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Combination Route
Harvard and Columbia Traverse
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Difficulty:
 Class 2 
Risk Factors:Exposure: Moderate
Rockfall Potential: High  
Route-Finding: High  
Commitment: High  
 
Trailhead:N. Cottonwood Creek
Start:9,900 feet
Summit:14,420 feet
Total Gain:6,100 feet from trailhead
4,450 feet from camp in Horn Fork Basin
1,500 feet one-way between summits
RT Length:15 miles RT from trailhead
7 miles RT from camp in Horn Fork Basin
2.75 miles one-way between summits
Author:BillMiddlebrook
Updated:3/2019
Weather:NOAA Forecast
Conditions:222 reports
Cell Signal:13 reports
Sheriff:Chaffee: 719-539-2596
Forest:San Isabel
Wilderness:Collegiate Peaks
Quad. Maps:Log In to View
Camping:On Google Maps
Eats:On Google Maps
Downloads:Log In to Download
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? HOLD ON! Yes, this is the standard way to climb Harvard and Columbia in one day but it's a long, strenuous hike, especially if you day-trip it from the trailhead. If you're a novice hiker, consider doing these peaks separately, on different days. There have been numerous Search and Rescue (SAR) missions on this route because of ill-prepared or inexperienced hikers.

Trailhead

Turn west on County Road (CR) 350 (Crossman Ave.) near the center of Buena Vista. This road is less than 1/2 mile north of the stoplight in the center of town. Continue on CR 350 for 2 miles and turn right onto CR 361. After almost 1 mile, turn left onto CR 365 (dirt). Continue on this road for over 5 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. Turn right into the wooded parking area which loops around counter-clockwise. The trail starts on the west side of the parking area.

Route

STOP! Yes, this is the standard way to climb Harvard and Columbia in one day but it's a long, strenuous hike, on rocky terrain, WITHOUT A TRAIL. If you're a novice hiker, consider doing these peaks separately, on different days. There have been many Search and Rescue (SAR) missions on this route because of ill-prepared or inexperienced hikers.

First, follow the Mt. Harvard - South Slopes Route to reach the summit of Harvard. You'll need a few hours to get to Mt. Columbia so don't start the 3-mile traverse if the weather is deteriorating - 1. Hike east along Harvard's summit ridge ( 2) to a notch - 3. Dip down and pass a rock outcropping to regain the ridge. Near the east end of Harvard's summit ridge, pass a rocky point on either side ( 4 and 5) to reach a small, flat area. Begin descending southeast down the ridge towards a pointed rock formation, near 14,100' - 6, 7 and 8. Pass on the right ( 8) and follow a faint trail through talus on the south side of the ridge - 9.

Once back on the ridge, follow a trail down toward a prominent 13,516-foot point - 10 and 11. Once you've descended to approx. 13,450', contour around the north side of Point 13,516' - 12. What little trail you've followed will disappear when you reach the talus on the north side of this point. 13 looks back at the descent from Harvard. Continue around the north side of the point ( 14) to reach its east ridge where you'll get an excellent view of the remaining route - 15. From the edge of Point 13,516', some people drop directly down a steep, loose gully but DON'T DO IT. It's safer to turn left and descend the point's east ridge - 16. Hike down the ridge and turn right between 12,800' and 12,500' where you feel comfortable leaving the ridge - 17 and 18.

The route becomes more tedious at this point. Contour south into the talus near the base of the connecting ridge - 19. Hike over or below a large talus pile and continue across a lot more talus - 20 and 21. Once you pass below the "rabbit" ( 22), you'll begin your ascent towards Columbia - 23. 24 looks back from approx. 12,900'. Continue on the talus as you approach 13,000' and easier terrain - 25. Above 13,000' Columbia's summit comes into view as you hike right (south) around Point 13,497' - 26 and 27. Cross easy, grassy terrain and hike toward the left side of the saddle between Columbia and Point 13,497' - 28 and 29.

Reach the ridge crest near 13,400' and turn left to follow the ridge toward the summit - 30 and 31. Near 13,900', stay slightly left and climb about 100' of steeper rock ( 32 and 33) and then walk over to the summit - 34 and 35. To return to Horn Fork Basin, descend via the Mt. Columbia - West Slopes Route.

Notes

IMPORTANT: This route enters the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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