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.

Sam finds elk bone

Sam recovers bone  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. 

  Camp Site below Horn Fork Basin

Mount Columbia Columbia from Horn Fork Basin
Looking down on lower cliffs
Harvard from basin
Birthday Peak
 Columbia Summit with the Buffalo Peaks in the background Columbia Summit
Roaring wind
Mt Yale Mount Yale from the slopes of Columbia
Columbia the next morning from the road Looking towards Horn Fork Basin the next day.
Mt Princeton Mount Princeton from road


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