Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  06/08/2010
Date Climbed:   06/05/2010
Author:  bergsteigen
 Water, water everywhere...   

Mt Columbia

Scree Jockeys: Darrin (kansas) and me
Route: Standard - west slopes
Trailhead: N Cottonwood Creek
Mileage: 11.5
Elevation Gain: 4,250'

After trying to rustle up the usual suspects for this slog ("Is it June yet?" was out of state - why? It's June already!!!), Darrin and I head up to the trailhead on Friday night to catch a few moments of elusive sleep. This was my second trip up Columbia, so we went up a different route than I did before. The east - southeast ridge loop was nice, but a long windy annoyance a decade ago. This would also be my third trip up the Horn Fork basin in 10 months. Let's hope I don't have to go back any time soon! The beautiful scenery is getting old

Not knowing how much snow was still left, we brought snowshoes. They remained on the pack, or stashed for the climb. I knew the snow would be missing, except for beyond 11,200' where we started to see more snow banks. I'm sure by next weekend most of the remaining snow will be melted or thoroughly trenched. Mud and puddles will replace the snow in the flatter areas...

Some post-holing snow in the trees


It was a relief to get out of the trees and the slow post-hole process we were going though. We used other's post-holes, but still it was like high stepping through the forest! The first views of Yale and Harvard were welcoming. The snow has melted quite a bit since I was last here a month ago.



With so little snow no remaining, and the west slope of Columbia bare, we stash our snowshoes at the trail junction for later retrieval. No need to carry the extra weight up and down again! I'm already carrying extra boots, as I am trying to break in new mountaineering boots for a snow climb later this month.

The climb up the west face was a steep scree slog, that seemed to never end! Once onto a small ridge rib, the trail improved and it was just one foot in front of the other until we reached the higher ridge and we could see our destination.

Sunrise over the ridge

Photo Credit: Darrin


Will the up ever end?

Almost to the ridge...

Once on the upper ridge, it's apparent that a ski descent is out for the season on this peak. The other ridge routes on Columbia are bare, so no snow gear is needed there either.

Not enough snow to ski


We had some interesting clouds and some 'water features' up high on the ridge that made the summit ridge area look rather nice.

Columbia, looking inviting

Now that's the photo of the trip!

Only one minor snow field to cross just before the summit. No exposure or problems to cross it (other than post-holing and finding hidden rocks).


From the summit, the evidence from the earlier dust storm is evident. The snow striped peaks are etched with reddish brown streaks.

Yale, Princeton...


Pikes: our destination tomorrow

Another checkmark!

After a short stay on the summit talking with an Air Force instructor from the Springs, we head down to find water world awaiting. All the streams are overflowing with the rapid snow melt. Only the smaller streams look peaceful. The larger streams are dirty raging rapids that on occasion take over the trail.

Lots of snow melt up high



Some high water!

Where did the trail go?

The stream took over the trail

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

The River The Trail ...
06/08/2010 17:55
Welcome to my upcoming book title (photo #23)! Beautiful photos ... thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Lake Columbia?
06/08/2010 18:15
Lake Columbia...but on the summit ridge? Whoa!

(BTW - that‘s a way cool climb in winter - the scree on the west face is frozen-in-place and it‘s so pleasant! One of my favorites. : )

Thanks for a great TR and lots of cool photos!


Batten down the hatches!
06/08/2010 18:29
You found a new lake and witnessed some raging waters! What a trip that must have been to see the river overflowing like that...crazy! Did the first bridge river crossing seem to be holding up ok? Glad I did that E ridge in Feb, I‘m not very fond of scree! Nice write up and photos!


Now I want to climb that stupid mountain.
06/08/2010 19:25
Sorry, I was assisting in the demise of two kegs, a 90 pound pig and 13 pounds of prime rib. I‘ll try not to miss another screefully fulfilling adventure.


A mountain or a river...
06/09/2010 21:33
Good to know it‘s a much better snow climb. The 3rd and final ascent of this peak is with skis ;)

The 2 bridges are doing fine. Darrin gave me a dirty look when I slowed down on the last crossing, so no photo of that one.

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