Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Date Posted:  09/25/2009
Date Climbed:   09/24/2009
Author:  Bigpapa

 Mount Harvard - Southern Approach  

We began our day at 0330 and with a two+ hour drive from Colorado Springs, we had enough time to reach the trailhead just before sunrise.

The five of us headed up through thick forest encountering only trace amounts of snow and some absolutely fantastic scenery.

As we broke through tree line and entered the long southern valley approach to Harvard, the sun seemed to kiss Columbia‘s south face, if only for a short time. The views to the south of Yale and Princeton were breathtaking. We slipped a bit on the icy patches, but a quick stop revealed a covey of ptarmigans just hanging out and not too worried about us.

The clouds rolled in quickly and the temperature dropped with it. We stopped for 30 minutes or so for lunch on the last plateau before our final push towards the summit. During this time, the snow began to fall and any heat left in the air seemed to vanish.

At about 13,000 ft, we encountered real snow reaching depths of up to 8 inches, but nothing too significant, yet creating quite a slippery walk to towards the top.

The last portion was really hairy with snow covering a thin layer of ice and the storms decreasing visibility significantly. At this point we were uncertain what the weather would do and decided to forego Columbia, saving it for another day.

As we reached the higher plateau, the weather again turned warmer and the snow fall gave way to brilliant sunshine. I stopped to drop my jacket and hat and was visited by a grey jay while eating a sandwich. I shared and he literally ate out of my hand (this also happened last year on Quandary) which was super cool.

We continued down into tree line and I noticed that much more of the trail had turned into a slimy sludge that provided little traction. As we reached the stream crossing which takes you east, it again began to snow.

The snow continued as we walked the remaining 2 km to the vehicle. When we arrived it stopped and the animals seemed to come out in droves. Turkeys, foxes, deer, and a multitude of wonderfully colored birds.

We drove home feeling only minor dissapointment at missing Columbia given that the snow storms subsided. Given Murphy‘s Law, had we attempted Columbia, white-out conditions would have quickly begun. As we departed Buena Vista we noticed a huge storm was moving in from the north and as we headed over the pass from Hartsel we headed into yet another storm. The old saying, "If you don‘t like the weather in Colorado, just wait five minutes." was very applicable on this day and a good reminder to pack for any weather/conditions.

It was a great day. After all, any day in Colorado‘s wilderness is better then the best day in the office!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Grey Jays ...
09/25/2009 22:59
Are very friendly ... sometimes too friendly. I had one take an entire piece of fried chicken from a log I was sitting on during a cross-country ski trip one winter. I was interested in giving him something more healthy (which I was getting from my pack) when he swooped down and took off with the chicken. That last photo is pretty cool. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


09/27/2009 15:41
Did I miss mention of the summit? Nice report,good decision


No Regrets!
09/27/2009 16:34
A few boulders did stand between us and the bench mark (image 9). Possibly with the right gear the extra 10 vertical feet might have been a go, but without it, a rescue or long carry out seemed more likely. A very tough decision.


always snowy?
09/28/2009 20:08
Hope to do this next year when I return to co. Think its always very snowy up there?


09/28/2009 22:31
I don‘t think so. I think if you plan mid-late summer it should be gone entirely, esp if its a hot summer. All the snow up there on the 24th seemed pretty fresh and most likely from the the few days before.


09/28/2009 23:25
thanks nice looks good wanna do it a lot phsyced to return to colorado

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