| Mt Princeton & Tigger Peak in a snowy whirlwind
Peaks: Mount Princeton (14,197 ft)
Tigger Peak (13,300 ft)
Trailhead: Mt. Princeton Road
Elevation Gain: 4,077 feet
Total Mileage: approx. 6.5 miles
I pulled up the weather at about 9:00 am., and it wasn't looking the greatest in the Sawatch Range or all of Colorado for that matter. Lot's of wind in the forecast. I gave Walt a call before he headed down from Evanston, WY. We decided that since we were climbing Mt Raineer at the end of the month, we needed to give Princeton a whorl and hope for the best on the wind factor. Jake, Walt, and I left Vernal in route to Buena Vista at about 3:30 that afternoon.
That evening we found the Mt. Princeton road free of snow above the Frontier Ranch. So we decided to see how far we could make it up. After breaking trail through several snow drifts, we made it to just below the last switchback (10,420 ft) below the radio Tower. With some creative maneuvering I was able to turn my Tacoma around on the narrow road. By the time we pitched camp and crashed it was about 11:30pm.
We got up at 4:30am to an inch of fresh snow on the ground, and were pleased that the air was calm with a light snow still falling. After a quick bite to eat and last minute packing we headed off up the Mt. Princeton Road at 5:00am.
The snow on the road past the Tower increased to about 3-6 feet.
For the most part the snow was firm holding us on top, but we did posthole through once and while. We followed the road for about another ¾ mile and then took a straight shot towards Tigger Peak.
Walt andd Jack ascending above radio tower.
Once reaching the base of Tigger Peak we picked up the foot trail leading to Mt. Princeton.
Base of Tigger slightly visible through the blowing snow.
The wind was picking up now, but very sporadic. It wasn't long (1/4-1/2 mile before the trail disappeared in deep snow. Looking at the mix of rock and snow up towards the saddle between Tigger and Princeton, we decided to head straight up towards Tigger and then cut over to the saddle at the end. Kicking in foot holds became very time consuming, so it wasn't long before we dawned crampons.
We utilized snow fields as much as possible going up, but had to pick our way through stretches of mixed rock and snow as well.
Jake had set his pack on a nice flat rock when a micro burst of wind swept his pack away, and off it went down the mountain side. He must have left his pack open, because with every tumble something was ejected leaving a trail of "stuff" 300 ft down before it came to rest. Most of the extra clothing Jake had packed is "somewhere" in the Dry Creek drainage. I'm sure there will be some happy pika's and marmonts over the summer chewing on the spoils.
Jake retrieving his pack.
Jake was a good sport, after retrieving what he could find, we were off again. Crampons made the ascent much easier. New snow accumulations were now 2-12 inches, accumulating more in the depressions as wind blew it around. The closer were got to the saddle the more the wind picked up, however it was not consistent. It was more of an occasional micro-burst that came about ever time your footing was bad, or wanted to take a picture, or get something from your pack.
Cutting over to saddle once enough elevation was gained.
We crested just above the saddle on the Tigger side. Once on the saddle the micro-bursts were picking up some incredible force. You could see several whirlwinds of snow joining together....and then…..wham! If you weren't ready you were picking yourself up off the snow and rock. It brought back memories of my hike across the saddle between Shavano and Tabequache last fall, not quite that extreme yet though.
Route across saddle to Princeton.
Mt. Antero from saddle
As we crossed the saddle the clouds began to clear a little more with some blue poking through. On the journey from the truck to the saddle we took occasional way points just in case visibility from blowing snow became nil.
Looking back towards Tigger Peak
By 11:30 all three of us had summited (elevation gained/ 3,777 ft). The wind on the summit of Princeton was a raging torrent of blowing snow with no relief or pauses. Winds gusted in excess of 40 mph. We took a few pictures, enjoyed the view for about 15 minutes before we had enough, and began our descent back down to the saddle. The trail register was exposed, but we figured it would be impossible to hold onto the paper without it ending up in the next county.
Summit view towards Mt. Yale.
Summit view towards Antero
Summit view towards Tigger Peak
Walt and Jake descending back to saddle.
From the saddle we ascended up the ridge-line about 280-300 ft to Tigger Peak. Once on the ridge the wind subsided a little and the sun came out a bit more.
Ridgeline to Tigger
Tigger summit (13,300) view towards Antero.
View towards Mt. Princeton from Tigger.
We descended straight down a snow shoot on the north side of Tigger until we reached the hiking trail. As we descended back down to the radio tower the once firm snow began to soften and soon became a quagmire. I was glad for carrying snowshoes all day for the fun of it, for now there use was welcomed. Before reaching the tower we descended straight down tying back into the Mt. Princeton road. We made it back to the truck around 3:30.
What a "WHIRLWIND" of a trip! A windy day, but we were all glad we followed through with the climb.
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