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Combo) Harvard and Columbia Traverse
6,100 feet from trailhead 4,450 feet from camp in Horn Fork Basin 1,500 feet one-way between summits
15 miles RT from trailhead 7 miles RT from camp in Horn Fork Basin 2.75 miles one-way between summits
N. Cottonwood Creek
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.
First, follow Mt. Harvard Route #1 to reach the summit of Harvard. You'll need at least a couple of hours to get to Mt. Columbia so don't start the traverse if the weather is deteriorating. Columbia is 2.75 miles to the southeast - Photo #1. Hike east along Harvard's summit ridge (Photo #2) to a notch - Photo #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 (Photo #4 and Photo #5) to reach a small, flat area. Begin descending southeast down the ridge towards a sharp (pointed) rock formation, near 14,100' - Photo #6, Photo #7 and Photo #8. Pass on the right (Photo #8) and follow a faint trail through talus on the south side of the ridge - Photo #9.
Once back on the ridge at 13,900', follow a thin trail down toward a prominent 13,516-foot point - Photo #10 and Photo #11. Once you descend to approx. 13,450', contour around the north side of Point 13,516' - Photo #12. What little trail you've followed will disappear when you reach the talus on the north side of this point. Photo #13 looks back at the descent from Harvard. Continue around the north side of the point (Photo #14) to reach the its east ridge where you'll get an excellent view of the remaining route - Photo #15. From the edge of the ridge, many people drop down a steep, loose gully to the southeast (shown in red in Photo #15) but it's safer to turn left and descend easier terrain on the east side of Point 13,516' - Photo #16. The loose gully is more direct but it's an ugly descent on very loose rock. Hike down the east side and then turn right (southwest) near 12,800' - Photo #17 and Photo #18. Contour southwest back into the talus at the base of the connecting ridge, near 12,800' - Photo #19.
Hike over an initial talus "bump" and descend slightly on grassy terrain to reach more talus - Photo #20. Staying near 12,800', continue south below the ridge over more and more talus - Photo #21. Once you pass below the "rabbit" (Photo #22), you'll begin your ascent towards Columbia - Photo #23. Photo #24 looks back from approx. 12,900'. Continue on the talus as you approach 13,000' and easier terrain - Photo #25. Above 13,000' Columbia's summit comes into view as you hike right (south) around Point 13,497' - Photo #26 and Photo #27. Cross easy, grassy terrain and gain the left side of the saddle between Columbia and Point 13,497' - Photo #28 and Photo #29.
Reach the ridge crest near 13,400' and turn left to follow the ridge toward the summit - Photo #30. There's no trail but the route is straightforward - stay on or just left of the ridge crest- Photo #31. Near 13,800' reach a steep section just below the summit - Photo #32. Stay slightly left and climb about 100' steep rock (Photo #33) to see the summit - Photo #34. Walk over to the top. Photo #35 looks back on the traverse from Harvard. To return to Horn Fork Basin, follow Mt. Columbia Route #2 (West Slopes).
While it's the standard way to climb Harvard and Columbia in one day, this is a long, strenuous hike. Pick a day with fine weather and start early. 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 Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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