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Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Post Date:  09/10/2007
Date Climbed:   09/03/2007
Posted By:  CarpeDM

 Buena Vista Social Club   

Over the Labor Day weekend, I set my sites on doing 3 14ers – which would get me to within one of my goal of 10 new 14ers in 2007. The plan was to do Belford and Oxford on Saturday, then Missouri on Monday. Well, plans got changed and it was going to be Missouri, then Belford/Oxford. The first trip up Missouri on Saturday did not end too well: My (main) hiking partner, Keith, doesn't yet understand the importance of getting an early start. So when the hail started at noon and we were only half-way up the slope to the ridge, I and another guy (Paul, Keith's friend from California) packed it in, while Keith and his wife went ahead. (He had thought that all those people who got to the trailhead "early" were gung-ho. As he and his wife continued in the hail, I thought, No, you're the one who is gung-ho.) Of course, the hail stopped for them, and they bagged the peak - so I'm just a wuss.

So having learned that there wasn't going to be any way my hiking partners would get up early enough to give us a reasonable shot at both Belford and Oxford on Monday, and since I was calling the shots on what we climbed, I was determined to at least get one peak in that weekend. I figured on Princeton because we could use his truck to get us to the parking at 11k, making it short enough that we could start relatively late and still be pretty much guaranteed to bag it.

So we in fact did get a late start – 9:30 to be precise. This late start was partly due to the fact that we had gotten stuck behind a couple of slow-moving trucks on the 4wd road. Also, one guy had started coming down and had to go back up the road in reverse a little ways. This road is really pretty rough to the point where Paul, the California visitor, coined the phrase, "Whiplash at 1 mph."

A little digression: just the weekend before, I had come to Buena Vista thinking I'd try Princeton from down at the main trailhead. When I arrived too late in the day ( I like my glass house just fine - ), I thought I'd try it from 11k if I could rent a Jeep. Well, the rental guy (right there on US 24) wouldn't rent me a Jeep because he couldn't confirm that I had collision insurance. But he thought I might try getting my Sentra up there. Yeah, right! Having been up there now, there is no way my car would have made it. I wouldn't try it at all without 4wd. Also, it seems to me that – since there is virtually no way for two cars to pass anywhere – that they might want to control traffic so that the top half of the hour is uphill and the bottom half is downhill or something like that.

Anywho, this was an ugly, annoying hike that I never want to repeat. Hiking the 4wd road up to the trail junction is uneventful and, except for a couple of views back toward the valley, not particularly scenic.

The trail starts off the 4wd road at this big cairn

Then there is a little bit of real trail before you hit the talus. Not that I mind talus; in fact, hiking on talus is one of my strongest points. I can easily jog across big rocks with confidence. And for a while it is like that.

Paul and Keith just before the more stable talus

But then it gets loose, unstable, gravelly – just plain nasty. Of course, I made it harder than it needed to be: I had looked at the mileage and route on a couple of maps, and thought, "6.25 miles; no problem!" But I hadn't really read Bill's route description very closely. So I missed the fact that you want to get up to the ridge before going too far on this slope. Looking around the side of the mountain, I could see trail contouring over pretty far and just figured that was the way to go. I didn't see how it got up to the ridge, but I just figured there were switchbacks that I couldn't see from my perspective. I saw some people hiking higher up toward the ridge, but at the time I figured they were going to/coming from Tigger Peak.

The old trail is visible, but can you see the new trail? I couldn't

Being faster on the talus, I was well out in front of my hiking partners and got way over toward the mine before trying to gain the ridge. I coaxed them over to me despite their better judgment. As I waited for them to make their way over, I was getting anxious because clouds were forming. I did not want my 3 peaks in a weekend to turn into 0 peaks. So we pushed on ahead, finally summitting at 1:00pm. We snapped a couple of summit shots and quickly got going again.

No railing on this one either, Dad!

On the way down we took the new trail, and I found it to be annoying as well, although I was certainly wishing I'd gone up that way. As I zoomed ahead across the talus again, lightning flashed in front of me over the eastern slopes - not close and not a ground strike, but it got me going even faster, at least until I rounded the last corner that got me back down to the 4wd road. From there it was smooth sailing back to the truck. Princeton, I'm done with you!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

You sound a little frustrated...     2010-11-30 10:20:17
If my partners insisted on starting that late I'd find some new partners! An early start is the key to success, a late start is asking to get rained and hailed on at best, struck by lightning at worst!

Out of all the 14ers, Princeton was my least favorite. I don't know why, but I hated it. But it looks so nice from Buena Vista...

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