A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

A strong appetite, average palate, and weak writing, mixed with outdoor adventure.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Harvard and Columbia

  • Route: Standard Route with a Traverse
  • Distance: ~14.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: ~6,000
  • Start time: 4:18 AM
  • Time: 10.5 hours
  • Climbers: Alan, Jen and Sandy

The original plan called for Capitol Peak, but given the length of the drive and our late departure we were looking at a 17 mile day on 2.5 hours of sleep. Safety and sanity won out and we headed for Harvard and Columbia, which offered a less technical route, more sleep and more vertical gain.

The alarm sounded at 3:35 and with coffee hastily consumed the slog was on. The walk through woods is pleasant enough. Minimal elevation gain, a gurgling stream and birds chirping, all portending to a pleasant excursion. Amidst an ever expanding scene of alpine beauty I forgot my trekking poles after a bathroom break. I dropped my pack and jogged back down the trail to retrieve them. I then jogged right by my pack on the return trip and have to backtrack again. Bonus mileage…and here is where my troubles began.

My stomach was feeling unsettled and waves of nausea would pass me by. A few times I thought I was going to throw up, and would have felt better for it, but it never happened. Meanwhile Jen is herself, meaning a hiking and climbing machine with nary a complaint. As for Alan, he had hit his stride and was ready to consume  6,000 vertical feet.

We hit the base of Columbia and looked up at a loose gully stretching 2,000 vertical feet to the summit ridge. Alan headed straight up and Jen and I followed. There was backsliding, rocks rolling, nausea and no shortage of expletives. Jen and I missed the turn to the right that would have put us on solid ground. I offered to not speak as I had nothing nice to say at that point and we ground upward. Upon reaching the summit ridge it was a short hop to the summit.


Jen and I are the black specks in the middle, 500 feet down.


Summit Circus Sideshow in full effect

We dropped off the summit and began the traverse. We hopped down talus, slid down scree, sidehilled on grassy slopes and picked our way across snowfields. I started feeling better and began to push it, sweating out whatever toxins were ruining my day, and ascended a loose gully and earned solid footing by gaining Harvard’s summit ridge.


Crossing a lingering snowfield on the traverse

There are no shortage of variations that can be taken. I went high through a loose gully and Jen and Alan wisely ascended grassy slopes that were covered in wildflowers.


Jen amongst wildflowers


Jen and Alan on the saddle prior to the summit push for Harvard, not the deep blue sky, it was nearly cloudless all day

The scramble to Harvard was quick, but not painless as we crossed 6,000 vertical feet. It was a subdued celebration, with an emphasis on rest.


The “prone flex shot” for those who are tired


Alan celebrates his 21st 14er summit of the year


Jen offers a lesson on the proper technique for a summit rest


Me and Alan watching some “alpine TV”


Up and ready to descend

The walk out goes on and on, with a series of large steps leading back to treeline. We stopped to reload on water and try to tempt one another with our remaining food to lighten our loads.


Pump and drinking, it was hot, sunny and we had run out of water 30 minutes prior, the cool stream water was delicious

Post-climb beers were once again consumed at Eddyline Brewery,  along with two appetizers and three entrees. A show of gluttony not uncommon in this country, but it felt deserved.


Down time in the park prior to dinner


Over 4,000 calories were consumed in the form of chips, burgers, beers, fries, fried vegetables, steak, potatoes and more beer

On the drive to the Rockdale Trailhead for the next day’s climb we were right on the northern edge of a storm moving northeast. Compliments of our location and the storm’s trajectory we had the end of the rainbow approximately 200 yards off the roadway and it moved northward with us. Unfortunately, the photo below inadequately captures the scene.


Forget a pot of gold, a lactic acid flush from the legs would be more appreciated

The trip to the next trailhead entailed a fourth passenger, Scott, who was joining for Sunday’s efforts. I took the back of the truck for the bumpy ride. Nothing says summer like driving through the high country, beer in hand and watching a beautiful sunset. Of course, it would have been better without logs, a cooler and two bins bouncing around.


More beer and less bumps please




  1. Thanks for the trip report. I will be hiking Columbia in Late August and am not looking forward to the "2000 loose gully"!

  2. Head to climber's right once in the lower section of the gully and you will find solid ground which will make the ascent more enjoyable. Safe climbing!