I never got around to writing about it, but last June a friend and I took a backpacking trip up into Horn Fork Basin, inside the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, west of Buena Vista. Our intent was to tackle both Mt. Harvard (just off center in above pic) and Mt. Columbia, though we would end up only summiting Harvard. Nevertheless, we had a great time exploring the basin, and this was probably my favorite backpacking trip since camping in Weminuche Wilderness Area back in 2003. It's so beautiful up there. Anyway, I was going back and processing a few pics from that trip last night, so thought I'd go ahead and share some of those with you.
The Mighty Wall (as I liked to call it)
Looking South to Mt. Yale (not a great pic, but gives you an idea of the view looking down through the basin)
The Path (a cairn marking the path to the summit of Mt. Harvard – an AWESOME hike)
Looking West/Northwest from Mt. Harvard
Exploring the Ridgelines
Horn Fork Sunset
As you can see, the views up there are phenomenal! As I said previously, this goes down as one of my favorite backpacking trips, and I can't wait to go back. For one, I'd like to go back and knock off Columbia, but more importantly, I'd just like to camp and hike around Horn Fork Basin again. Even if you don't give a rat's patootey about bagging summits, you should go just to hang around and explore the basin. It's crazy beautiful up there.
High Country Beer Cooler
The above pic I include just to show you a proper high-country beer cooler. :) We packed a few beers with us to unwind after the hard days of hiking, and were lucky to find this lone remaining snow bank just outside our campsite. Divine providence! :)
Lastly, I'll leave you with this pic (below), which shows how much work it was to get up there. The trail itself is a pretty basic walk up to the basin; some serious elevation gain, but never more than Class 1/2 hiking. HOWEVER, in 2011 there were massive windstorms throughout the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness that resulted in hundreds of trees going down, including over many trails. This was one of them. Up until the wilderness area border, they had cleaned up most of the trail, cutting the trees away. However, they can't use chainsaws within wilderness areas, per federal law, so once past that boundary, you're crossing/circumnavigating all those fallen trees yourself. Many times when events like this happen, they'll simply re-route, as creating new trails is easier than trying to clean up all the deadfall.
That's my friend, Mark, navigating the mess. On the way back out on our last day, I'd end up snagging my leg on one of the many fallen trees while trying to step over it, ripping it open something ugly. I'm still carrying the scar from that one…