Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   09/10/2005
Author:  Meteor
 9/10/2005 standard route  

My girlfriend and I left Denver early in the morning and arrived at the base of Mt. Princeton about a half hour before sunrise. We had read in G. Roach's book that the road was very treacherous and that "if you value your vehicle" to park at the base of the road. However, I drove up a bit, and it didn't seem bad, so I kept going all the way to the radio towers. Roach was quite correct, the road is VERY narrow, and to be honest, I don't know how we would have let someone pass us if we had encountered someone coming from the opposite direction... it's something to consider if you have a wide vehicle...

Anyway we parked at the radio towers and hiked up the Mt. Princeton road. There had been heavy rains the night before, and the clouds hadn't quite cleared out yet. We were worried that the weather might force us to turn around as we got higher where the clouds were still swirling, but all of the clouds burned off in the first hour after sunrise. A bit of luck, there!

After a couple of switchbacks up the road, it got significantly worse. There were signs that more than a few 4x4s had continued on up, but just as many signs that most of them had "bottomed out" on the rocks in a few places. It's not something to do unless you have a true 4x4 or at least a sturdy truck with skid plates...

Anyway the hike itself was great... the trail is very well-defined, and the rocks are quite solid. There isn't any of the loathsome loose dirt and scree that we'd encountered on Yale, which is very close nearby. One of the better-conditioned trails I'd hiked on a 14er. And it was pretty easy, too...

We reached a certain point a good way up the valley where the old trail (the one plotted out as the standard route on this site, in fact) that made a more direct climb up towards the summit was clearly walled off by rocks. I suspect this was done by CFI or CMC or some similar hiking club out of respect for the heavy toll the old trail was taking on the mountain. The new trail took a winding, switch-backing (is that a word?) path directly up to the lowest saddle on the SE ridge between Princeton and Tigger Peak. I couldn't find any official documentation online of this change, but it was quite obviously new, nonetheless. I guess just keep in mind that if you follow the new trail, you will rich the SE ridge far sooner than the route on this site would indicate.

The first thing we noticed upon reaching this saddle was the wind. It was howling, with gusts easily upward of 60 mph. We took shelter behind some rocks, and tried to assess if the wind was even worse higher up. We watched for a while, but couldn't see any dust blowing around up there, and decided to continue. This turned out to be the right thing to do, as the gusts appeared to have been funneling through that saddle in particular, and lessened almost immediately as we continued up.

The main thing that I remember about the ridge climb is that the trail was rather hard to find. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just an indication of how solid the rocks were. There wasn't a dusty trail up the ridge like you might see on other 14ers, it was large rocks most of the way.

The view from the top was great, and we were there for about an hour. While we were up there, a rather large group of climbers joined us, and most of them remarked that this was their first 14er. We congratulated them, enjoyed the view for a bit more, and then headed down with them.

About half of the way down, we met up with one of the group, who had apparently gotten separated from his comrades. I lent him my trekking poles to have an easier go of it down the rocks, since this was his first time going down one of these mountains. We made it back down to the Mt. Princeton road in almost no time flat... it's a very quick descent compared to other mountains I could name.

We got lucky on the drive back down, no vehicles were coming up after us. This was apparently quite lucky... a number of trucks and SUVs were still driving up late in the afternoon, we just missed them all on the way down somehow. This was fortunate, as I don't know how we would have fit two cars side by side on that road...

Anyway all in all, it was a great experience... very easy hike on very solid rocks!

Out of curiosity, did anybody else notice that there was seemingly a new trail directly up to the saddle on the ridge, or was that just us?

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