Mount Harvard and Mount Columbia: Part 1

Even though it started out as a regular 14er morning, we knew this one would be our hardest yet. Some of the family opted for tackling both Harvard and Columbia, while Dad, Mom, and I chose to only try for Columbia (15 miles and 6200 ft versus 11 miles and 4500 feet of elevation gain).

Joseph, John, Anna, Jesse, and Mary, whom I’ll refer to as Team A, started early–as in 2:30 am. Dad, Mom, and I–Team B–began about 4:15. Headlamps and flashlights were the mode of illuminating the trail. Unfortunately, at one point, Jesse lost his headlamp down a steep hill, and John, being the hero, retrieved it, so all was well. I can’t imagine hiking a 14er by yourself, especially starting before light. There’s comfort in being with a group. There’s just something about walking through the forest and wondering what is “out there” that you can’t see.


Team A found the trail to Mount Harvard pleasant. The first part of the hike was just ticking down the miles and walking through the forest, without much of an incline. For the double climb everyone started at the same trailhead, and then about 4 miles up at a trail junction, Mount Columbia’s trail splits from the main trail, while Mount Harvard continues on. Then, after a person summits Harvard, they can traverse the ridge to Columbia (that sounds too easy the way I wrote it: wait until you read how it really went). Team A helped Dad, Mom, and I locate our trail (it isn’t marked with a sign) as that split is hard to find. Jesse used GPS coordinates, and about mile 4, they found the correct turn off. Team A collected lots of rocks and made a big rock cairn so we wouldn’t miss it. They also wrote a note on a paper towel and then continued on their trek.

IMG_4868Meanwhile, Team B plodded along. We started out later as we wanted to reach the tree-line about dawn; if we began too early, we would face a very difficult section of trail in the dark, which we didn’t want to do.

Both teams had radios, and after some time, we were in range and could communicate. As the dark sky lightened, we could see clouds already forming. That is typically not a good thing. Conversation was pleasant in both groups as we enjoyed God’s creation and watched the sun rise.


“They go up by the mountains;
they go down by the valleys
unto the place which thou
hast founded for them.”
Psalms 104:8

4 thoughts on “Mount Harvard and Mount Columbia: Part 1”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing all your pictures and information about your climbs. My dh has long had the dream of doing the Appalachian Trail when he retires. Although we still have quite a few years before that happens, I was curious if there was any particular bits of advice you’d give to someone who is wanting to prepare for such hiking. *(Keep in mind that we have never done anything like this before, but do have several years to “get ready”)
    I’ve really enjoyed reading about your vacation time.
    I’ll be praying for safe travels as you return home and set out on your fall tour.
    Daily walking and exercise. 🙂

  2. Wow, that really IS early! Do you start so early because of weather? I’ve never gone up a mountain myself, but it seems like everyone I know who has done it goes pretty early.
    Any time after noon, thunderstorms normally develop and then there is danger of lightning.

  3. Once again Maxwell family, you have inspired my family and I to do this in the near future! It melts my heart to see how you all spend so much quality time with each other and enjoy every second of it. It’s so rare these days where you see a family do things together and enjoy it. Many times, I’ve heard my neighbors say how their wife or husband do not want to do something or the children complain. It’s so sad that this is what the world has turned to-less family time and more “me” time. Thank you for being a huge encouragement to all those families who think such things no longer exist. I told my husband about your adventure and he’s now contemplating on doing this in the near future! Granted our children are younger but he’s going to look for hiking spots that are a bit more kid friendly. I’m sure my children will enjoy it, along with being amazed with being surrounded by nature that God has created.

    God Bless you!

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