Mount Harvard, with an elevation of 14,420 feet, is the third highest peak in the state of Colorado. It's located within the Sawatch (also spelled Saguache) Range of mountains in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area, where the largest concentration of Colorado Fourteeners can be found. Mount Harvard was named by members of the first Harvard Mining School class, while on expedition with Professor Josiah Dwight Whitney in 1869 to investigate rumors of 17,000-foot peaks deep in the Rockies (California's Mount Whitney was named after the professor). The same group named the peak next to Mount Harvard Mount Yale, after the professor's alma mater (the naming process apparently took place in a more amicable spirit than the namings of Mounts Lincoln and Democrat). The expedition climbed Mount Yale first, estimated that it was over 14,000 feet in height, and, on August 19, 1869, expedition members S.F. Sharpless and William M. Davis made the first recorded ascent of Mount Harvard. Later, other Fourteeners in the Sawatch Range were named after Columbia, Oxford, and Princeton.
Mount Harvard's history with its namesake wouldn't end there. Almost a century later (in 1962), three more Harvard men would attempt to erect a 14-foot metal pole on the summit, thus making it the second highest point in the contiguous United States (after Mount Whitney). Darkness set in before the trio reached their objective, and the pole was abandoned a few hundred yards short of the summit. The following year, brothers John and Tim Worth (Tim would later represent Colorado's Second Congressional District) and a Cornell graduate carried the pole the remaining distance to the summit, where it remained into the 1980s.
Mount Harvard is often climbed in combination with neighboring Mount Columbia. Be warned that the long, sharp ridge between the summits is over two miles in length and involves substantial elevation gain and loss (the entire trek requires a full long day). Climbers wishing to bag both peaks often camp in Horn Fork Basin and make a multi-day outing of it.
The standard route starts at the North Cottonwood trailhead. To reach it, drive north approximately half a mile from Buena Vista along
Highway 24 and turn left onto County Road 350. Drive 2.1 miles to a T and turn right onto County Road 361. The road becomes dirt and angles
northwest before you turn sharply left and south onto County Road 365, which turns west to take you into San Isabel National Forest. Pass
the Harvard Lakes trailhead and continue to the North Cottonwood trailhead, which lies at an elevation of 9,880 feet.
This page last updated 8/15/06