I climbed Mount Columbia with Jason, Sam, and a friend of Jasons (Dr Mueller). We used the Three Elks trailhead for this hike, which is a little longer and greater elevation gain than the standard route, but is a beautiful trail.
Click on the map for a larger version.
The trail begins in a loosely treed forest and then follows Three Elk Creek for a while. It's a beautiful hike.
Three Elks Creek is a small creek with lots of small falls along the way.
The hiking is fairly easy with pretty gentle elevation gain through the woods.
Most of the stream crossings have small log bridges over them.
Near where the trail crosses the Colorado Trail are a couple of lakes named Harvard Lakes. They are small, but fairly remote and pristine.
The larger of the two lakes is surrounded by heavy forest and is hard to get to.
As the trail nears treeline it passes this set of falls.
Above these falls looking back down the valley.
After treeline the trail fades and the best course to take is to gain the ridge to the North then follow it up to the summit. Gaining the ridge can be a workout.
As you work your way up you may pass through some very old bristle cone pine trees.
we stopped about half way up to the ridge to rest. This was Sam's first 14er and the elevation was already starting to get to him. Just goes to show no matter how fit you are the altitude can still affect you.
Looking across the valley the beauty of the Sawatch range begins to open up.
As usual there were lots of Pikas around.
We also spotted some Ptarmigan, their camoflauge is amazing.
On one of the many false summits of this route Dr. Mueller has us stop to get a photo of the three Friesemas on the hike with Mount Harvard in the background.
I then got one of Jason and Dr Mueller.
The summit has a fairly dramatic west face that allows from some great views.
Three Friesemas on the summit.
There was also a very inquisitive marmot on the summit looking for some handouts.
We were up there early enough in the season that Bear Lake was still frozen over.
The connecting ridge between Harvard and Columbia looks pretty rugged, most people that choose to traverse these two mountains drop down below this ridge rather than cross it.
On our way down we tried to traverse some of the false summits, but this proved to be more effort than it was worth.
Fortuneately we found a good glissade path for the descent. This was the first leg of it.
This was taken from the same spot looking down on the rest of it. We lost well over 1000 feet of elevation in just a few minutes.
All that remained was the long hike out.
I really enjoyed this route up Columbia and would recommend it to anyone looking to avoid the scree of the standard route.
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