Harvard and Columbia Traverse
The year I turned 30 in 2016 I set out with several goals including an ambitious personal endurance challenge. One of these goals was a solo backpack adventure. I set out to hike Harvard and Columbia and decided this would be my first solo backpacking excursion.
It was a memorable outing and fun to be self reliant for a couple days in the wilderness. This was early in my mountain career, especially in terms of gear investment, so I had a heavy load with the tent, food and stove. It was slow going on the approach and I have since dialed my systems and weight much more although admittedly I still love long slog weight sufferfest type fun.
On the summit of Harvard the next day several other people were deterred from the traverse due to impending weather and afternoon storms. I quickly evaluated the ridge and decided to go for it. The ridge goes quickly until you descend into a chossy talus field. From here boulder hopping slows your progress and around this time the storm clouds consolidated.
Only a few people were ahead and behind me at this point when we all started getting pelted with graupel and hail when the thunder started. I was pretty uneasy at this point and not in a good location for a storm overhead.
I met a doctor along the way and he and myself ducked underneath a rock outcropping to ride out the hail and narrowly avoid being struck by lightning. Once that storm passed we bolted as quickly as possible to the summit of Columbia before the second wave moved in. The final push to the summit was exciting and then I spotted the next storm.
I downed a quick snack, took some photos and we set off down the old trail. Due to the weather we decided to descend the loose scree gully, a mistake I would not repeat, to avoid the next round of thunder.
After tedious work I was at the base of the gully and near my camp spot. I look forward to repeating and seeing how the new trail turned out thanks to the CFI and volunteers. Otherwise a great time and I would likely repeat but in reverse.
A lovely weekend for my first solo backpack inclusive of wildlife, stellar views and some hiking and scrambling!
Buena Vista is quite possibly my favorite mountain town in the Sawatch range. The people, the culture and the vibe are all excellent. I always make a point to stop in BV, usually Eddyline, my favorite brewery in Colorado. Highly recommend stopping or staying in Buena Vista.