Mt. Harvard via the Horn Fork Basin

alexandIsummitYesterday I hiked my 4th 14er, Mt. Harvard in the Sawatch range. After last week’s running adventure with Amy on Hope Pass, I remembered how beautiful the Sawatch are and wanted to spend some more time there before Matt and I leave for our road trip.

Matt made plans to run the ten mile traverse with Frank (Adventuresoffrank.com), and I knew that I couldn’t keep up with them, so I pulled out the map and looked for a 14er that appeared to be somewhat runnable. Mt. Harvard stood out because the Horn Fork Basin looked reasonable. I asked my friend Alex if he was interested and he was glad to come.

I woke up at 3:30am, drove over to his house in Breck and we hit the road to Buena Vista. On my way over to his house I spotted Matt and Frank’s headlamps almost to the summit at 4:30am. We spotted them again on our way through Frisco. On our way down through Leadville into BV we noticed Oxford, Belford, Harvard and Columbia all had a good dusting of snow. It’s so amazing that it can be so warm in town and snowing at 14,000ft.

We arrived at the trailhead at 6:30, got our stuff together and took off up the trail. The first mile or so was super flat and runnable, but Alex is just starting to get into running so we took it easy but still kept a fast hiking pace. We ascended through the forest fairly quick, passed one group of three heading down, and one guy slowly making his way up but besides them we had the trail to ourselves. We were both very happy that it was a weekday.

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We reached tree line at mile 4 at about an hour and a half. The wind was steady and the sun wasn’t over Columbia yet, so we were both a little chilly and put on another layer. There are a ton of awesome camping sites in the basin, it made me wish I hiked in the night before and slept up there. It’s definitely on the list now.

The next two miles through the basin was awesome! We had beautiful views all around of Columbia to our right and Harvard up ahead. The rabbit shaped spires on Columbia’s rabbit ridge were really cool looking from the basin. Right before the steep climb to the summit we passed a couple, who were the first people we had seen for a few miles. At this point we could see a good group of people up ahead of us too.

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We began the steepest part of the climb at mile 6 to the summit around 9:30am. As we were ascending we noticed a goat to our left just watching us curiously. It is the only 14er so far that I have hiked that has a mostly dirt trail to about 14k feet. At this point I could feel the altitude for sure, but just kept moving. We reached the summit a little before 10:30am. There were 5 other guys on the tiny summit hanging out and taking in the views.

alexandIsummit

We asked one of them to take a picture of us, and as he was, our goat friend popped up right behind us. Luckily I had Shea on the leash so she didn’t try to make a run for it. We took a ton of pictures of him, while he slowly moved past us only about 20 feet away. Eventually he made his way back down after checking us out and we realized that it looked like some weather might be moving in so we got going.

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goatland

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hornforkbasin

On the way down I convinced Alex to run a little with me, so we descended through the steep part at a quick pace and once we hit the flat grassy basin, I took off. I had so much fun running through there, it was a beautiful trail, with a perfect pitch and just enough rocks to jump over to make it unbelievably fun. Once I was just about at treeline I stopped and waited for Alex to catch up, but for most of the downhill I kept running because I was enjoying it so much! Finally the last mile or so we hiked out together and were relieved to be back at the car. We made a pit stop at Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista and then headed home. Round trip was about 5 hours with 4500 feet of ascent and descent. Can’t wait for the next one!