September 8, 2016

Mount Harvard – 14,420′

14er rank:

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2,360' (Mt. Elbert - 15 mi NNW)
Chaffee County
11 mi NW of Buena Vista
21.8 mi S of Leadville

South Slopes (Class 2)

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This is the 29th 14er I've climbed, in September 2016 with my friend Adam. At over 14,400', this peak is the 3rd tallest in all of Colorado, behind only Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, which both happen to also reside in the same range (Sawatch). This peak is sometimes climbed together with neighboring Mount Columbia to the southeast via a long ridgeline traverse. Despite its great height and the fact that it is situated only ~11 miles from the town of Buena Vista, Harvard is often quite difficult to see from populated areas. It is tucked back into the Sawatch Range well enough that the best views of it typically come from the tops of other 14ers nearby.  

We hiked both Harvard and Columbia together on the same day, a task that required ~6000' of elevation gain and over 15 miles of hiking. The standard South Slopes route up Mount Harvard begins at the North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead at 9,900'. From there, a great trail follows North Cottonwood Creek 1.5 miles west through the forest, crossing the creek twice, before reaching a trail junction near 10,400'. The route splits off to the right here toward North Fork Basin. After another 2 miles the trail emerges from the forest around 11,500' to a sweeping view of the basin ahead and Mount Yale to the south. The steep loose slopes of Columbia dominate the view to the east for the next mile. 

From tree line to just below the summit of Harvard the trail is relatively easy to follow and well marked with cairns. The last ~1,300' of ascent is fairly steep, but the trail does switch back often. The final push to the summit requires about 50' of fun scrambling up a pile of very large rocks. You can keep it Class 2 if you ascend it near the ridge, but plenty of Class 3 or higher climbing is available if you drop down ~50' to the east below the rock pile and head up from there. Once on the small rocky summit, enjoy the immense views and try to see how many 14ers you can spot (on a clear day, you should be able to see at least 20... but perhaps 30 or more if you have the eyes of an elf!). 

The standard way back down follows the same route. However, we decided to nab Columbia as well, via the ridge southeast of Mount Harvard that connects the two peaks. A description of that part of the hike can be found here.   


Trip Reports

Harvard & Columbia (Sept 2016)