| A Long Winter Day on Princeton and Tigger
Mountains: Mt. Princeton (14,197'), Tigger Peak (13,300'?) and Unnamed Peak (13,273')
Route: Started at Main trailhead (8900'), used the standard route to ascend and traversed over to Tigger and Unnamed 13,273.
Elevation Gain - 5800' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 14.5 miles (approx)
Time - 13 hours 45 minutes
I decided to push this back by a day because Saturday had a piss poor forecast with snow and high winds. I was by myself and with my frostbitten nose still giving me trouble I felt like I needed the weather on my side. I woke up at 1:20 AM to a bad stomach bug but decided that I'd be fine once I got started. I got to the main trailhead at 6AM. It was still dark and I couldn't see the mountain and assess snow conditions on the East Slopes route. After vomiting and cleaning up at the trailhead I started hiking Mt. Princeton Road at 7AM feeling rather like $h@!z@. Not the greatest start to my first solo winter ascent, but I'd managed to get to the trailhead okay and that was half the job done, right? I decided to take TP, headlamps, snowshoes, beacon, shovel and probe (to find and dig myself out when buried under tons of snow)… oh and did I mention TP? I felt like the axe and helmet weren't necessary and I was right.
I used the above map (provided by doumall, thanks homie) above the radio towers. The red lines mark the avy-safe route. Blue marks the standard route from the radio towers.
I was unsure of how much avy-dodging I'd have to do since I knew the abominable snowman had taken a dump on this mountain in the week following Dave Hale's ascent (TR on 14erworld… if you're on here dude, that TR was awesome… it helped quite a bit). I was pretty excited to be climbing and started moving quickly but patches of snow and ice on Mt. Princeton road slowed me down a little bit. I was on my mountaineering boots all the while though and didn't need to whip my snowshoes out just yet.
If you're planning an ascent over the next week or two watch for ice on the road. I reached the radio towers at about 8:15AM and thought I was going to do great until I met the mess that was the following part of the road. The snow had fallen heavy, melted and formed long sections of sheet ice covered with an inch of snow. This delightful trail was punctuated with deep snow at spots. I took several falls and kept having to switch to snowshoes to negotiate the deep snow, wasting significant chunks of time. Over a short section of the trail I found a skin trail and was able to use it for a while, not for long.
All was not lost however, since the weather was BYOOTIFUL and I was confident of having plenty of daylight to finish my climb.
I soldiered on and reached the switchbacks which I was warned, might hold enough snow to slide. I found this… I saw the marks of a tiny animal but decided not to follow.
I decided to cut across and ascend parallel to an avy chute where I found a bootpack… probably from a week earlier I guessed.
The ice didn't get any better and I slid on, spending precious time on my hind parts, cursing loudly quite often (Please look for and locate buttock marks on ice in the following picture)
I finally reached the cutoff for the trail. It was pretty easy to find. I followed Bill's route description religiously at this point. The snow didn't hide too much. I got up to 11,900' on the ridge and decided that the standard route didn't have enough snow to worry about. However I got around a bend and was greeted by some rather worrisome snowfields like this one...
I'm a beginner and didn't want to take foolish chances and decided to climb up (about 60 to 100 feet) above the first couple snowfields and traverse across these safe looking rock bands above them...
I looked back and congratulated myself for taking the commendable, avy-safe route (nice, that avy class at Berthoud really helped), rounded another bend and found more snowfields. By now I was sapped. It was 11:45AM and I hadn't eaten anything yet so I decided to stop and reward myself with my deplorable sandwischzes and Rockstar. I started again at 12:05PM but I was drained and could not bring myself to climb 100 feet up to avoid any more snowfields. I felt ahead with my poles and boot, and didn't break off any significant wind slab. I decided to sprint across quickly. I broke thin slabs but there was no crack propagation and thankfully no "whomp". The snow was pretty deep at spots and maybe I should have used my snowshoes here.
Past the final snowfield the trail looked pretty windblown and I was relieved. It was getting pretty late and I was concerned. However the worst was behind me. I can handle rock. I hit the ridge at 13,200' and cached my snowshoes there at 2:15PM. I looked up at the final 1000' of rock and decided to unleash the fury. This last section was a talus/snow mix… not much snow though and my boots handled it pretty well. I hit the summit at 3:05PM. Here's looking back at the trail from the summit.
I was beat and was NOT looking forward to negotiating those avy slopes again. The very thought of it roused the small animals in my alimentary canal and I decided to traverse over to Tigger… this was going to be one loooong day, but luckily the weather Gods were kind and there was not a cloud in sight. Wind was 10-15mph at the most. I enjoyed some of the expansive views from the summit. Here's a sweet one of Antero…
And one of what I think was Pt. 13,971 from the other route (please correct me if I'm wrong)
The wind picked up and started troubling my frostbitten nose mildly. I decided not to waste too much more time on the summit, ate some trail mix, drank some vitamin water, popped an Ibuprofen, threw on my facemask, and started off down at 3:20PM. The descent to the saddle went reasonably fast and I picked my snowshoes up at 4PM. The ridge to Tigger looked positively inviting. There were some cornices and miraculously, a size 10 bootpack. There was somebody else on the mountain recently! A comforting thought, for some reason. The ridge run was a lot of fun and I scampered up unnamed 13,273 and Tigger. I summitted Tigger at 5:15PM and found I had 12oz. of vitamin water left for the descent. There were some brilliant views of the plains from Tigger's summit.
I would highly recommend this traverse... Here's looking back at the ridge towards Princeton
It was a lot of fun. However, the descent down Tigger's ridge was unpleasant in current conditions and I postholed pretty deep and crashed my knee into rock several times at the boulder fields close to the bottom. I stopped taking pictures at this point. I had to hurry back to my Jeep by 9PM or risk having a friend hook me up with SAR.
On the return Mt. Princeton Road was worse than in the morning with much more ice from the day's melting. I slithered all over in the dark under flickering headlamps. There was no water… there was no time… and there were no people anywhere on the mountain. I finally reached my Jeep and oozed into the front seat and found my cell phone at 8:45PM. I climber's-hacked all over the phone and let Debbie know that I was still alive. I'd made the cutoff. I leaned back on the driver's seat. It was a glorious day and satisfying summit. The kind of day one would like to have this magnificent mountain all to ones self. The only other person I met all day was this chick and I didn't mind sharing the mountain with her.
I was happy to have been given this opportunity, and thankful that the weather had been kind.
Time to summit: 8:05
Traverse Time to Tigger Peak: 2:20
The sun is shining and Mt. Princeton Road could be either extremely icy in patches or much of it could have melted. I wouldn't advise attempting to drive up to the radio towers. I saw what seemed like week old ATV tracks going up to the towers but the road was extremely slippery and could be difficult for bigger vehicles. It seems to be very windy this week and I would assume that the east slopes would be a little dry compared to when I did it. I hope my "slither-track" makes things a little easier for the next climber