Part 5 - Harvard, Columbia
Blake Wood climbed Harvard (14,420 ft) at 12:17 PM on day 2, and Columbia (14,073 ft) at 2:42 PM, arriving at the North Cottonwood remote aid station at 4:42 PM. Eric and I climbed Harvard at 10:52 PM and Columbia at 3:17 AM, arriving at North Cottonwood at 6:15 AM. We had slept 3 hours during the previous night at Winfield, but we did not sleep this night. Blake had not slept on the first night, and this would catch up with him tonight.
Harvard and Columbia are difficult, because there are no trails for most of the route. The descent from Columbia is especially steep and unpleasant. The traverse between Harvard and Columbia offers a choice between staying high on a technical ridge (class 5.7) or descending to 12,600 ft. into Frenchman Creek basin on easier terrain, which is what we did. Blake took an intermediate route on the east side of the ridge that involved difficult but non-technical climbing.
All of the pictures below were taken during previous training runs in daylight.
The Horn Fork trail approaching Harvard from the south, which we did not use. Instead we climbed the gentle northeast ridge from the South Pine Creek trail. Blake Wood climbed directly from the north.
Rabbit Ridge, from Harvard to Columbia, seen from the east side.
Hikers descending the steep scree to Frenchman Creek basin. Eric and I traversed around the right side of the pinnacle to find an easier route to the tundra slopes to the left.
Columbia and the west side of Rabbit Ridge seen from Harvard.
Summit of Columbia. There is a route which avoids most of the rocks on the way up, but in the darkness Eric and I missed it and climbed 1500 ft. of rocks like this.
Me on the summit of Columbia (Aug. 3) with Harvard in the background.
The steep descent down Columbia's south ridge, with Yale in the background. It is not possible to walk down. Instead you have to slide down scree to treeline.
Still butt-sliding down to treeline. In the darkness, Eric and I went too far right and ended up bushwacking through steep woods and swamp to the trail at a point about 2 miles west of the aid station.
This is where we should have come out, which is not much better.
On to Part 6