ConditionsMountains: Mt. Harvard (14,420')
Route: N. Cottonwood Creek TH (9880') » Horn Fork Basin » Harvard Summit
Elevation Gain - 4600' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 13 miles (approx)
Crew - Doumall, Prakash
Warm nights Thursday through Saturday laid to rest our hopes for safe attempts on any steep couloirs and we started making alternative plans. Joe (Doumall, 14ers.com) met me at Jan's restaurant at Buena on Saturday afternoon after leaping up and over La Plata in one more of those superhuman stunts of his. He brought tidings of fierce heat and rapidly melting white matter. With this in mind we drove to the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead with plans for a freakishly early start on Harvard. Harvard is a bit special to me. A little over a year ago it was my 10th 14er and my first successful snow climb. We summitted in a whiteout back then (on a day when NOAA predicted a 10% chance of snow)... I'd broken a brand new pole, was using footwarmers to warm my numb fingers, and for some reason, found it highly necessary to do this on the summit block...
Summit Block... Harvard - Oct 06, Photo (c) doumall
The climb roused my hidden love for climbing in piss poor weather, but that's enough of nostalgia. Since then I'd learned to ski (gape) and was back for another attempt. We reached the TH at around 7PM, set up camp and hit the sack rather early.
We were up at 1:30 and were on the trail at 2:30AM. We were both carrying AT/Avy gear and began hiking in AT boots. We booted our way up to 10600'. The trail was covered with frequent deep snowdrifts and early as it was we were still creating knee deep postholes occasionally. We switched to skins at 10600' and kept them on for the next 3500'. The night was warm and we realized we'd have to get to the summit at around 10 for a reasonably safe and fun ski. We occasionally stepped off trail but were usually back on it with minimal fuss. We were up in the middle of the basin at around 6AM and found refrozen crust aplenty. Doumall skins up the basin.
Doumall Skins Above Horn Fork Basin
Our route up the basin with Yale in the background.
At 12000' we stopped for a rather leisurely breakfast. While I whipped out a trail bar and some of deez nuts Doumall lighted a Jetboil and set about making some of the best Ramen ever tasted. Salt tastes pretty damn good on the mountains. At around 7:15AM we began skinning some more and got to the base of the bench we needed to ascend to get to the upper slopes of the beast. Here there was no continuous snowline and we had to shoulder our skis and boot up some annoying dirt/talus. Our objective now lay ahead of us.
Sights on the Goal
The Upper Mountain:
Doumall skins up from the bench... A gusty wind had by now begun belaboring the downsides of mountain climbing.
Doumall Skins up from the Bench
The skinning was pretty straightforward until 14,100' where we shouldered our skis and began booting up the final 300 feet of talus up to the summit.
Prakash Boots up to the Summit Block, Photo (c) doumall
We decided to scramble up some slabs to summit direct instead of looping around and up. Doumall does his duties.
Summit Pitch 1
Summit Pitch 2
Summit Pitch 3
Summit Pitch 4
and I joined in the fun...
Summit Pitch 5, Photo (c) doumall
Summit and Ski Descent:
We summitted at 9:30AM. Skins came off in the wind as Doumall prepared for his summit descent.
and then I shed some skin too...
Shedding Skin, Photo (c) doumall
Some Billygoating was to be performed while I would walk down a couple hundred feet to ski something that was more, well, skiable. At 10:15AM when just enough sun had hit the slopes, Doumall touched the summit block and took off of some sweet rock.
Off the Summit!
Look there's steak down in Buena.
Doumall skied around the top of the north slopes down to the saddle. After this stretch I boulder hopped off the summit with the skis on my pack and descended down below doumall to a strip of snow he used to reach the main snowfields.
Below the summit block I strapped on my skis while Doumall proceeded to do this...
The Main Snowfields
The South Slopes
Glorious corn... all over the upper south slopes. Steep, glistening corn strewn over wide open slopes. There was one spot where rocks punctuated the slopes, but wide open otherwise.
The South Slopes 2
The South Slopes 3
And past those rocks there was more corn. Lots of it.
So we reap!
And reap some more...
I decided to pitch in and work the field as well...
Working the Field, Photo (c) doumall
45 minutes after leaving summit we were back down at 12000' and had had brilliant fun doing it. It is completely worth lugging a coffin up a hill on your back if it makes for a safe sled ride back down. Doumall skies down past 12000'.
We were soon down in Horn Fork basin shedding all but the base layer. It was starting to get stupid hot and there were still a few miles of sweet postholing to look forward to. We skied through the trees down to 10600'. There was a lot of shrub and rock skiing to be done but we were adamant. Below 10600' we continued the slog in boots. Excellent postholes were had by all although it was a little better than we expected. We were back at the Budweiser stash at 1:30PM for a roundtrip of almost 11 hours including stops. Some proof of our shenanigans'
Indelible Proof of our Mischief
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