In 1869 Professor Josiah Dwight Whitney led a research team from the Harvard Mining School class on a surveying expedition through the Sawatch Range to investigate rumors of soaring 17,000-foot peaks deep in the Rockies. The group came upon two Fourteener peaks (That’s mountaineering speak for a mountain over 14,000 feet high).
They first climbed the smaller of the two, and decided to name it after their professor’s alma mater – Yale University in New Haven. Then, on August 19 two expedition members made the very first recorded ascent of the 3rd highest peak in Colorado. The hiking party named the soaring peak after their school, and sponsor of the expedition – Harvard University. These two were the first mountains in the range to be named after Universities, but eventually nearby mountains would be named for Columbia (right next to Harvard,) Princeton, and Oxford. This area of the Sawatch Range is nicknamed “Collegiate Peaks.”
Bearing a similar relationship to their namesakes, the climb up Mount Yale is generally considered to be moderately difficult, and is a good “training mountain” whereas Mount Harvard is a more difficult climb being a good 200 ft taller!