This was a bigger day than I had bargained for, but it was a success. Based on the stats (13.7 mi, 5813' AEG) and relatively nonchalant description in the Roach guide, I expected a little bit tougher version of Oxford/Belford. It was considerably tougher. The stats above are from 14ers.com, which seem more correct to me after the hike. In addition to the bigger numbers, the terrain and level of commitment on this hike are more serious than Oxford/Belford and all of the other combos I've done.
The trail into Horn Fork Basin and subsequent ascent of Harvard is the highlight of this hike, and IMO is ideally done as a backpack. There are lots of nice camping spots below tree line in the basin by the Columbia turnoff, and the trail is very gradual up to that point. Harvard is a BIG mountain and you feel all of those 420 feet over 14,000, but it's nice and straightforward.
The traverse to Columbia ranges from lovely to maddening. Some of it is a clear trail, some of it is talus, some of it is an eroded mess (at least if you're like me and didn't spend enough time looking at the 14ers.com pictures), and a good amount of it is over snowfields this time of year. It took me about 2:45 to complete; I'd avoid starting it after 9:00 or if there's any sign of unfavorable weather.
blog.rei.com/hike/m ... 4er/
The above article is a good description of the situation on Columbia. I ended up on the crappy slopes, though I saw another party that had found their way to one of the newer sections of trail which looked really nice as I was skiing down the dirt. My advice is to wait on this combo until the trail is completed, or to do the peaks as two separate outings: Harvard via the standard route, and Columbia via one of the alternate routes from the East. Of course, if you're an insatiable peak bagger or an unprepared moron or a combination of the two
, then this combo is here for the taking...