We arrived at the TH about 6:15am after making a wrong turn and actually drove through the youth camp so early in the morning that no one was out to see us, thankfully. On the way out we noticed that the Princeton road is well marked with a sign that hangs over the road. We got to the towers and proceeded to the official summer TH and parked. There was already one other vehicle there, but occupant(s) were already gone. We got our gear together and hit the road, literally, at 6:45am.
The road is fairly clear of snow
We hiked up the road for what seemed the longest time and we were so busy talking that we missed the right turn off the road and onto the trail. We didn't figure this out until about a half mile and 300 vertical feet, then when we turned around, as it says in the Standard Route description, and clearly saw the trail, but the cairn and steps were under a huge snow drift that was so conveniently placed over a key navigational aid. I did have trouble figuring out where exactly this spot was on the map and obviously didn't work hard enough at it. Lesson learned. When a detail doesn't fall into place, that's because it's probably not and should be pursued. We lost about 45 min and added about 300' to our elevation climb.
This is road you see up to the mine, if you miss the stairs and cairn
Looking from where we discovered we passed the turn off, you can see the snow covering the steps
A closer view of the blocked turn off
Anyway, we pursued the route as published for as long as we could find it and then it sort of faded into the talus. Next thing you know, we're talus hopping. There were a couple of faint trails that looked pretty inviting and we picked one and headed up the mountain with switchbacks to the saddle or what appeared to be a ridge line before the final ascent.
We traversed through about 5 narrow snow fields, two being practically one really wide one except for a small island of bare rock dividing it into two. All the snow fields had well preserved tracks which we gratefully stepped through. Water was running underneath and a few times our steps went further down that intended. The trekking poles were a big help remaining stable.
This is one of the wider snow fields to cross. Also, the area in the upper left is where the trail was a little confusing, or we were confused!
We stood at the final ascent spot and were trying to determine the actual route when three climbers appeared on the scene, so we observed them and picked up the trail they were on. Always good to see others blazing the way. The smart way is always better than the hard way. We began the final segment only to lose track of the trail again and began talus hopping across and up. Finally, we summitted at 12:15pm for a 5.5 hour time to the top. The weather was beautiful. Did the obligatory pictures, log signing and snack in 30 min and headed down at 12:45pm.
The old guys at the top, beautiful weather
Eastward view from the summit
We didn't stay on the ridge line long enough to meet the trail and then drop down to the main traversing route. No, we started to try and figure it out, but weather started looking ominous so we just went. We took a direct route from where we were to the last snow field we went through, cutting off a right angle of sorts. Think that would save time? Not so fast! The direct route was probably shorter in distance (tenth of a mile), but longer time due to the talus hopping and second guessing. We locked onto the trail at the entrance to the first snow field going down and never had a problem with the trail again.
The big picture of the talus field
Closer up talus view, a good reason to stay on the trail
After getting through the rock fields and the snow fields, the regular trail looked pretty good to us, but it seemed to go on forever. Getting to our initial navigational error where the road meets the trail, we hit the road again only to find that it seemed to go forever and those radio towers just never seemed to get close enough.
We arrived back at the TH about 4:45pm to end up with a 10 hour RT and 8.6 miles total distaxception of the snow fields, the trail was snowless, but rather rocky.