great getting out with John one and two and you. BTW...Hork Forn?

Summit Assassin

Solid TR
07/27/2009 13:30
I‘m doing that traverse from the north of Harvard in a month and would really love to know your traverse time. You mentioned 7:30am topping out on Harvard, what about Columbia?


Traverse Time
04/18/2014 19:27
If you follow that red line in photo 14 you can traverse in 3 hours or less. If you lose more elevation then plan on an extra hour or two.


07/27/2009 15:59
What a great climb! Thanks for preparing the trip report.


07/27/2009 16:24
Paul, good report. Did it the day before you. I was the jackass who left his backpack in the middle of the road on the way up.

I dropped all the way down to the valley and made it up to Columbia in just under two hours. I met an old stud up there (top 10 finishes at both the Leadville 100 and Hard Rock 100) who did the ridge traverse in just shy of two hours as well. It‘s a grunt nonetheless.


John, John, Paul and Barry
07/30/2009 16:44
Hey guys, it‘s Tim, thanks for letting me come along on your traverse from Harvard to Columbia last weekend, I probably would have done it the long way down and back up and I would have hated every minute of it because I can‘t imagine going up Columbia with as hard as it was to get down (half a dozen falls and a broken pole later it probably took as much time to get down as it would have to go up).

Most of the traverse was a difficult class 2, but I did find a nice spot for a couple of class 3 climb downs of only about 20-30‘, though they probably didn‘t save any time or effort, just fun to do.

Thanks for writing the report, if any of you guys have some good pictures from the top of Columbia you could share that would be great since I dropped my camera before summiting. Let me know if you guys are out and about again this summer, it was a fun summit and a good pace.


07/12/2010 14:57
Hey sweet report. Appreciate all the info. I was just wondering, if I want to camp where you camped, do I need to reserve a spot?

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