February 6-7, 1999 ascent of Mt Columbia
by Steve Bremner and Sam the Wolfdog
"High winds will begin to hit the Front Range this afternoon, with gusts
up to 70MPH expected." The radio continually reminded me as I drove towards
Buena Vista, Colorado and a renewed attempt on Mount Columbia. A mere three
weeks before in a true epic of a climb I had turned
back 400 vertical feet from Columbia's summit on account of high winds.
This time I was determined to endure, short of being blown off the mountain!
|The problems began from the start. I couldn't persuade my rear wheel drive
'59 Chevy to go any further than the "Game Trail" housing development about
2 miles west of Buena Vista. The snow was too deep. Resigning myself I parked
the car and walked four miles of road to the trailhead. It was probably
just as well, as it only took me an hour and fifteen minutes--with the car
it would have taken at least half an hour and there would have been the
risk of getting stuck.
Checking the trail register only a couple of cross-country skiiers out for the day had signed in over the three week period since I was last there. If you are looking for solitude, climb the 14ers in Winter!
This time the snow was deep enough that I had to wear snowshoes from the first.
I'm not sure if Sam remembered precisely
where he had left the elk bone from our last trip, or whether he could smell
it through the two feet of new snow, but he found and dug it out for his
entertainment--the bone well preserved under the icy snow pack.
After a mile or so he gave it up, when it grew too awkward to carry.
Shortly afterwards I inadvertently jogged right a bit off the trail and onto N. Cottonwood Creek--fifteen steps later I broke through. In a panic I fought to free my boot, buried under a dead weight of snow, before I felt the chill of icy water.
|Columbia Summit with the Buffalo Peaks in the background|
|Looking towards Horn Fork Basin the next day.|
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