Columbia Peak Seen From The Town Site. (Peak on The Right)
Columbia Peak is one of those that I have tried several times before. The first time, I thought it could be a one day journey and the sun started to fall before I could reach the summit. I turned around dismayed but determined to return and conquer. A year later I came back and spent the night in an effort to give myself more time, but half way up the peak encountered some serious rockfall and turned back for fear of safety. So, this time I set out determined to make it whatever it took. I suppose the hubris in me didn’t want to think that this mountain could win. I started from Barlow pass and headed up to the Monte Cristo Town site on my bike at 6:30am with starry eyes and a determination I haven’t felt for quite some time. I was strangely comforted by the fact that I didn’t see a single other person and looked forward to what I knew would be an extremely difficult day. After parking my bike I changed into my climbing gear, took a breath and headed for the trail behind the town site.
First Views Along The Trail To Silver Lake.
On the way up to Poodle Dog pass I was surprised to only see a smattering of snow and wondered what the trail would look like up higher. To my pleasant surprise once I reached the pass at the Silver Lake trail junction, the snow was suddenly several feet deep and devoid of signs of any other human interaction with the landscape. It was here that I ran into the only person I would see until the evening. We enjoyed had a short conversation about the surrounding views and then I threw on my crampons with a smile ready for whatever was about to come my way.
After leaving the silver lake area the snow was deep and the route finding was all my mind could focus on until several miles later. At one point I ran across some Bear tracks in the snow. The thought of how fresh they appeared to be quickly pulled me out of my trance. It is curious to me that it is often moments like these that make me realize how alone I am in places like this.
Route Up Columbia (Enlarge to See Clearly)
Once onto the Ridge that you must cross to drop into Twin lakes, the trail become much more difficult. in places the snow was easily 10 ft deep, and in others had nearly melted through. This made for a treacherous landscape that was somewhere between blue ice and pudding. I fell several times from post-holing and still encountered several places where I was more than grateful to have crampons in my pack.
I was especially grateful once I had hit the snow slopes that lead to the top of Columbia. Some of these approach near vertical and were in essence more of an ice climb than a scramble. I am not sure if it was just the time of year or not, but this small section of climb could be tough to stomach. Especially once the loose rock is exposed.
The Last Near Vertical Section Of Snow
The Crux of this climb, however, came as I wrapped around the north side of the mountain to attain the summit. The snow had melted enough that it created slopes headed directly for some massive cliffs and the exposure made my head spin a bit. Especially the last small section of this spot where the snow steepened to a near vertical slope was a near terrifying experience. This of course would all be different when the snow is gone during the summer. All of this culminated in a short nap, some photos and a return trip home that would teach me to pay much closer attention to the amount of water that I am carrying on this length of climb. To all those looking to climb this incredible peak, be prepared for solitude and an unbeatable view. Both of which will come at the price of a monumental test of your endurance.
Standing A Top The Summit
First Section Of Trail
Waterfall Along The Trail
Trail Just After Poodle Dog Pass
A Taste Of The Early Season "Trail"
Twin Lakes From The Ridge
Glacier Peak From The Summit Of Columbia
Del Campo, Silver Tip Peak, Gothic Peak, Vesper Peak, Morning Star and Others From The Summit