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Mount Harvard - Elevation 14,420 Feet

Our Hike of the Third Highest Colorado 14er via the Standand Route of North Cottonwood Trailhead and Horn Fork Basin

Now that's a 14er that kicked our a@@ ...
Mount Harvard, a 14er in the Sawatch Range that's northwest of Buena Vista, Colorado, is a great mountain. The most common hiking route is via the North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead, and round trip our hike was just under 14 miles. The trail's length and elevation gain of 4,500 feet keep the casual hiking crowds away. Having said that, the Horn Fork Basin is a beautiful area and I highly recommend a visit, even if you don't dare to gain the summit of Mount Harvard or a nearby mountain. Review your National Geographic Trails Illustrated map #129 (Buena Vista / Collegiate Peaks) or inquire on Google for directions to the trailhead.

Mount Harvard Colorado
Above: On our way down, the afternoon lighting was perfect for a photo of Mount Harvard from the Horn Fork Basin.

Mt. Harvard Colorado
Above: The view of Mt. Harvard (left), Mt. Columbia (right) and the Horn Fork Basin from the summit of Mt. Yale.

Photos and commentary by Steve Garufi in Buena Vista, Colorado. Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest - YouTube

North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead September 14, 2012 - Tom and I began our hike at the North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead at 6 a.m.
North Cottonwood Trail Colorado Some trail sections had pretty fall colors.
The fork for the trail to Kroenke Lake and Browns Pass.

We went right toward Bear Lake and the Horn Fork Basin.

Mount Yale Colorado We had hiked a few miles when the view of Mount Yale came into view through the trees.

Mt. Columbia

It was a cold morning. We didn't have a thermometer, but we estimated the temperature to be near 35 to 40 degrees. Although there was hardly any wind, for which we were thankful, I said there seemed to be a "bite" to the air that would have made the wind chill very winter-like had there been strong winds.

Adjacent are two photos showing the frost as we came closer to timberline. The white edges on small plants and leaves were pretty.

I also captured a nice shot of Tom with Mount Columbia behind. Notice all the white shades on the grass. There were some small sections of ice on the trail as well, and the trail's dirt was rock hard.

Mt. Yale Colorado

Mount Yale Colorado

As we continued in the lower section of the Horn Fork Basin, the view behind us of Mount Yale became more and more spectacular.

Here are two seemingly identical pictures that I really liked. Ah, you can't beat the mountain landscapes of Chaffee County!

Mount Harvard Colorado And then the view of Mount Harvard, the object of our love, came into our view.

There she is ... Mount Harvard (elevation 14,420') in all her majesty!

Mount Harvard Hike No longer dark or with us not in the early morning shadows of Mount Columbia, it had become a wonderful and sunny morning. There was not a cloud in the sky.

This is a photo of Tom, my hiking partner. His climb of Mount Harvard would be his 25th 14er. I believe he only started to take on 14ers two years ago, and last weekend he summitted Mount of the Holy Cross. Impressive!

As for me, this would be my 20th fourteener, and you can see my photos of each hike here: My 14er Hikes.


Bear Lake Colorado

Beyond the spur trail to Bear Lake, the trail ascended with intensity in a talus field ...

... and the view of Bear Lake came into better view.

Horn Fork Basin Colorado By now, we had hiked about 5+ miles and had one final long and grueling ascent to the summit.

I rested so many times. Adjacent is the view from where we had come. Mount Princeton had come into view on the left to join the amazing scenery with Mount Yale.

Mount Columbia Colorado Our view of Mount Columbia.
Mount Harvard, CO The steep trail went on and on.

There's no question that every Colorado 14er has sections of difficulty (of the Class II fashion, at least) where one must bear the pain of step-by-step drudgery. You're climbing in elevation with each steep, and it hurts, but I have to say this trail to Mount Harvard seemed especially punishing. It had no mercy!

Adjacent is a shot of the Mount Harvard summit. Stay on the trail and watch the cairns. Near this spot, it may appear that some of the rocky points to the right is the summit, but they are not.

Mount Harvard Hike Coming closer to the summit.

One intriguing nearby peak was Unnamed Point 13,598'. I'm not an expert on mountain terms, but I think that ridge might be considered an arete.

I love the pointy spires on the right. So beautiful!

Mt. Harvard Trail Notch Snow Among Rocks Eventually I made it to the base of the summit, and there is one last rocky area that requires some Class 2+ moves. On the left is a rocky notch that seems to be the best route toward the top.

Among the scrambling, it brought joy to my heart to see snow from a high elevation snowstorm that happened two days earlier.

Mount Harvard, CO I had arrived at the summit when Tom snapped this photo from below. See me with my arm raised? :)

Usually Tom is faster than me when we hike together, but he wasn't feeling 100%. He made it just fine, though.

Peach Chardonnay

On The Summit of Mount Harvard

A glass of peach chardonnay to celebrate. I was so happy!
Steve Garufi

Tom Lunt

Me sipping chardonnay, and Tom smoking a cigarette.

Of course, arriving at the summit is only 50% of a mountain climb, but we were elated to be there. I'd have to say Mount Harvard was one of the best summit experiences I've had in my years in the mountains.

Mt. Harvard Colorado The breathtaking view to the south.

Bear Lake is in the foreground. Fellow 14ers Mount Princeton and Mount Yale are the closest in view, and tops of Mount Antero, Mount Shavano and Tabeguache Peak are behind.

On our way down, we would hike to the end of the basin and turn left at the forest. It'd be another 3+ miles to return to the trailhead from there.

Thomas Lunt Mount Harvard Tom stands proudly with Mount Columbia behind him.
Buffalo Peaks Colorado We had a great view of the Buffalo Peaks.
A layer of snow on Mt. Harvard's north slope.

Beautiful fall foliage in the Pine Creek Gulch area.

Last but not least, Quandary Peak, Mount Sherman and a slew of other mountains in the Mosquito Range were in view to the left.

Mount Belford and Mount Oxford Mount Belford and Mount Oxford are the immediate 14ers neighbors to the north.
Colorado Rocky Mountains Facing northwest, there were more mountains!

If you know where to look, Iowa Peak, Missouri Mountain and La Plata Peak and are all in view. Also, Snowmass Mountain can be faintly seen on the horizon on the left. Do you see it?

Mount Harvard Summit The view of the Three Apostles and the highest parts of the Pine Creek basin.
Sawatch Range Colorado Again, if you know where to look, you can see Emma Burr Mountain, Mount Kreutzer, Turner Peak and the ridges near Cottonwood Pass.

So many mountains, so little time.

Pikes Peak Colorado The view of Pikes Peak, about 100 miles away.
Sawatch Range 14ers Still on the summit, I zoomed-in as much as possible for this photo. Now you can surely see five 14ers: Mt. Princeton. Mt. Antero, Mt. Shavano, Tabeguache Peak and Mt. Yale.
Mount Harvard Colorado As we hiked down, there was no question in our minds that Mount Harvard is a tougher 14er climb compared to others in the Sawatch Range. We were tired. My legs, hips and feet were sore. The seven mile return to the trailhead seemed especially long. In fact, we didn't return to our car until 4:40 p.m. Crazy!

Way down the trail, I stopped to gaze at Mount Harvard one last time. All the effort required to reach this mountain's summit was so worth it.

Mountain Fall Colors Back in the forest, a shot of autumn colors. You're welcome to view all of my fall foliage photos over the years here.


Horn Fork Basin

Pretty view of Bear Lake

Way up on the mountain

On the summit

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