4,000 meters is an unrecognized altitude threshold within the United States. However, it is as well known where the metric system is used, as 14,000 feet is known in the US. This page is dedicated to climbing those peaks in Colorado that rise above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Harvard Education, Blisters, and Fembots

The Platinum Team was thankfully successful for a summit bid of Mount Harvard. The original plan was to meet a mutual friend of the team, Dave Callais, a Colorado Mountain Club WTS instructor on the summit. Dave is currently hiking the entire CO Trail and he would be coming up Harvard from the Pine Creek Trail while we came up from Horn Fork Basin. The weather did not look like it was going to cooperate for a meeting on the 24th as planned. So the Platinum Team pushed back the summit attempt to the 26th. It was difficult to miss Dave but the delay did allow all the members of the team to climb Mt. Harvard.

During the hike up to base camp, and after many hours of diligently planning and packing as light as I could, two members of the Platinum Team (Erin and Don) saw fit to load me up with a few pounds of granite as they hiked behind me. Now coincidentally, and I am sure unrelated, I also somehow developed a blister on each heel on this short hike up. More on this later.

This hike was a total of 12 miles with about 4,600 feet of elevation gain from trail head to summit. We elected to backpack in a few miles just below tree line and set up a base camp instead of tackling all of this hike in one day.

We built a small tent city from one and two man tents and then set to work making a fire and hydrating some dinner. We finally sat around the familiar fire and dug into some re-hydrated cuisine after all was set up and in order in camp.

We awoke around five am on Saturday with some concern about the weather. The entire week had a 40 - 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms. Saturday was no different. So we elected to get a pretty early start in order to be leaving the summit before any sort of cumulonimbus tomfoolery could get started. A good portion of the team had been caught thousands of feet above tree line on La Plata Peak in a violent storm a few years back and we did not want any part of that again. So off onto the trail we started to overcast, but friendly skies. The overcast made for some lousy pictures as the light was completely flat. Oh well.

A short time into the hike the blisters that had started on my heels the night before began to get quite aggravated. I got very worried that if they continued to worsen then my summit bid would be in serious jeopardy (rocks - Don - Erin). Finally, I asked the team to stop while I tried to re-tape everything to see if I could find a way to keep hiking.

Above Erin recoils in disgusted terror as she views my right-foot blister. The worse one. We taped and bandaged and taped some more and we were again hiking in no time.

Needless to say the blister fix did little good and just a short time later I bravely instructed the remainder of the team to continue without me. I was out. I sat next to the trail as the Platinum Team faded into the distance. Thinking that I did not want to be the only one on the team in Buena Vista that afternoon without summit stories, I re-bandaged again and just thought I would start hiking and see how far I could get. 500 feet at a time...

In the mean time, the rest of the team was working their way towards the summit about 2,500 feet above and a mile or so distant. A few other teams of folks were working their way towards the summit as well though the gray rock under a gray sky. Its hard to imagine that this is beautiful but you have to spend some time above tree line to appreciate the high mountains.

This was an interesting hike but as we all knew, as most hikes are in the Sawatch range, these mountains are l-o-n-g, and high, and steep. And this was our Harvard education. The great portion of this hike is at a pleasant grade rising relatively evenly...for miles. There were even some parts of the trail that descended gently as the path traversed high alpine tundra.

The last mile of this hike, which started at the far end of the tundra shown above, presents the hiker with a short but very steep unpleasant grind to the summit. Which, by some undiscovered force of nature, appears to be exactly same distance from the hiker no matter how far they have walked, crawled, or fallen towards the summit.

Finally, after what seemed like days, the summit approached. The remainder of the Platinum Team had already made the summit and were sitting on what looked like a sort of natural balcony cheering me on. After several more days of hiking towards the summit. I scrambled up the remaining hundred feet or so where I collapsed in a heap. Luckily Don, in order to attempt to assuage his guilt for the "rocks in the pack" joke the day before carried my 2.5 pound tripod to the summit. In retrospect this may have really helped me. Between the blisters and fatigue I was glad for every pound I did not carry.

After a short rest and forcing down some food I revived enough to take the summit shot of the entire team.

We milled about on the summit. The weather was still overcast but non-threatening. Erin and Sara contemplated traversing the HUGE ridge connecting Mt. Harvard to Mt. Columbia. This is a long grind. After some initial discussion Erin and Sara decided to descend with the team and go for Columbia another day. We headed down to a point just below the summit where we picked up some gear we left behind for the scrambling section.

This was a great hike. We were all very happy that we all made the summit. The views are incredible from this smallish summit. We started our descent towards base camp a few miles away. During the down hike Sara had a small misstep (as all of us do now and then...some more than others) and managed to stumble. Unfortunately she fell across a small but pointy rock and ripped a small gash in the front of her shin.

Now this is where it gets a little weird. On a normal person if you rip your skin open you would bleed and you would expect to see some sort of human tissue in the wound. So, on Sara the skin was torn away but underneath no human tissue. Just white. Not bone either mind you. Just white. Still no blood. The white actually looked like some sort of fiberglass under structure. It became apparent that Sara was indeed a Fembot! But at least she is friendly and makes good brownies so we let her stay on the team.

We patched her up with some epoxy and glass tape and she was as good as new for the remainder of the hike back to camp and then back out to the cars. We drove to Buena Vista and stopped at the Coyote Cantina for chips, beer, and a hearty meal. And, we were all able to tell our stories about our successful climb of Mt. Harvard.

A special thanks to team member Mike O'Hearn for supplying several of the images for this post.

GPS track for the Mt. Harvard climb.

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