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).

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