Mt Harvard and Missouri Mountain

10 Jul 99

By Steve Bremner and Sam the Wolfdog

After I got off work Friday afternoon I drove straight for the Sawatch Range and Horn Fork Basin. Arriving early evening, there was enough time to hike up the trail to where it branched with the choices of left to Kroenke Lake or right to Horn Fork Basin. I stopped there and next to a rushing stream set up my tent for the night.

I'd last been in Horn Fork Basin in February when I climbed Mt Columbia in extreme winter conditions.



fence leading to blanca basin The following morning when I left camp around 0600 carrying only a hip pack and clad in running shorts I fully expected to return to the tent day's end. I'd charted an ambitious day that included the summits of Harvard, Missouri, and Huron, followed by many miles of trail and even bushwacking, but I had no idea this ordeal of a day was going to last 30 hours.


At left is the route I took in February up Columbia. Around the prominent rock to the right, we then ascended the NW ridge looming in the distance. Of course then there was much more snow.

I followed the trail up the basin until it disappeared. Cairns mark the easy way, which is to stay left aiming for saddle. below Harvard to the west. From the saddle it is a ridge walk until the final summit pyramid which is a bit of a scramble. Sam the Wolfdog made it after attaching the leash and a bit of gentle persuasion.

We descended Harvard by dropping into Missouri Basin. The ridge walk was a bit tricky in places, particularly for Sam.

Above timberline I normally allow Sam to run free. I can keep track of him and he normally doesn't pick up a scent and take off. Unfortunately there was a coyote lurking right at timberline in the valley as we descended. I saw it before Sam picked up its scent, but couldn't get to Sam in time. I watched Sam sniff and track the coyote from about 200 yards away. He still hadn't spotted him. When he finally did the chase was on.

After waiting for half an hour, I started down through woods towards Missouri Basin. Sam had gone in that direction and I thought I might run into him when he'd tired of the chase.

Half an hour further hiking yielded no Sam, so I backtracked to where I 'd last seen him. When he finally ame I had lost an hour.

I found the trail leading up to Elkhead Pass. The ridge from Elkhead Pass to Missouri's summit looked sketchy, so I dropped back into the basin and climbed to the saddle between Iowa Peak and Missouri. From there it's an easy ridge walk to the summit. Here is where the fun began. To return to my camp site on North Cottonwood Creek below Horn Fork Basin I had decided on a grandiose loop starting with dropping off the west face of Missouri to Cloyses Lake then going up to Pear Lake, bushwacking down North Texas Creek ( a willow nightmare) to the Texas Creek Trail, and going up Brown's Pass before returning to my camp site via Kroenke Lake.

Unfortunately, I made a wrong turn and headed up to Cottonwood Pass. The trail grew fainter and fainter before disappearing just as I ran out of daylight. Wound up sleeping out in my running shorts (!) on the cold ground. If you can call it sleep. I was checking my watch every fifteen minutes hoping that miserable night would hurry and end. I didn't realize my mistake, because the next morning using map and compass I was able to match up the surrounding peaks with my map! I aimed for what I thought was Brown's Pass, cursing the trail maintainers or the map makers when I could find no trail!

From "Brown's Pass" I ascended to a saddle between two thirteeners and sighted what I thought was Kroenke Lake. Again everything sort of matched the topo map. Dropping down to the lake was not an easy task, with steep rock and huge scree that the dog didn't enjoy, and then dense willows to the lake. Had a hard time finding the trail from "Kroenke Lake" because it didn't match up to the map. No matter, when I did finally find it I again lamented those darn map makers! Soon I came to a T again not on the map! When I looked at the sign post I initially thought "even the sign makers are screwed up!" It said I just come from Hartenstein Lake.
Looking at my map I soon realized where I'd erred. Instead of only a couple of miles to go I now was faced with ascending to Brown's Pass and then higher to 12,500 feet before dropping down to Kroenke Lake--another 10-12 miles altogether. I was beat and had not eaten anything but some jerky and bars the previous day. Had to do it though, so I pushed on. The day was beautiful and the views outstanding, so I kept my chin up and made the best of it, fantasizing on the fabulous meal I would treat myself to in Buena Vista.