| Late Start.... Did we make it?
My friend spong0949, with his friend Jared and I, set out to do Columbia. I had the printout from 14ers.com all ready to take us to the trailhead and do Columbia's SE Ridge.
But on the drive down from Longmont, we realized spong0949 only had Harvard and Columbia remaining for the Sawatch 14ers, so we went by Roach's directions to get to the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead, and we now aimed to do Harvard and the traverse to Columbia.
But we had a very late start...
At 8:25 we took off on the trailhead and enjoyed the amazing fall aspens:
One great thing about this hike is the super-easy walk in to the mountains for a few miles, before coming to the base of Harvard (or Columbia if you choose).
After treeline, you get a beautiful view of both Harvard and Columbia from Horn Forks Basin:
Harvard's large solid rocks are pleasant to hike up, and have obvious cairns:
After enjoying the scenery and taking more time than usual, we arrive on Harvard's summit. spong0949 is feeling a bit light-headed and decides he'll come back for Columbia another day, so he heads back down to his truck. Jared and I get started towards Columbia at 1:30, and figured we could just follow the path. But it's already late in the day… will we make it?
The trail led us to this steep gully of nasty scree that we didn't know to avoid (since we hadn't studied this traverse previously). If you're planning on doing this route, be sure to study where you SHOULD go, so you avoid this section:
Here's the remaining route:
We headed down into the drainage, which is a massive area of large rocks:
The daylight was burning fast as we trekked across the rocks:
We looked for the best line to attack the ridge and arrived on it at 4:45pm. Jared and I were getting pretty gassed out by this point, but we had a cool view of Harvard.
We thought it would take longer to get to Columbia's summit from the ridge, but with not much light left in the day, we pushed extra hard and arrived on top at 5:12pm:
Last year I did a normal handstand on Harvard's summit, so I had to top that on Columbia:
I have to say, the only bad part about this day was coming down Columbia. It made Jared and me thank God that we didn't have to go UP this route – the long, semi-steep scree all the way down to the basin was not easy to get down.
I decided to attempt the "surfing" method to get down Columbia's west slope, while Jared tried both surfing and crab walking. Neither of these were perfect methods. He would bonk his butt on rocks every now and then and exclaim. And as comfortable as I am doing the "surfing" down the scree, it was steep enough to get out of control without warning, which scraped up my hands and legs a little. Just be sure you don't put your hands down on one of these:
After about 1.25 hours of constant sliding, we were down. "Goodbye, Columbia! I won't miss you!"
Since Jared and I obviously hadn't come down the easiest way off Columbia (I learned this after having read some of the other trip reports a few days later), we had to do some bushwhacking to find the main trail and arrived at the trail at 7:15pm.
By 7:30pm it was dark, and I busted out the headlamp to get us back to spong0949 and our ride home. We booked it hard to get back on the easy trail. We were even MORE grateful for the lack of steepness on the way back!
At about 8:05 we saw someone heading UP the trail with a flashlight – it was spong0949 to the rescue! He had gotten worried, and being the great friend he is, he had gotten out of his comfortable truck seat and came after us to see if there was a problem. What a relief! Hiking in the dark of the night is not as fun if you didn't plan for it.
At 8:30pm we were back at the car, and were ecstatic to remove our hiking shoes and sit on our butts. But as tired as we all were, it was worth it. Definitely a beautiful adventure on two awesome mountains. And thank God for the beautiful weather -- even though we started waaaay too late, WE STILL DID IT! WAHOO!!!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):