| My new favorite and least favorite 14er
1. Harvard is my new favorite 14er.
2. Harvard/Columbia traverse is new my favorite traverse.
3. Hiking down Columbia is frustrating.
After a sweet trip up Massive the night before, Dan, Craig, and I camped near the North Cottonwood trailhead, and woke up early for a 3AM start. We were from Golden, and were planning on meeting my Dad, who was from Durango, at 3AM, but he somehow ended up at the 3 elk creek trailhead, where he got lost. I felt bad because I rarely get to see Dad anymore with busy engineering work taking up most of my time.
We ended up signing in around 3:45 after waiting and trying to get a text out (sorry AT&T users)
The lower trail below treeline had many trees that had fallen over. Hiking early in the morning, over the trees, after the previous day's 14er, made my knees hurt to the point I was unsure if I'd even make it up Harvard.
First sight of Harvard
Looking at the traverse there are many interesting rock formations on the ridge.
Rabbit on the ridge
When we went above treeline, the wind started blowing and I became very cold. Dan and Craig were as well, so we took a quick break for food and hiked until we found sunlight (Columbia got in the way a bit )
Excellent trail above treeline
The hike up Harvard was pretty incredible. We did lose the trail a little bit because we didn't hit any switchbacks, but climbing directly up the slope was enjoyable (a couple other hikers thought so as well). Craig and I would look back to keep an eye on Dan (who was trying to catch up on some phone calls) and be greeted with the amazing valley and views of Princeton, Columbia, and Yale, and farther up, part of Antero, Shavano, and Tabaguache.
Finally near the summit of Harvard, Craig and I took some adventurous class 3 climbing to get to the top. The final 50 ft or so to the summit simply pushed Harvard to the top of my favorite-14ers-so-far list. After Dan caught up, we took some pictures and parted ways: Dan to descent Harvard, Craig and I on to the traverse. Earlier I had questioned my energy, but the rock climbing on Harvard was enough to lift my spirits and the Gatorade was enough to crush my cramps.
Craig, Dan, and I on Harvard
Traverse as seen from Harvard
It warmed up a lot, and the sky was cloudless as we hopped on over to Columbia. The first portion or so of the traverse is high on the ridge with some occasional boulder hopping with great views to the North (namely Belford and Oxford), East, and the South.
Columbia, Princeton, and Yale from Harvard
The second portion is, as the route description describes, a part where is is best to drop to the north to avoid a very steep gully (trust me you'll get your share of steep loose rock on the Columbia descent)
Drop down on ridge to avoid steep gully
The third and final section was a hike up a boulder field to the Columbia summit. The TR recommends you take the right side of the "triangle" that you see in the saddle, but due the direction of the wind, we found it less miserable to go up the left side. Hikers at the top were jealous of our route confirming our good decision.
Me on top of Columbia
The wind picked up big time on the summit of Columbia. I could tell Craig was tired and I was looking forward to being down myself after over 10,000ft of gain in 2 days.
The decent trail on Columbia wasn't very fun. The rock was loose, the trail was not well-defined, and we found false cairns. One section was particularly miserable.
Loose Columbia descent
The low part of our weekend occurred when we lost trail near treeline, and I angrily flung rocks off of two false quasi-cairns. We wisely backtracked and found a hiker with two dogs who pointed out the trail to us (thank you!)
Back on treeline we hauled back over the trees to the car over the fallen trees.
We lost a bit of time on the descent, I wasn't comfortable with the slope and got lazy with my technique from the fatigue, and loosing the trail was hard on our spirits. We joked about the omen of my 13th 14er in response to a previous non-summit with Craig on his 13th (Princeton -- lightning). Thankfully Craig and I had a pretty enjoyable conversation on the way to the car, and I was really impressed that Dan wasn't terribly upset with our delay.
This is truly the hallmark in my hiking/climbing career. I intentionally did some class 3 stuff on the traverse and a bit on Harvard's summit. Craig and I did some good, responsible trail finding on the traverse. Columbia was fun to ascend but not my favorite descent. I found later that on his way back to Durango my Dad found a bike trail that he said was one of the best trails of his life.
I may take a weekend off, but I'm seriously addicted to these peaks now. My next 14er will be my 14th, I'll have to do something special to celebrate. Long's peak is starting to becoming a realistic goal and I anticipate that with much fervor!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):