Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  08/09/2010
Date Climbed:   08/05/2010
Author:  Coppersnowboarder
 Mount Harvard to Mount Columbia - North Cottonwood - Horn Fork Basin - Frenchman Creek Valley  

August 5 to August 6

This week, I hiked a loop from North Cottonwood Trailhead through Horn Fork Basin to Mount Harvard, 14,420 feet, through Frenchman Creek Valley, and over Mount Columbia, 14,073 feet. These were my 16th and 17th Fourteeners of the summer. The guidebook (The Colorado 14ers: The Standard Routes, Colorado Mountain Club) indicated the trip was 12 miles and 12 hours, but measured from the base of Harvard. Bad guidebook. Hikers start hiking from trailheads, not base camps. Fortunately, I anticipated guidebook error due to other description errors on previous hikes and packed more food and water than usual.

The loop was 20 miles and took 19 hours, with another 9 hours of shivering through the night. The guidebook indicates no trail off the southern ridge of Mount Columbia. However, the trail that traverses the ridge south of the summit is the best way to descend to North Cottonwood. Previously, I hiked to the summit of Harvard from Frenchman Creek Trailhead, which is probably the easier path to the summit of both Harvard and Columbia.

The ascent to the summit of Harvard from the south through Horn Fork Basin involved grabbing handholds along a cliff face. Then, I descended the boulder field and began climbing across the ridge to Columbia. An easier pathway would have been farther east through tundra meadow below the northeast boulder field on Mount Harvard. When the ridge became impassible, I descended a chute to the valley floor below and crossed Frenchman Creek. Since it was too late for me to ascend Columbia before sunset, I hiked to tree-line and rested against a rock through the night. I only wore a wet fleece and windbreaker. A mouse left his nest under the rock to help keep me warm. I ran out of food and water about midnight. An hour before sunrise, I began ascending Columbia and reached the summit four hours later. I met other climbers at the summit who shared food and water with me. The other hikers showed me the way to the shorter route down Columbia to North Cottonwood Trailhead, which was less than a four-hour descent to the trailhead. The trail is a little steep and slippery due to the beginning of trail construction in loose material, but far preferable to returning to the summit of Mount Harvard to complete the hike as suggested by the guidebook. The hike was an excellent adventure.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
James Scott

08/11/2010 15:52
That's quite an adventure. When I climb alone, I find myself packing too much stuff- for just such an occasion if I have to spend the night on the mountain. I'm glad you were able to come out of it alright and tell the story.

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