From North Cottonwood Creek TH
Saturday August 27,2005
I arrived at the trailhead parking lot at 10:25PM with every last parking spot gone I then had to back into a rather tight space between a couple of huge trees. The skies were clear and through the tree tops was a brilliant starry sky. This is a very heavily forested area with many giant trees which made it especially dark.
I noticed a few people that were still awake but otherwise everybody had already turned in for the night. I took my flashlight and found the trailhead and then crawled into the back of my GMC Sonoma and was soon fast asleep.
My watch alarm woke me at 3:30AM and I made ready to hit the trail. I boiled some water, and had instant oatmeal and black coffee for breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only person up in the entire area which seemed odd to me. I donned my headlamp and was on my way up the trail at 4:40.
The trail is excellent and travels through an old forest as the trees are all huge, a good sized stream (North Cottowood Creek) can be heard as it parallels the trail for a good distance and the ascent is gradual as I turned right at the Mt Harvard (Kroenke Lake left) sign and continued to climb to a large basin after passing several campsites tucked in the trees, I didn’t see one single person the entire way, just a little “spooky” in these dark woods. Here I stopped and packed away my headlamp as daylight showed the way of the trail up into the beautiful green Horn Fork Basin with Mt Harvard directly ahead and Mt Columbia to my immediate right.
I passed three guys shortly before turning right at the Mt Harvard (Bear Lake straight) sign. I made my way over a grassy crown which then turned into a rock field with the trail well marked with cairns and obviously well traveled as the ascent becomes quite steeper. Before long I was again on another grassy area with two giant cairns leading the way to the rocky trail heading up to the summit. The climb now consists of short, steep switchbacks as you gain altitude quickly here and looking back at the basin below and facing the basin I could also see Bear Lake off to right.
Nearing the top the rocks change into giant boulders & stones and the very last portion before the summit I had to clammer up and over some large stones and onto a small vacant summit at 8:10AM. The views were amazing and I could make out many 14’er peaks in the vicinity; (Belford, Oxford, Elbert, etc to the west and Yale, Princeton, Antero, Shavano, etc east & south) I had the summit to myself for a good 20 mins until others showed and I stayed ‘til 9:05 after taking many photos, grabbing a bite, and a long drink of water I headed back down as it was getting a bit crowded on this “little” summit area and there were now plenty of people heading up.
Now I headed back down into the inviting, lush, green basin below with clouds building to the east over Mt Princeton as I was now in search of the trail to Mt Columbia……..............
My 19th 14’er and another beautiful Colorado morning. Sweet!! Now on to Mt Columbia.