Lifes Adventures

Sawatch Range – Collegiate Peaks

The Sawatch Range has many subdivisions that are typically based on their source of namesakes.  For instance Mt. Shavano, Tabeguache Peak, and Mt. Antero are typically known as the Indian Group.  The Collegiate Peaks of Mount Harvard and Mount Yale were named by a surveying expedition led by Harvard professor Josiah Whitney in 1869, and the others were later named.  The team was investigating rumors that there were peaks in the Rocky Mountains that soared above 17,000’ well above any others recorded in history.  Of course this is a fallacy, but the splendor of the Collegiate Peaks cannot be denied.  They seem to rise well above 14,000’ from the relatively low plains of the Arkansas Valley that dominates the land surrounding them.

3. Mount Harvard – 14,420’ – Although Mount Harvard was named by Harvard’s first Mining School led by Josiah Whitney the first recorded ascent wasn’t until 1869 by S.F. Sharpless and William M Davis.  Mount Harvard is relatively easy day hike for any level of hiker and can also be climbed in combination with Mount Columbia.  The two peaks together can be more rigorous and makes for a long day, so be prepared.   

18. Mount Belford – 14,197’ – Mount Belford is a fairly easy class 1/2 climb located near Mount Oxford and Missouri Mountain and they are often climbed in the same day.  Belford and Oxford are most commonly climbed together and is 11 miles with a 5,900’ elevation gain.  If you add Missouri to the mix then you have a 14 ½ mile hike with a 7,400’ elevation gain, make sure you are physically ready for such a long venture. 

20. Mount Princeton – 14,197’ - Mount Princeton was first climbed in 1877 by William Libbey a professor of physical geography at Princeton University.  However, it is likely that many miners ascended the peak for years prior.  The peak was named by one of Josiah Whitney’s students Henry Gannett of in 1873 during a governmental survey of the land.

Of the Collegiate Peaks this regal mountain is the most visible from the Arkansas Valley and seems to stand alone on the horizon.  The summit is highlighted by two glacial valleys on either side each leading to other peaks that also offer spectacular views.  The Chalk Cliffs on the southeast face of the mountain offer semi-technical climbing on otherwise non-technical terrain.  Mount Princeton can be climbed in winter, but requires you to have avalanche training and knowledge for a safe ascent.    

21. Mount Yale – 14,196’ – Mount Yale was named by Josiah Whitney and his class from Harvard University in 1869 in honor of Whitney’s alma mater.  Yale is a very good non-technical trainer mountain for anyone looking to get into the art of “bagging 14’ers.”  The terrain is fairly benign with the exception of much of upper part of the mountain is scree and boulder fields.

26. Mount Oxford – 14,153’ – As mentioned earlier Mount Oxford is usually climbed with Mount Belford and Missouri Mountain. The easiest route  to the summit is a class 1/2 climb with beautiful views and scenic pathways.  

35. Mount Columbia – 14,073’ – Its closest neighbor is Mount Harvard and is usually climbed in combination with its taller cohort.  There is a 2 mile ridge separating the two peaks, and although the climb is only a class 2 the ridge provides little protection from unpredictable Colorado weather.  Typically you should plan on hiking Mount Harvard first and last and only summiting Mount Columbia.  This is mostly due to the major erosion that has taken place on Mount Columbia.

36. Missouri Mountain – 14,067’ – Of the neighboring peaks Missouri Mountain is one of the only in the area that offers more technical climbs to its summit.  The Missouri Gulch Trailhead is a class 1 climb, but near the end you have choice of class 2, 3, or 4 routes.  Missouri Mountain is typically climbed on either the same or next day as its higher neighbors Mount Oxford and Mount Belford.  From the summit the Three Apostles and Ice Mountain can be viewed, and the descent is a fun scramble down a scree field.    


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