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Mt Harvard / Mt Columbia Traverse

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Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 37.9 miles


We decided to make this a multi-day hike as to have some time to slow down and enjoy the experience. hiked up to treeline to establish base camp. Next day hiked Mt Harvard and traversed over to Mt Columbia; back down to base camp. Hiked out next day.
  • Trailhead
  • Base Camp
  • base camp II
  • Looking South
  • Looking North
  • Bear Lake
  • Trail looking North
  • Looking South
  • Boulder Field
  • Hikers
  • Looking SW
  • SUMMIT!
  • Summit
  • Looking South East
  • Traverse
  • Looking NW
  • Looking SW
  • Looking NW
  • view NW
  • Basecamp
  • Steep loose trail
  • view East
  • Marmot Summit
  • Natural Beauty
  • Creek crossing
  • Bridge
  • Sign

Left Albuquerque with Chaz, David (Chaz’s son), Coops, and myself around 1000 on 8 Jul 09. We planned to drive up to Buena Vista and stay at Best Western prior to starting the trek. It was about a 5 hour drive due to a stop in Santa Fe at an outdoor store for some hiking/camping supplies we really didn’t need. Arrived at Buena Vista just before dark for some good eats for dinner. Spent the evening arranging all our gear to be up for a 0700 push for the trailhead. We arrived at the trailhead following a bumpy drive up the dirt road to the Mt Harvard trailhead. We started the hike around 1000, 9 Jul 09, and pushed hard to make it up to base camp at the tree line with some super heavy packs to allow a little time to relax in hammocks and do some exploring. We arrived at the site around 1300 and set up the base camp. Had some lunch and did a warm-up hike up to Bear Lake for some site seeing and pics. Once back down to camp, we made some meatball noodles and prepared for the next day’s trek. Up early at 0600, we gathered enough gear for an all day 2 summit gig and pressed out at 0645. Super weather on the way up and watching closely to make the “go call” for the additional Columbia summit. We met 4 other hikers that we kept crossing paths and they had a 12 week old lab pup making the Harvard summit. Once up to, almost the summit, had to put on our cold weather gear for the drop in temp and higher wind velocities. There was a “last ditch” sketchy scramble up to the peak of Harvard to make it just that more exciting. Once on the summit at 1030, ate some PB&Js and shared the spectacular views with our newly made friends with the lab, who was exhausted takin’ a nap. We decided the WX was superb and departed summit at 1100 for the Columbia traverse which turned out to be quite interesting as we made it up as we went. We didn’t have really good track files from the net and made a few real-time decisions as we progressed. Fairly straight forward for the 1st part until we got to about a ¼ of the way over where you have to descend. 2 of our 4 stayed high and Coops and I decided it was better to descend sooner and took the low road due to the huge rock pile that was enamored with unstable boulders just waiting to snap our femurs. We ended up rendezvousing near the lowest elevation that we were going to descend to before the start of the “steep” climb up to Columbia starring us in the face. We regrouped with taping hot spots on the feets and determined we were really low on water and had to figure out how to ration the water intake for the ascent. Also, had to plot a route up the other side of the ascent from the known track files that previously led us astray and what looked like the best route. We ended up circumventing around a rock slide, crossed a series of runoff streams and started up the other side which was all quite primitive with little signs of a beaten path. After 1.5 hours we finally made it up to the start of the infamous boulder pile of rocks separating us from the summit of Columbia. At this point, 2 of us were feeling the full effects of the altitude, minor dehydration, and somewhat of a nauseous feeling for the last 3-400 yds across the 45 degree rock piles to the summit. David was marmot like and scampered up way in front of us older guys and disappeared at the peak. After making multiple edumacated decisions in 3 independent lines to the “finish”, we finally arrived Mt Columbia’s summit at 1600. We admired the summit with the incredible views of Harvard and the valley we had just hiked, had some snacks, and made some calls home. the almost shear drop on the western side was quite amazing too. There were some mature built thunderstorms working their way to us, and decided we had better set off after 30 minutes or so on the summit. We saw another solo hiker following the path we took and she made it up in record time. Couldn’t believe that she had on sneakers!! We took a “hero shot” of her on the summit as she held up a “23” for another one under her belt and watched her pull away from us with record speed down the ridge we had to cross before the BRUTAL descent! We pushed from Columbia summit at 1640 and went about 1.5 miles before turning down the shale/scree infested trail back towards base camp. It was getting dark and you could see multiple columns of rain showers and every now and then a bolt of lightning that made us pretty determined to continue the pace as we were very vulnerable on the SW face of Columbia. We finally made it back to base camp at 1815 as the bottom fell out and it poured with lightning to boot. We all jumped in our tents with zero energy and passed out for about 2 hours. Once the rain let up, we cooked up some dinner and crashed shortly thereafter. Woke up the next morning around 0730, broke down base camp and left 0830. We arrived back at the TH around 1030, threw gear into truck and made a 4.5 hour dash back to Abq. Great WX and super trip overall!!

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