The snow was extremely suncupped and still quite hard, the morning sun not yet rising in the low basin. I was interested in Harvard not only for it’s height, but the fact that it could be combined with a traverse Mount Columbia, COs 35th highest peak, allowing for a double 14er day. Mount Columbia was nothing more than a huge pile of talus, and it would be one foot in front of the other the rest of the way to the top–great time to practice setting my pace and getting a rhythm. The downside is that it require several hundred additional feet of descent and ascent beyond the standard route, and I was already pretty tired. After resting, we started our descent down the ridge line towards Mt. Columbia, and Mt. The descent off Columbia was almost entirely on south facing slopes meaning the trail was mostly snow free, and I took off my crampons and started down. Yale, Mt. Elbert. (5), Harvard & Columbia in Winter: Jekyll & Hyde, Harvard and Columbia Winter Ascents and Ski Descents - 2011, A Fine Day on Mt. Overall, however, the trail was not crowded (compared to the Front Range 14ers). We hadn't heard any thunder yet, and none of the clouds were billowing up into the sky. I'm sure more were visible (the Mosquitos, for example) but were hazier and harder to make out! It rained for about an hour after that - and I was thankful that no storm had materialized earlier in the day. Perhaps "skiing" down the scree would've been preferable, but the steepness of the slope didn't look particularly appealing. From the summit, there didn't appear to be a well defined trail across the ridge, but someone else on the summit with us said they saw a cairn on the left (north) side of the ridge. None of us saw a clear path across. Patrick, Thanks Patrick. I followed this for about 1.5 miles to a bridge and took a short break, feeling pretty good about the lack of snow so far on the route. We were stuck - the only reasonable way out was to somehow get across the lower slopes of this ridge and crest Columbia to return to our camp. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn down a use trail that wound up taking me down a series of steep, loose chutes. Columbia. They had apparently been following our lead, just as we had followed those in front of us. The trail was remarkably strong - I'd expected that we'd have to pick through talus to find hints of trails (much like many other Sawatch 14ers), but much of the trail was on dirt. Belford, and we were looking forward to tackling this third-highest peak in Colorado (since all of us had done numbers 1 and 2). To add an element of danger to the tedium, some large lentiform clouds were forming a few miles away, still looking fairly innocent but changing and building fast enough that they could easily become something more sinister. I arrived at the summit of Mount Columbia at 9:30, completing the traverse from Mount Harvard in three hours. Usually Roach is good at calling out roads that require high-clearance vehicles, but he makes no mention of the challenge of this. The weather had been cold but pleasant in the basin, but reaching the exposed ridgeline, I was immediately blasted by wind, even worse than what we had dealt with on Evans several days prior. Hope you get to come back to Colorado soon. Not seeing much, we returned to our spot and set up camp. The sky had faint wisps of clouds, but nothing building to serious storm clouds yet - a good sign. Look ahead for views into grassy Horn Fork Basin, as you leave forest behind. Having climbed Mount Massive two days prior, I felt equipped to handle the springs conditions in the Sawatch, and thought the combination would make for a reasonable day. This last bit surprised me. Massive and Mt. Harvard protect this amazing place like tall, gray sentinels. The trail buried in snow in most spots with large cairns sticking out of the ice, and I put on crampons for the first time all day, wanting the extra grip on the steeper section. I had hoped the wind might be a little better at the summit, but if anything, was worse. Most were quite stable, and the slope more forgiving. We took our time descending (along with two other groups that left the summit the same time as us to head to Mt. In my mind, the final summit push was an easy class 3, however all the books describe it as a class 2. Columbia on Sunday via the ridge that connected the two of them. View Mount Harvard Sunrise, Traverse to Columbia Image Gallery - 11 Images. The Harvard to Columbia trek was misery, but quite frankly, ascending the our descent route from the North Cottonwood trailhead seemed like it would be misery as well. Working up the ridgeline was particularly exhausting with the wind, being nearly knocked off my feet several times en route. Above: The view of Mt. Where we had well defined trail the entire route, it suddenly stopped, and we had to scramble up the last 50 feet or so to the summit. The last 50′ to the summit had some nice solid scrambling with a little extra spice given the ice, but nothing too difficult. The "trail" in question was a steep and very slick dirt track worn down from the tundra, weaving between football sized rocks, however it was marked with orange flags and cairns. I relived my first experience on the Harvard to Columbia traverse by reading yours. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Columbia Loop, located in San Isabel National Forest, Colorado. The other hikers that we had followed were on the summit and we chatted a bit before another pair of hikers appeared. None of us had much energy, certainly not enough to pack out that night (which was only an idea, we'd all planned this as a three-day excursion). Honestly, it was a delightful hike, and the final summit push was somewhat exhilarating. Unfortunately, my wife had to bow out due to a knee injury, which left Shari, Brad, Lonny, and myself to tackle these beasts. This is a 15.9 mile loop hike with 6400 cumulative feet of elevation gain that takes about 8-11 hours to complete. Lonny and Shari, who were above me, occasionally let loose small baseball sized rocks down in my direction, so I rapidly descended this section of trail to not get injured. (We'd considered skirting the summit, but a quick look at the map ruled out that possibility - we had to go over it.). It was slow going, but passable. Eventually, we spotted someone starting to descend down to the valley floor (12,200 ft) that left the summit before we did. Mount Harvard Sunrise, Traverse to Columbia, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." In hindsight, I believe descending to where Brad was (along the slightly grassy portion below Point 13,516) was the correct and safest route. We snapped the obligatory photo on the summit of Mt. Leaving Denver around 10:00am and stopping in Buena Vista for lunch, we arrived at the trailhead around 1:30pm. It had taken us a little under 2 hours to cover the 2.8 miles we'd hiked to camp. I'll be back as soon as I can. Lonny, Shari, and Brad had been turned back from La Plata the previous weekend due to a 10am thunderstorm! HAR012. Columbia, turn R and leave trail; head E to begin ascent of Columbia's W slopes. I found the use trail dropping down along the ridgeline, and things temporarily became more pleasant, not encountering snow again until the final pinnacle blocked the descent into the low point of the traverse which had been blocked from view the entire time. We hadn't seen anyone else on the trail until about 45 minutes later, when we stopped to apply sunscreen (once the sun crested the ridgeline to our east). A group of two hikers caught up to us, and a group of two more was not too far behind. Harvard and Mt. Columbia experience, however, was less than ideal. Hope you had a great trip. We had 1.5 miles of trail left to go, and it didn't look pleasant. I peeled off my wet clothes and put them in the dashboard to try and dry for the next day, then drove back to Buena Vista for pizza, beer and an early bedtime before my final day in Colorado, another double header on Shavano and Tabegauche.