Descent Route: South Face
May 12, 2006
Ski Descent #40
** Click on the Interactive 14er Map above to locate Harvard and zoom in!
After my two-week stint in the southern mountains, I was excited and relieved to be back home, relaxing with my family and planning my next moves on the fourteeners. After two days off I was definitely feeling restless. (and got in my first road bike ride of the season). So last night I drove over to Buena Vista and headed up the North Cottonwood Creek Road for a few hours sleep at the trailhead for Mt. Harvard. Over the last few weeks I have been blessed to have many great partners join me in the peaks, but I must admit it was refreshing to be out there alone today. If I had my choice I would prefer to climb and ski with friends, but every so often it is invigorating to go it alone. My goal today was to ski the South Face of Harvard, Colorado?s third highest peak, and it?s neighbor, Mt. Columbia, by any west facing route I could find. I had seen these peaks from many angles when skiing Yale, Antero, Belford, and Oxford. I new the South Face of Harvard was in condition for a ski descent, but I wasn?t so sure about Columbia?s west side. Most of the west facing aspects I have seen this season have been wind hammered and dry, so my hopes for Columbia were dim, but I held onto the possibility of linking these two together in a day.
I woke up at 3:30 a.m. under a blazing moon, downed a bagel and cup of coffee, and hit the trail at 4:00 a.m. I was under the impression that this approach was a slog, but the snow was frozen solid, and I made fast progress through the forest and into the Horn Fork Basin. I usually put my skins on my skis for these types of approaches, but the walking on snow in my trail shoes was so easy I just went with it. I was at the base of the South Face at sunrise, around 6:15 a.m. Mt. Yale lit up in spectacular golden light behind me as I stopped for some fresh banana bread that my boys Stian and Topher had baked for me the day before. After a quick break, I switched to ski boots, dawned my crampons, and proceeded to boot straight up the long snow route on the South Face. This broad face sweeps down from the summit and is separated by several shallow snow gullies. The climbing was easy. I paused a few times to snap some self-timer photos, amused by the fact that I was taking pictures of myself. By 8:00 a.m. I was on top, alone and happy on a gorgeous morning. Since I was solo, I carried my cell phone today, and for the first time since I was on North Maroon, I called my wife Jesse and my brother Ted to say hi.
On the summit the snow was sparse. Big boulders jutted up through the snow, making skiing difficult. I made a few lame turns off the top, and then stepped down over a five-foot rock step. Back on solid snow, I continued down the ultra fast frozen corn on the South Face. This pitch is long and has an angle of maybe forty degrees. Though the skiing was straightforward, the frozen corn snow rattled my edges, ankles, and fillings. I was glad to come flying out the bottom of the face, and zip across the fast, frozen ocean towards the forest. In terms of skiing, Harvard doesn?t rank up there with the most interesting or challenging peaks I have done, but that seems normal for the Sawatch Range; big and easy.
I was back at my truck at 9:30 a.m. for a round trip time of five and a half hours. Since I was prepared for a much longer day, I had all sorts of food with me. I changed into shorts and flip-flops and had a nice picnic at the trailhead before setting out for the three-hour drive back to Aspen. I am now home and pretty psyched to hit the milestone of forty ski descents. I hope to get into the high forties this spring, but with ultra dry and warm weather forecast for the next week, we?ll have to see what happens. I?m going to ski A-Basin with my family tomorrow, then hit Bierstadt, Evans, and Pikes before returning my RV in Denver next week.
Since this was a short post, and I didn?t have many great photos, I though I?d answer a question many of you have been emailing me, ?What gear do you carry in your pack and use on the peaks. Open the last photo on the page and slide it over so you can read the list below. This is what I normally carry in my ski pack, or have on me during a typical ski descent. Depending on the difficulty I may leave a few items like the ice axe and rope in the truck. (actually the rope has yet to be used this year)
Ice Axe- Black Diamond
Avi Beacon- BCA Tracker
Shovel- BD Tele Lynx
Probe- BD QuickDraw Super Tour
Rope- Beal 30meter 8mm
Headlamp- BD Helion
Clif Bars, Clif Shots, Clif Shot Bloks
A couple Red Bulls
Suunto X9 HR wristop computer
Knee pads- BD Telekinesis
Helmet- Giro Fuse
Gloves- Dakine Honcho and Viper
Crampons- BD Sabretooth
Skins- BD Ascension STS
Small medical kit
Boots- Salomon Ellipse 9 (E2)
Skis- Salomon X-Wing Fury 180 and Salomon 1080 Foil
Pack- DaKine Poacher with Black Diamond Avalung
Poles- BD Carbon Fibre Flicklok and Whippet
View a chronological Route List