Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harvard and Columbia Traverse

My third attempt at making the Harvard to Columbia traverse looked promising on 8/20. Michelle was out of town, I had the truck, and the forecast called for less than 30% chance of showers.

I set out from Denver and made it to the trail head by Saturday afternoon. Hikers returning from Harvard looked haggard and warned me of close lightning strikes. The hike in was pleasant and clear and I found a campsite in the trees.

That night I froze in my summer bag. I woke at 4:30 and started out at 5:15. I wanted to get an early start to avoid afternoon storms. Turns out it was a good plan.

The ascent of Harvard (photo 1) is a fun and easy hike. You get spectacular views of the ridge between the two peaks as you make the long climb (photo 2).

I made the summit of Harvard and started the traverse to Columbia. You have to work at it to scramble on the first half mile from the top of Harvard. If you are in it for the scrambling, I recommend that you take the harder road: it will be more fun.

Once you get on the ridge proper stay as high as you can (photos 3,4,5). There is always an escape route if you search for it that isn't harder than Class 4. The climbing here is as intense as you want it to be. There is a fair amount of exposure and you are a long way from civilization so I found it a very enjoyable experience.

The storm clouds were brewing as I reached the rabbits. My camera view screen was broken, so the picture here is accidental (photo 6)! As I passed the rabbits the skies cleared so I felt better about my ascent of Columbia. As I was going up, a mountain goat was coming down the ridge. He came within 5 feet of me. Very cool (photo 7).

On top of Columbia the clouds were building again and thunder was rumbling. In fact my hair was starting to crackle so I high-tailed it off the ridge and down. The descent is a horrible mix of dirt and scree. This was the least enjoyable part of the trip and I think we should all volunteer to improve this trail. I can't imagine trying to ascend it (photo 8).

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mount Princeton

Michelle and I decided to hit the Cottonwood Hot Springs for our anniversary. She was going to go for a massage while I climbed Harvard and Columbia. I knew the trip was going to be tight since it is a 14.5 mile hike. I would need to get up very early. Well I didn't. Plan B was an ascent of Mount Princeton.

The road up to the radio towers was narrow, but very passable in a 4wd vehicle. In fact you can find parking farther up the road if you want to cut down on the hike. Slogging up the road isn't my idea of a great time, but soon enough you get off road on the trail. As the road makes a big switchback, Mt Princeton comes into view. You might be tempted to leave the road here, but continue up the road seemingly the wrong way. Look for the steps in picture 1 for the true trail.

Once you ascend the grassy knob you come to rockier terrain. Traversing the boulders is as close to scrambling as this trail gets. Photos 2 & 3 give you a good idea of the meat of this hike. This is a popular trail with people of all abilities. There was even a lady wearing ballerina shoes.

While this was an enjoyable 14er ascent, I must get back to scrambles. The obligatory summit shot: photo 4. With my second attempt on Harvard-Columbia foiled, I thought that photo 5 properly captured my despair. Just kidding... check out the bristlecone pine behind me. The soak at Cottonwood Hot Springs was a fitting end to the hike.