Date: 26 June, 2007
Participants: cftbq, trishapajean
Distance: ~15 miles
Vertical: ~6,200 ft.
Trishapajean had just three Sawatch fourteeners left to check off, and I had been looking forward to a repeat of Harvard for some time. So we couldn’t say no to the prospect of a twofer that wouldn’t require snow equipment.
We got to the North Cottonwood Creek TH a bit before sunrise (per plan), and set off for what is perhaps the Sawatch’s most demanding fourteener. We marveled at how much water was in the creek. The morning was clear and calm, and the early views of Harvard were great. So was the view southward, out of Horn Fork Basin, from which all the rest of the southern Sawatch’s high peaks can be glimpsed. The trail is great (if steep!) right up to the summit block. By the time we approached the summit, I was hiking in a t-shirt.
We spotted a couple with a dog as we were making our way up onto the SW ridge, and we met up with them at the summit. Never did get their names, but the dog’s name was Willow, and she’s done several other fourteeners. It was pleasantly warm, and I took the time to take a good brace of pictures, including a batch which I will stitch together into a panorama later.
We didn’t see many pikas on this trip, but we sure saw a lot of marmots! One posed on a rock just above trishapajean’s shoulder as I was snapping her picture on the summit.
We followed the ridge east from Harvard to the point where Roach recommends descending, near Point 13,516. We found we had to descend into the Frenchman’s Creek drainage to about 12,400 (not the 12,800 Roach reports) before starting the trail-less slog up Columbia. The descent was slow going, with some rocks being unavoidable, but the terrain on the Columbia side as generally easier than that on the Harvard side.
Shortly after starting up, we overtook the other couple, and we basically all climbed the north face together. After what seemed like forever—and was, in fact, about five hours—we arrived at the summit of Columbia with Willow and her humans just a couple of minutes behind. It had turned windy and chilly, with clouds threatening rain all around us, so we didn’t linger long. Here, as on Harvard, we were glad to find a register in good condition.
On the way down, we found fairly large patches of snow lingering in some places along the southeast ridge, but they were easy to avoid. We hadn’t intended to, but somehow we still managed to condemn ourselves to the scree slog of the southwest slopes on our descent. I had intended to follow the ridge for a ways farther east, then descend what looked like a fairly short and gentle rib between two small drainages. The cold wind on the ridge, however, probably made me “jump” a little, and decide that we were already there when, in fact, we weren’t.
It was a long day, getting dark when we finally got back to the TH. But it was a very satisfying double dose of fourteeners.