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 Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
 Post Date:  07/06/2012
 Date Climbed:   06/30/2012
 Posted By:  PDavis

 Traversing the Ridge Top   

Columbia to Harvard Traverse

Distance-14.6 miles
Elevation Gain- 5,700 feet

This traverse has been in our plans for a while now and we finally got it done this past weekend. It seems that the majority of people tackle this by dropping all the way down off the ridge on the east side, but we decided that we wanted to make it a little more challenging so we stayed on the top of the ridge or at least as much as we thought would be possible and still stay safe. We also both heard how horrible the scree was on Columbia so it was decided that it would be best to climb Columbia first and descend Harvard since we felt going up scree isn't nearly as bad as coming down.

We left Friday afternoon so we could hike in part of the way into Horn Fork Basin. We hiked a little over 3 miles to where the trail forks and goes right up to Columbia. On the hike in we had to cross countless sections of the trail that had fallen trees all over the place. I don't think I've ever seen so many downed trees on a trail in my life and almost all of them were still green so it had to have happened recently.
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We made it to camp just about dark and threw up the tent. We found a perfect spot just east of the main trail.

Moon shot from camp
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The alarm went off about 3:20am and we were on the move by about 4. Once we made it to Columbia and hit the gully we found out firsthand about all the scree. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. This section is really steep too though, but the really bad sections only took us about 45 minutes or so to get through and the rest of the mountain really isn't that bad. We were trying to make good time to make it to the summit for the sunrise. We didn't quite make it, but we did make it to the top of the summit ridge just over 13,600ft just as the sun was coming up.
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Remaining ridge to summit from point 13,600ft
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Yale from summit of Columbia
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Harvard from Columbia
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We hung out on top just for a few and started to make our way off of the summit to start our nearly 2 1/2 mile traverse to the summit of Harvard. Getting to the ridge is pretty straight forward. Here is a pic looking back up on Columbia from the start of the ridge.
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Here is roughly our route that we took across the ridge. Please forgive the horrible, choppy line. I was having major issues with paint shop.
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The rock towers, roughly in the lower middle of the pic are the Rabbit Ears. This was the first point we dropped off the top of the ridge. We went around the left side, but it did look like either way would work, just the right side seemed to have a lot more loose rock.

Tony making his way down towards the ears
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Once we made it around the Rabbit Ears we were hoping to stay on the ridge crest from there, but once we got back on top it was really hard to tell what was ahead of us from our angle. There were a couple of spots that it looked like we would get cliffed out and have to back track and drop off the ridge anyway so we just decided to play it safe and drop off and go around to the right. Even with dropping off there was still some good class 3 climbing to be had.
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Back on the ridge top. Here we did drop down on the left, but just for a little ways and then from here on we were able to stay on the ridge top the rest of the way.
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Nearing the end of the difficulties of the ridge
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Tony at the end of all the real challenging scrambling. Looking back at what we just came across
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From hear it is just an easy climb to the summit of Harvard
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Summit block of Harvard
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Harvard summit
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Ridge and Columbia from the summit
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The climb down off of Harvard was fun and we both were extremely glad that we decided to descend Harvard instead of Columbia.

One last shot of Harvard from the hike out
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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
djkest


That looks great     2012-07-06 13:09:20
Looks like a great time, and nice photos. Congrats on your stab at a tough route that is often bypassed.


Chinook


Good work!     2012-07-06 21:08:09
I did that ridge 10 years ago and it is no joke. One of the more challenging 14er ridge traverses... I always thought that it should be the 5th classic 14er traverse.


Bldr2bouldr

Timing     2012-07-25 13:43:14
How long did it take you to complete the loop from your campground at the fork?


PDavis

.     2012-07-25 15:00:02
Thanks guys it was a good route. I would like to do it agian one day, but next time try to stay on the top of the ridge the entire way except for the Rabbit Ears.

Bldr2bouldr- We left a little after 4am and I believe we made it back to camp between 11 and 11:30. It took us just over 3 hours to get from the summit of Columbia to the summit of Harvard. We really weren't in a rush though and had to back track a couple of times for some route finding.



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