Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia
I know I’ve said it before, but we’ve got it made.
On Friday afternoon, MattB and I headed up Cottonwood pass with our sites set on camping high and attacking Mt. Harvard (14,420′) and Mt. Columbia (14,077′) in the morning. We knew there was a chance we’d be meeting up with JCarr at some point, who had ridden his bike over from Gunnison (he’d been training for the Colorado Trail Race).
We picked JCarr up on his way back up Cottonwood pass. “I’m thinking I’ll just ride back to Gunni,” he said. We looked at him like he was crazy and convinced him to come camp with us. “You can ride back in the morning if you’re feeling that bad,” we offered. I knew if we got him to the camp site he wouldn’t be able to pass up the hike.
A little plug for Hennessy Hammocks: these things are awesome. I’ve borrowed one from a friend several times and can’t get over how great they sleep. I don’t own my own, but it’s on my short list of gear to purchase. They pack well, are simple and provide a perfect nest. Get yourself one.
We awoke after a great nights sleep and hit the trail at a leisurely 8:30am. We made great time up Mt. Harvard and JCarr committed for the full circuit. After talking with a couple guys who had just made the class 3/4 traverse along the ridge between Harvard and Columbia, we decided that dropping down to the valley would be a wise option. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong gully to bring us to the valley floor. As the trail dissipated into loose, moving scree, graupel began to fall from the sky. Our ears were perked for any sign of thunder and we set a brisk pace down the slip and slide path. We arrived safely in the boulder field below.
The next section really took it out of JCarr and MattB. For about an hour we played connect the dots with Volkswagon-sized boulders, some of which rocked and rolled, some of which were steady as a, *ahem*, rock.
We reached a nice meadow where I refilled my water from a mountain stream. The rest of the ascent to Mt. Columbia’s summit was relatively smooth and the weather held out. We reached the top and enjoyed some of the whisky MattB had schlepped along.
Columbia’s decent was awful. Loose. Steep. Poor trail. For each step, you would slide four feet. I had to put my head down and just let the mountain take me. There was no right way to get down this face and was one of the more frustrating sections of the mountain. But that’s climbing fourteeners, I suppose.
Our PBRs were still waiting in the stream where we stashed them the previous day. We made it to the truck after a long day and cracked the beer open, ate some chips and oatmeal cream pies and let our feet rest. It was a great couple of days in the mountains.
All photo credit to MattB.