This hike originally began as a trip to Kroenke Lake. Aaron Sudduth and I had wanted to hike a Fourteener this weekend, but the forecast was calling for high winds especially in the high country. So we gave up that idea and chose to stick with the low protected trail to Kroenke Lake. Since we were only doing this short easy hike we started at 8 am. Quite a late start for a fourteener, but that wasn't our intent of the day. However as we began hiking we realized the forecast had been totally wrong. In fact the day turned out to be nearly perfect weather.
We hiked starting from the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead and followed what is considered to be the standard route through Horn Fork Basin. Click the map for a larger version.
Since we headed out so late we saw a great sunrise from Wilkerson Pass.
Wilkerson Pass is one of my favorite views in the state. I love looking out across South Park and seeing all the mountains in the distance.
It wasn't really until we reached the trail intersection for Horn Fork Basin or Kroenke lake that we actually even began to consider hiking Mount Harvard. The skies were perfectly clear and the wind was non-existant so decided we'd at least go to Bear Lake and see how the weather was there.
The beaver dam just above the bridge had a waterfall completely enclosed in ice. I regret not taking a video as the ice was thin enough to still see the water falling behind it.
The majestic Horn Fork Basin opened up before us as we reached treeline. (Click the photo for a larger version.) Harvard is still a long distance off at this point though. It's the farthest right summit in this photo.
Though it was November the trail hardly had any snow on it and was easy to follow (except a few short sections near the summit). I think the deepest drifts we had to cross were barely a foot deep.
These are the "rabbits" on the ridge between Mount Harvard and Mount Columbia. Click the photo to open a very large detail photo of the ridge.
Though we lost the trail a couple of times as we neared the summit it was easy to find the way at this point.
On the summit we still enjoyed beautiful weather and clear skies. It was great to have climbed Mount Harvard on a day I had only been expecting to get to Kroenke Lake. Unfortunately since we hadn't gotten a good alpine start it was now 2:30 and we had a long trip out still.
Looking back on Harvard and Columbia as we descended the trail. Click photo for larger version.
The short days of winter really made an impact on this hike. We weren't even at treeline yet when we saw the last of the sun for the day.
We noticed a group still heading up Mount Columbia at this time too. I'm guessing most of their hike out was in the dark. They weren't on the summit until after 4 and it was dark by 5:30.
Just as we were losing sight of Mount Harvard the mountains began to turn orange from the Alpenglow.
The Alpenglow on Columbia was amazing.
The rest of the trip out was in the dark by headlamp. Thankfully I always bring mine even when I don't plan on using it, the moon didn't come up for a couple hours after sunset so it would have been extremely difficult otherwise.
Overall hiking Mount Harvard was a great trip. The Horn Fork Basin is a beautiful approach, the final pitch onto the summit makes an interesting finish, and the views make this trip a very worthwhile hike.
September 21, 2003
Harvard and Columbia are frequently climbed together, however since Jason and I had already done Columbia from a different trailhead we climbed only Harvard on this trip.
Harvard is well hidden in the Collegiate Peaks wilderness area and makes for a long one day hike (Most people that do the combo camp along Horn Fork Creek near treeline. Jason and I however prefer to get early starts and sleep in a comfortable bed the night before summiting. The hike was nearly 13 miles round trip so it made for a long day, but it was late in the season so we were in shape for it.
The hike begins by heading West along North Cottonwood Creek and then heads north along Horn Fork Creek. The trail gains elevation gently for a long time, then just before the summit it quickly ascends to the summit ridge. The final section before the summit has a couple of interesting moves (for a class 2 mountain) that must be made. It makes the summit exciting and caps off that feeling of accomplishment climbing the 3rd highest mountain in Colorado.
We hiked this trail just as the aspens were begining to change color.
Noth Cottonwood Creek is a parallels the trail for a while and makes the ambiance of the hike very enjoyable.
Mount Yale comes into view (though not the actual summit yet) long before any sign of Mount Harvard.
Then the trail head north along Horn Fork Creek and up to treeline. Mount Harvard finally comes into view. In this photo the summit is on the left.
There are several creek crossings that must be made over the Horn Fork Creek (the one over North Cottonwood Creek has a bridge) so I highly recommend you wear waterproof boots and bring hiking poles for balance.
Mount Yale seen from just below Bear Lake.
After the trail breaks away from Horn Fork Creek and begins to head up the ridge you will get a great view of Bear Lake (worth a side trip to go visit).
Bear lake rests on a plateau just above some cliff bands, toss in Mt Yale in the back ground and you've got a world class view.
Bear Lake as seen from the summit of Harvard. This gives you an idea of how the elevation gain increases after passing bear lake.
Fall seems to be the best time to climb in Colorado. The weather is more stable and fewer people are out hiking. We had the mountain to ourselves that day.
Though it can get a little chilly on the summits in the fall.
This is looking Northeast from the summit toward Waverly Mountain and Pine Creek Valley.
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