| March 5, 2006 - Merriam Creek Route
Six of us - all 14ers.com members - met at the Morrison Rd Park and Ride at 0430 this morning to hike Mt. Princeton togehter. After brief introductions we carpooled to Mt. Princeton in two vehicles. Upon arrival we were very pleased to find the Mt. Princeton road open and passable to well above the Frontier Ranch parking area. In fact, one of our vehicles, a stock, early model Nissan Pathfinder, made it all the way to the antennae array at 10,800
The three hikers in the Nissan formed team "A" - David (TalusMonkey), Lilia (Devotchkatata) and Richard. Team "B" formed from the three hikers in the other vehicle - Chris (Chris1217), Adam (avs88fan) and Brock (Brock). Based on the easy drive to high elevation and the windswept look of the road and mountain, both teams decided to leave the snowshoes in the vehicles. We never regretted that!
Both teams geared up and began ascending the Mt. Princeton Road from their respective locations (team A at 10,800 and team B at about 10,300) - at approximately 0810. Although we remained in radio contact, we hiked as two separate teams, separated by perhaps a half mile. The day looked fantastic - blue skies, mild temperatures and not very much wind.
This is team As account. Team B will post their report.
David, Lilia and Richard found the calm and mild conditions easy for hiking and we quickly made the foot trail above the jeep trail at 11,800 (watch out for some slick ice east of where the foot trail leaves the road). After gaining the ridge, we quickly decided to take Dawsons summer route, rather than the recommended winter route along the east ridge. The mountain was well windswept and there was no avalanche danger. We continued below the east ridge along the summer trail. The trail was mostly well packed snow, however, there are a few short snow chutes to cross. Some of these had unsafe runouts, so either edge with confidence, or use crampons/ice tool for safety.
We left the trail at about 12,900 and began a long ascending traverse toward the saddle below the summit. From there we headed to the summit and reached our goal at about 1220. The wind was still just "breezy" by winter standards. We took some photos and began our descent.
From the summit we could see team B below us beginning their traverse from the trail toward the saddle. As we met them at approximately 13,500 we greeted and said our farewells. David, Lilia and Richard continued our rapid descent, including a fun extended "butt-sled" through the woods, and returned to the vehicle at the antennae array at about 1420. From there we could already taste the pizza in Buena Vista...
Todays weather was tops for a winter ascent and it was fun for six 14ers.com people to coordinate a hike together. I am sure that some of us will hike together again soon! The climbers in team A turned out to be well matched in ability and pace and we enjoyed good company and friendship.
(If you are looking for an "easy" winter ascent, Princeton is prime and the trail established, if you beat the next storm.)