Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  08/28/2007
Modified:  09/17/2007
Date Climbed:   08/03/2007
Author:  Jasonh2

 Mt. Princeton from Mt. Princeton Road  

I have been meaning to get this trip report up for a couple of weeks now...I finally had a few minutes to get it done.

After spending Thursday climbing Shavano and Tabeguache, my buddy and I were hoping for something a little bit easier on Friday. We decided to give Princeton a try. In a fluke of good luck, we were given a Ford Explorer as a rental car (we asked for a mid sized car, but for some reason it was not there), so we decided to see how far we could get up Mt. Princeton road. Our goal was to park at the "towers" at about 10,800 feet, so the hike would be somewhere around 7-8 miles round trip.

We left the Aspen Leaf Lodge in Salida at 5:05 AM and headed to Buena Vista. After slowly driving up Mt. Princeton Road, we arrived at the towers and parked at 6:15 AM. We started walking up the road at about 6:25 and arrived at the trailhead "stairs" in 43 minutes. My Garmin told me that the trip we had walked 1.6 miles to this point. We also realized that there were a number of places that we could have parked to get a little bit closer. For those who are interested, here they are in detail:

About 0.2 miles from the towers,--at about 11,000 feet-- there is a spot on the right that would fit probably 4 cars and then a hundred or so yards up there is a spot that would easily fit 4-5 more cars. We assumed that this was the place that Bill mentioned as the camping spot. After that, we found at least three more places that would have fit a car or two—the last one coming at a switchback at 11,600 feet that would probably fit 2 cars. There were no cars parked in any of these locations above the towers—it was pretty obvious that most of us read Bill's reports religiously and were scared off by the "very little parking" available above 11,000 feet. If I were to do it again and went on a weekday, I would feel very confident about at least going to the spots at 11,000 feet—tons of room for parking and in my opinion, the road is not any worse in this part of the drive than anywhere else. Even if the spots were taken, you could always turn around and go back to the towers—just my two cents on where to park. Lastly, there is room for one small vehicle right at the trailhead stairs (at 11,800 feet)—and on this day, there was a jeep parked there.

As I said, it took us 43 minutes to hike the 1.6 miles to the trailhead and we began the hike in foggy weather—because of our experience with Shavano and Tabeguache the day before, we were not near as intimidated by the foggy skies. The picture below was taken almost immediately after we climbed the stairs off the road at the trailhead.

As Bill mentions in his route, once you round the corner, the entire mountain comes into view, and it becomes very rocky.

There was no snow, and although the route was not always visible, it was certainly not very difficult to see the general direction of where to go. However, if you don't like climbing and hiking over rock, this mountain is not for you. We ran into one hiker who had brought his dog and was not happy with how rocky the route had turned out to be. It remained foggy almost the entire trip up. Below is a picture I snapped of the valley to the east.

After about an hour, we began looking for the "new route" up the face of the mountain. There was only one group ahead of us and they had taken a route that seemed to go up the face earlier than either the "new" or "old" route as described by Bill. Since we thought the route looked fairly well defined, we decided to go ahead and go this way. We ended up reaching the ridge quite a bit south of where the new route ends up. We were slightly to the left of the "hump" that you can see on the ridge.

Look at the picture below to see our route. (This is Bill's picture--not mine. I just added my route in red)

Everyone that we saw climb Princeton on this day climbed by this same route. I think it was because it was fairly visible and everyone was just following the group in front of them.

Once we made it to the ridge, we basically scrambled our way to the top. It was a little steep, but nothing that I would consider harder than easy class 2 climbing.

One thing that I haven't seen mentioned on too many trip reports is that at about 14,050 feet there is a dedication plaque to a lady who was struck by lightning when she was caught in a storm at that exact spot. I am mad at myself for not taking a picture of it. Does anyone know the ladies name or have a picture of it??? I think she deserves some props. (Added Sept 17th...Thanks to missingcolorado---aka Larry Price for sending me this photo)

After the plaque, we hiked the last 10 minutes or so and arrived at the summit at 9:41 (3 hours and 16 minutes from the towers). My watch showed a total distance of 4.1 miles. We sat at the top with the other group of 3 hikers for about 10 minutes—snapped a few pictures (although as you can see below it was very foggy…not much in the way of views)—and started to descend.

Below is a picture where you can make the decision to take one of the two routes that Bill described.

We debated and decided to go back the way we came. We passed many hikers on the way down and finished the hike at almost exactly 12:30…it took us approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to descend to the towers.

If we had it to do over, the only thing we would have done differently is tried to park up a little higher. The drive down the trailhead was fairly uneventful. We only passed one car, but that was an ordeal that took about 5 minutes to do. Had had to back up about 200 feet to a corner where we barely squeezed by. I would hate to drive this road on a weekend when a lot of people are on it. It is nearly impossible to pass on any straightaway.

So…that was day 2 of our 3 days in Colorado. Tomorrow we planned to do Yale!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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