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Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Post Date:  07/03/2009
Date Climbed:   07/01/2009
Posted By:  mountainlover


 Mt. Princeton-Std. Route   

Mt. Princeton has been one of those 14ers I've long avoided doing due to its reputation as a walk-up along a jeep road and its less-than-stunning eastern slopes. However, with only a handful of Sawatch 14ers left on my ticklist, Princeton's time had come, and I was pretty eager to get 'er done.

Dave, Danyon, and I left Colorado Springs around 3:30AM and arrived at the Mt. Princeton trailhead around 5:30AM after a bit of morning excitement in the form of a waddling porcupine right off CR 322. Funny looking creatures, those porcupines…but I digress. Anyways, because we did not have access to a 4WD vehicle, we prepared to head up the long and winding jeep road. We were all less than thrilled to have to add additional 7-8 miles to the trek up Princeton, but begrudgingly began the trek around 5:45AM after suiting up with our gear. After about 15 minutes on the road, a friendly couple from Missouri offered us a ride in their truck up the road, which we gladly accepted. A chance to save our legs from unnecessary pain and enjoy the views from the back of a pickup? I'll take it! Thrilled with our luck, we began our hike again up the road a little past the radio towers around 6:45AM.

After hiking on the road for about half an hour, we headed off the road up a set of stone stairs that joined a trail heading up the east slopes. After joining the ridge, we followed the solid trail as it interwove between segments of talus and loose dirt. The trail then took a left and headed up a steep slope to eventually join the upper ridge.

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A look at the upper ridge heading up to the summit

The rest of the hike from here on out was full of talus that varied in quality from obnoxious wobbly, pointy rocks that would scare the living daylights out of you when they shifted (while simultaneously murdering your poor feet) to kind, flat gentle talus that lovingly stayed in place when you stepped on it.

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Princeton's east face...probably not the most scenic 14er standard route I've ever attempted but a good hike nonetheless


My pace slowed down considerably at this point while Danyon, the wonder athlete, cruised on ahead. After encountering a false summit, I eventually made my way to the top, reaching my 27th summit (halfway done!) around 9:45AM.

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Victory pose on top of Princeton

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View of Antero to the south

Dave, Danyon, and I spent about 20-30 minutes relaxing on top, and then began our descent.

We angled a bit far too the left on the return, and ended up on some rather loose scree and talus, which quickly became tedious. We ultimately caught up with the old mining trail and followed that until it joined up with the standard route trail.

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Point where the mining trail meets up with the main trail. There area pile of rocks that are difficult to distinguish in this picture that mark this spot. It's easier to see in person.

I would recommend avoiding this trail given that it is not as nicely maintained as the standard route path. For future Princeton hikers, try to keep on the ridge on the descent until you reach Princeton's saddle; then start heading on down. It'll save you unnecessary pain and strain.

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Stay on the ridge until you get till the saddle on the descent...your feet will thank you

The remainder of the hike was uneventful as we continued down the east slopes. Once we rejoined the main trail, Danyon (still full of energy, of course) began to jog down the slope. Because I am a mere mortal hiker, I couldn't keep up with this pace and instead took my time trudging down the slopes.

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Saying goodbye to Princeton as clouds started to roll in

Toward the end of our hike, Dave and I caught up with the couple who offered us a ride up the jeep road, and they kindly offered us a ride down. I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to deal with the jeep road on Princeton since that was the part of the hike I had been most dreading. We finished the hike around 12:45PM and wound up back at our car in the main Mt. Princeton lot at 1:15PM. While Princeton hadn't been my favorite Sawatch 14er, I was glad to have knocked it off the checklist, and was more than thrilled to have gotten a ride both up and down that road. It just must have been our lucky day….



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