Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,075 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,424 feet
Date Posted:  07/05/2020
Date Climbed:   07/03/2020
Author:  Jorts
 Traverse of Rabbit Ridge: Columbia to Harvard   

I couldn't find much concrete info about the Rabbit Ridge traverse out there beyond "DON'T DO IT" on SummitPost and rumblings of 5.7 cruxes. Here's my experience.

I set out from North Cottonwood TH about 0600 with 12oz. of water, 3 Muir gels, a water filter and not a cloud in the sky. I uploaded my intended route on my Ambit3 to take the south ridge of Columbia direct but I never encountered a decent turnoff from Horn Fork. Instead I just kept running until the Y-fork turning off for the west slopes at 0650. There were a couple dozen CFI volunteers already working to improve the notoriously awful trail. And their hard work has paid off. Solid boulder steps have replaced the loose scree.20287_02

It was a painless power hike up to the summit. I passed 3 other parties, summiting in 1hr 53 min from the TH.20287_03

Rabbit Ridge is obvious atop Columbia... and simultaneously enticing and intimidating; the Rabbits and the jagged difficulties beyond in clear view.


I set off down the loose scree from Columbia toward the grassy saddle. The hikers route turns off hard right here.


Staying on the ridge, I trended west (climber's left) to gain a narrow catwalk beyond the iconic Rabbits. 20287_07

This was a mistake. The catwalk abruptly ends in a cliff surrounded peninsula. I backtracked and down climbed back down to the west, regaining the ridge beyond the 40 foot cliff. The climbing is primarily 2nd and 3rd class initially after the rabbits. The first impassable slab I encountered I dodged east on grassy ledges regaining the ridge with a succession of chossy gullies having not dropped more than 40 ft off the ridge. I continued along the ridge proper, slightly favoring the west side to bypass any difficulties. Eventually I was stopped by a 30 ft wall with a distinct crack splitting it. I assume this was the "5.7 crux". Looked more like low 5th class climbing to me. Not knowing what lie beyond and wanting nothing to do with a down climb of that crack, I chose to bypass it to the east. The bypass was both obvious and painless. At the base of the crack wall, one simply down climbs a 3rd cl gully and then contours below the ridge until a series of blocky ledges and gullies present an opportunity to regain the ridge. I looked back on the opposing side of the crux and it appeared to be a reasonable 3rd cl walkoff the other side if the crack is climbed.

I tried to stay ridge proper here but the terrain became increasingly complex, cliffy and seemingly impassable in places. I was gradually pushed west until I found myself on some fairly exposed ledges. As exposed as they were, they were equally solid. Traversing horizontally along the ledges on 3rd-4th cl terrain, the ridge proper soon got away from me as it rose toward Harvard. I started climbing ribs and gullies interspersed amongst sheer slabs above and below. Every slab I encountered could be skirted onward without backtracking. After a couple hundred feet of 4th cl climbing, the terrain eased and I regained the ridge on the hikers trail beneath Harvard.


I summited Harvard on the 2nd class trail completing the traverse in 1:30 and ran down the standard trail, arriving back at my car in 1:15. The whole route took 4:45 with 5800 ft of vertical and 15 miles.


My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Summit Assassin
07/13/2020 12:32
Super impressive! Well done.

08/21/2021 09:41
A belated thanks for this post, climbed this yesterday. I think the crack and the 5.7 crux are distinct. That crack tops out at a rap station and you can indeed easily continue along the ridge afterwards. Except for skirting the rabbits I stayed ridge proper and never found the crux as described by Roach. The crack doesn‘t fit his description. Also, your time is superhuman!

08/21/2021 19:42
Glad it went smoothly. I really like that route. I was just up there again a month ago in fog and wind. Not sure why anyone would take the longer, lower traverse. It's not THAT bad. I think the whole "5.7" thing scares people off but I just did the quick bypass again.

N to S or S to N
09/20/2021 17:36
Most reports advise going Harvard to Columbia. Did it seem to make a difference to you which way to go?

Hard to say
09/20/2021 19:06
I found the east bypass of the 5th class section easily identifiable going Columbia to Harvard. Can‘t say if that would be as obvious going the opposite direction. The 2nd time I did the traverse, I ventured all the way to the base of the crack. Def mid 5th and I opted not to do it. I doubled back and took the same bypass I did the first time through. It‘s unexposed 3rd-4th.

11/26/2021 11:37
Going Harvard to Columbia you‘d either need to rap/downclimb the crack or find Jort‘s bypass. I think it‘s traditionally been done Harvard-Columbia so that you can rap the difficulties, but that‘s no fun.

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