Peak(s):  Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  07/26/2011
Date Climbed:   07/08/2011
Author:  Paco
 Escape from the heat (7 in 7) Part 1   

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Once again, my family and I decided to head to Colorado for a nice break from the Texas heat and drought. As usual I did my fair share of peakbagging during the mornings before going sightseeing with the family.

-July 5: we made our first stop in Crestone, arriving in the evening.

-July 6: I went for a warm up/acclimatization hike the following day from the Willow Creek trailhead and made it to 13,500' on the wet Challenger Point slopes where I turned around due to mild altitude sickness and deteriorating weather.
Willow creek basin, from 13,500'
Willow Lake.

-July 7: We spent most of the day in Royal Gorge and then traveled to our cabin in Twin Lakes, we would spend the next seven days there.

-July 8: I drove up to North Cottonwood Creek trailhead with the intention to climb Mt. Columbia. I met Drew from Silverthorne who had the same plan in mind and we set out on a fast paced hike at 5:45 am; unfortunately we both missed the side trail to Columbia and kept going forward toward Mt. Harvard, he had not climbed it yet so he didn't mind, I had done it last year but was excited and a bit nervous at the same time to do it again given the current snow conditions. Just above timberline the trail got really soggy and muddy and eventually I got my feet wet since I was wearing my trailrunners which I brought to do the dry Columbia.
Upper Mt. Harvard slopes

We crossed the swollen creek on a dicey snow bridge and continued up by the still frozen Bear Lake and through some steep but firm snow fields where we lost the trail at times. For the final pitch we picked a line to the east of the summit and made it without problems at 9:59 am. It looked like we were the first ones up there that morning. The "King of the hill" marmot was sitting on the summit block once again.
Horn Fork Basin from Harvard's summit.
Myself on the summit of Harvard.

Some clouds were starting to build around this and the surrounding peaks so we only spent a few minutes up there, we headed down hiking along the west ridge to near a minor peak to avoid the snow fields, the views to the west were astounding; we encountered a few parties going up. The rest of the hike out was long but uneventful and we reached the parking lot at 1 pm.

-July 9: I drove up the steep and narrow Mt. Princeton road to a switchback around 10,550' and started the hike on the boring road around 6 am. As I got on the actual trail I started running into other parties; got on the ridge after a bit of rock hopping, it got a little windy, I could see the rest of the route up the talus covered summit cone, it was all dry and straightforward.
Upper slopes of Mt. Princeton

By 9 am I was standing on the crowded summit and had good views toward Antero, Shavano and Tabeguache, clouds were starting to build on the 14 ers to the north.
Mt. Antero from the summit of Princeton.
Mt. Yale fron the summit of Princeton.

On my way down I aimed toward the lower trail once I got off the first part of the summit slope to avoid the crowds on the ridge, this made my descent easier and after all that rock hopping section I took off running all the way to my car which I reached by 10:15 am. This was a completely different hike than the one up Harvard, I didn't like it much.

-July 10: I went up the North Cottonwood trail one more time to do Columbia at 5:30 am, this time I turned off on the right trail and headed up the steep west slopes after crossing the only firm snowfield on this route across the talus and then up the ugly gulley, fortunately for me the terrain had a bit better traction than normal thanks to the previous evening rain. The steep shoulder took forever to climb but once on the ridge I knew that it would be easier the rest of the way. The winds picked up and the skies got darker on that cloudy and chilly morning, there was no one else in sight as I pushed along the ridge going over the several false summits.
Mt Harvard fron the summit of Mt. Columbia.

I summited shortly after 9 am and had the summit to myself, the views of the Horn fork basin were great,
On the summit of Columbia looking sowthwest.
I snapped a few photos and started my hike down, a light rain/ice pellets shower fell for a while as I sped up down the steep slopes. That long, ugly and steep slope went by in a blur, I never saw anyone else on the Columbia slopes. I did a jog/ run most of the trail through the woods and got out of there by 11:30 am.

Part 2 of my report will contain: Missouri Mtn, Decalibron, Mt. Antero and Mt. Sherman (July 11-14), comming soon...

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