Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  03/27/2011
Date Climbed:   03/26/2011
Author:  GerryRigged
 Columbia SW coulior   

I had been looking for a 14k peak to ski before going to Europe (more on that later) and since I couldn't make the 19th and 20th and meet and ski with some of you I thought I would try for it this weekend. I started out with the intention of sleeping in my truck at the trail head but wussed out and got a room in Buena Vista. When I got up Saturday it had snowed about an inch in town. I started my truck and while scraping the snow off the windshield I knocked the wiper blade off. It took me fifteen minutes to get it back on. So now I'm off to the TH. The farther up the road I get the deeper the snow gets. I drove up a short incline and around a corner to find a car stuck in the road, no one around. I backed down the incline and parked at about 9380ft about 1.8 miles from the summer TH, got my gear on and headed out about 6:30. There was a nice track leading up through the woods for quite a ways then it disapeared do to heavy snow. I followed what I thought was the track untill it ended with what looked like a short glissade back down into the gully. I figered as long as I was going up the gully I would be ok. Pretty soon I got a little concerned and started looking for the track so I wouldn't have to break trail in untracked snow.I did some bushwacking and got back on the trail. I think some other people behind me might have followed me. I appoligize for missleading you. Things went well for quite a while and the track dissapeared again. Same thing all over again. I make a p**s poor guide. I finally broke out into the avi runout at the bottom of the SW couloir about 10:30. Running behind already.

Last pic of the day shows the objective

There was about a foot of new snow on the run out so I was a little concerned about what lay ahead. The wind had not blown much during the night and as I skinned toward the choke I checked conditions regularly. Even on the steep stuff next to the choke it was well bonded to the old layer. I debated whether to go through the choke and cut a hard left or go straight up the gully. I decided a cut across the slope might be more dangerous than going up the gully so up I went. In hind sight I probably could have cut across to lookers left without a problem. You make your best choice and go with it. It finally got too steep to skin about a third of the way up so I climbed out to lookers right and started up the wind blown slope. I had not seen any instability in the snow so far. Climbing through the rocks is way harder than skinning up a slope and that slope is nothing but a pile of rocks. I finally gained the ridge and saw what looked like a continious snow field I could skin up. Well right at the top of the SW coulior is a small class 3 maybe class 4 false summit. I was ready to give up and started to climb into the coulior when I saw a route between the snow field and the rocks. I climbed it a short ways and hit a dead end but I was looking at the top of the coulior. I decided I would skin up and cut across the top to the slope above. I got to the flat area at the top of the coulior and could see the summit. It sure looked a long way off. At this point I wasn't about to give up so I started for the summit.I figured I would summit about 3:30 which would give me just enough time to ski out before sunset.

Harvard from the summit

Yale from the summit

It was pretty windy on the summit ridge but not anything like the week before. Lucky me. I clicked off a few pictures from the summit and clicked in. I had my doubts as tho whether I could ski back to the flat spot at the top of the coulior but it went. As I was walking to the top of the coulior I met a woman on her way to the summit. By now it was 4:00. I figured she had about a five hour walk back out on snow shoes which would put her at the TH around 9:00. I wished her a safe trip and we went our seperate ways.

Standing at the top of the coulior I thought about the woman I had passed and touught I should check to make sure no one else was climbing the coulior before I started my decent. I could see a track down in the run out but it headed toward Harvard. I clicked in again at the top of the coulior, said my Hale Marys and slid out onto the top of the snow field. I cut the slope across to the far side and made a kick turn and paused for a moment. I cut the slope again going back the other way. So far so good. I made a couple linked turns and stopped. Things are looking stable up here too. Now I'm not a religious man but I said one more Hale Mary and took off. If things came undun now I would be buried until June. All my efforts on the day were well rewarded by the best cloulior ski ever. Twenty eight hundred feet of shin deep powder just as smooth as you could ask for and the ski down through the trees in the run out was like a natural slalom course. What a thrilling ski!

About a third of the way looking back

About a third of the way down looking ahead

So now we are back to image 1, objective complete. If you click on image 1 and zoom in you can see my track coming out of the choke.

Last pic of the day shows the objective

The ski out was uneventfull except for the little creek. I was going hard through the trees when I noticed a sort of chanel in the snow ahead of me . What was this I thought. OH s**t its a creek. If I skied straight into it I would hit the far bank my skis would go straight in
and I would go a** over tea kettel so a quick sliding stop landed me in the creek. I needed a drink anyway.

The rest they is history.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

03/28/2011 14:06
Me and my buddies were the group behind you. We saw you booting up the gully on our way to Harvard. It was such a great day. You set a really nice track and took the best route, in my 4 visits to that valley. I couldn't believe how filled in that gully was.


It was a good day
03/29/2011 02:01
I saw your track from the top of the coulior. I commend you guys for getting Harvard in one day. Was there a black pickup stuck in the snow where you were parked when you got back? They were buried pretty deep when I went by.


nice write up
04/03/2011 02:29
Great photos and words. When it comes to skiing, stay thirsty..


Thanks for the report
04/02/2015 19:45
We pretty much followed your route this past weekend, on April 17th. In the couloir, I was using older steps made by some good Samaritans, or making my own when those were blown over. The weather was fine, we just had to deal with some really strong winds once we reached the summit ridge. We did not have skies, so on the way down we glissaded through the snow field to the left of the couloir. We were at the summit by 12pm, and back to the car by 3.45pm. Fun hike!

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