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Ascent of Mount Columbia on 2015-08-15

Climber: Luke Mullen

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, August 15, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Columbia
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:14073 ft / 4289 m

Ascent Trip Report

In a nutshell, the theme for this one was "no rest for the weary." After getting out of the house around 6, I was off from the trailhead around 9:30. The trail following Cottonwood Creek up the valley is very pleasant, and the weather seemed ideal. Made good progress to the turnoff to start up Columbia's shoulder, where, as most aptly described by Gerry Roach as arduous, the fun begins. I have to say, I've done a fair amount of hiking/scrambling in my life, and getting up the 1600 feet of talus and scree on Columbia has to be one of my more miserable experiences. It's steep, there is little in the way of solid footing, and you can very easily slip or twist an ankle, but at least I was lucky few people were ahead of me to send rocks tumbling. It probably took a solid hour to get up to Columbia's ridge for the comparatively easy walk to the summit, and thanks to lightning in the distance, I only spend enough time on the summit for a couple quick photos. If the ascent up the slope was tough, the descent was worse, as my boots fought for traction, my knees begged for mercy, and I put enough weight into my trekking poles I thought the carbon fibre would snap. To make matters worse, the weather I saw rolling in at the top was now bearing down, and I was moving as fast as possible for timberline. Halfway down I did lose footing and took a fall, but besides a solid bounce off a rock on my hip and a good scrape on my right arm, the damage was minimal. Managed to get into the trees just as the rain started (which of course was short lived), and after a solid 15 minute rest to eat some lunch, was back down the trail to the finish line.

Ironically, the next day I learned REI would be making a grant of $50k to rebuild this trail. I can't imagine a more deserving use of those funds.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4193 ft / 1278 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10 mi / 16.1 km
    Route:West Slopes
    Trailhead:North Cottonwood Trailhead  9880 ft / 3011 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 55 Minutes



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