Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,200 feet
Date Posted:  06/07/2018
Date Climbed:   06/07/2018
Author:  ScottHendrick
Additional Members:   hendr002
 Interesting situations on Princeton   

We parked about a tenth of a mile beyond the radio towers - that was a pretty rough road but our Toyota 4Runner handled it well with its extra heavily-treaded tires. We were on the trail (road) at 8:15, which would normally be considered a late start, but considering the relatively short length of this climb, that seemed OK. The first 0.8 miles on the road were peaceful - a good warmup.

After the initial steep climb from the road, we encountered a CFI crew performing trail-stabilization work. They were very friendly - always great to see them. More about them later.

As we were winding through the start of the endless rock field, we could see some other climbers in the distance above it - clearly they started much earlier than us. They were whooping and hollering and seemed to be having a good time. More about them later.

After we crossed a snow field (not easily avoidable) we looked hard for the "new trail" that is described on the web site but could not see it. So, unknowingly, we proceeded on the ugly "old trail". It consists of eroded dirt, loose/unstable rock and a generally negative experience. We just could not figure out how to ascend the boulders to get up to the saddle properly. And we could not figure out why there were no cairns or trail markings whatsoever.

Painfully we reached the saddle and regrouped, had some snacks and proceeded up towards the summit. Gradually the rock became better, especially if you stay high on the ridge. We reached the summit at 11:20, stayed for a few minutes to take some pictures and headed down.

Now some of the mysteries would start to resolve themselves and the day continued to be interesting.

On the way down, we could clearly see the "new trail" that stayed higher on the ridge and formed a nice well-designed descent. This trail is infinitely better than the "old trail" and we wondered why we didn't spot it on the way up. More on that later.

Around this time, we started to catch up with the big group we spotted earlier and clearly one of them was suffering from altitude sickness. He was with two friends and they seemed to be doing everything right. They were continuing their descent and had plenty of water. They'd also sent more people ahead to contact help if needed. I hope this guy emerged OK.

Finally we regained the "intersection" with the main trail near the snowfield and observed that the branching point to the nice new trail was completely obscured and the first 20-30 yards of the new trail were buried in rocks. Very weird!

Sometime later, we re-encountered the CFI work crew and chatter with them for a while, mainly to inform them about the guy descending with the altitude sickness symptoms. Incredibly, the CFI crew told us that that had been asked by the Forest Service (the previous day) to intentionally bury/cover the entrance to the "new trail". I told them how bizarre that sounded and speculated why anyone would want to force climbers to use the old crappy trail. Then responded by saying there had clearly been some mistake and they'd already decided to fix the new trail tomorrow (Friday). I can't imagine what miscommunications were happening behind the scenes.

Anyways, I hope this trail report is interesting or entertaining. I sure wish we'd used the nice new trail in both directions. The weather was beautiful today. I'll attach some pictures.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

Comments or Questions
Rick Canter
trail relocations
06/08/2018 14:00
Hi Scott, Yup, those CFI folks do incredible work.

I am a 25-year Appalachian Trail maintainer and have led multiple trail relocation efforts over the years. Along the AT, in the woods, the start and end of a relocation is typically cluttered until the opening, it is the final piece to be created. This is so hikers will not get lost or confused about which way is the real, official trail while construction is ongoing. This makes sense in the woods of Appalachia, but with the goal clearly in sight at 14197', I really do not know what the Forest Service's rationale is, except perhaps it is considered a best practice in other locations. It may also help keep hikers safe from unstable rock in a work zone, or keep workers and hikers segregated, those are the only other reasons I can think of...a question for San Isabel NF to respond to.

I struggled enough to reach Princeton, nice to hear the Class 2+ might be Class 1 or 2 soon enough. Regards...

Trail work Thursday
06/08/2018 14:04
Rick - thanks for some perspective.

Photo #10 on the Princeton East Slopes Route page shows the area pretty well:

I recommend that everyone take a good look at that great set of photos and descriptions before attempting Princeton, to make the experience much more pleasant.

The CFI crew was nowhere near this area, which increased my confusion.

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