Harvard and Columbia
ElevationAscent: 5,628' 1,715 m
Descent: -5,622' -1,713 m
High: 14,372' 4,381 m
Low: 9,887' 3,014 m
GradeAvg Grade: 15% (8°)
Max Grade: 65% (33°)
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“A challenging run up two of the Collegiate 14ers.”— Tyler Prince
Though the land manager requests all dogs be leashed, you'll likely see n number of dogs with a ratio of leashed dogs to unleashed 0:n.
Continue up an excellent singletrack trail, low in grade and with few obstacles. In 1.5 miles, pass by a left turn toward Kroenke Lake. Stay right. As the trail steepens there will be more roots. After another 1.5 miles the trees will start to get more spaced out and the trail will be less obvious. As the west slopes of Mt. Columbia come into view, head right towards a boulder field, leaving the Horn Fork Basin Trail.
Run up a small hill out of the forest, continuing up a short gully to the left of the boulder field at about 11,800 ft. Cross the small boulder field, angling uphill and to the right. Avoid a set of cliffs, creating your own switchbacks through the rocks. Continue to the left up steep, grassy slopes toward the shoulder of Mt. Columbia. The trail here is vague, but if you continue up the ridge toward Columbia's visible summit you can't get lost. Angle to the left, reaching a rockier summit ridge at about 13,600 ft. From here, the trail is more obvious and the grade less steep (as seen on the elevation profile). Continue about a half mile along the ridge to reach the summit of Mt. Columbia.
While you've finished the steepest running of the day, there's still plenty of misery left. From the summit of Mt. Columbia, head north, dropping to the right of a clear connecting ridge with Mt. Harvard. There's no trail here. Descend some grassy slopes for about 400 ft over a small ridge, before dropping down some talus into a basin on the side of the ridge. The talus here is steep and loose (see photo). Drop to about 13,000 ft, hopping between some large boulders before coming to another grassy slope. Turn left and head up to regain the connecting ridge with Mt. Harvard. The trail here isn't clear, but the summit is, so just walk toward it. Once at 13,800 ft, the ridge narrows and the trail becomes clearer. Scramble along some class 2+ rock formations (class 3 if you get bored) to attain the summit. Take note, Mt. Harvard boasts an elevation of 14,420 ft, so it's a long way up.
Once finally on the summit of Mt. Harvard, the misery is over. You still have a 7 mile run back to the car, but it's a pleasant one. Scramble down about 40 ft of solid rock to gain the Mt. Harvard trail. Run along the western ridge before dropping to the south. There tend to be a lot of mountain goats on this part of the mountain. Run on excellent trail down some switchbacks, passing the odd cliff or rock band. There is a short talus field at around 13,000 ft, but the trail through it is excellent. About 1.5 miles from the summit, you'll be deposited into Horn Fork Basin, and the grade flattens out as you walk along the creek and willows. Continue to follow the trail back to the Horn Fork Basin on which you approached Mt. Columbia. During the spring and early summer, this basin is often full of snow and the trail can be hard to find. If necessary, simply retrace your steps from the visible boulder field of Mt. Columbia. Regain the trail and descend back to your car.
While some runners may elect to make this journey in the opposite direction, this may be both more physically demanding and navigationally difficult. Done in reverse, ascending ends almost 2 miles later, leaving you with a steep descent off Columbia. Furthermore, the trail to Mt. Harvard is harder to find than the one to Mt. Columbia, and it's easier to find your way back down if you've already seen it from the Columbia summit. This run is hard enough in the direction described. Don't change it unless you really want to summit Mt. Harvard first.
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