Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  02/22/2009
Date Climbed:   02/22/2009
Author:  ledhead69
 Mt. Princeton, the long way  

After a 1:00am wakeup, a hearty 2:00 am IHOP breakfast, and an excessively expeditious drive to Buena Vista, I was hiking from the lower Princeton Road trailhead at 5:20 am. The snow on most of the road was well packed, and I made it to the radio towers easily without snow shoes. The south facing parts of the road didn't even have snow on them.

Tigger Peak as seen from somewhere around the Radio Towers:

After the radio towers, the road pretty quickly turned into a giant snowdrift that hid the road completely in some sections. I donned the snowshoes and ditched the idea of staying on the road and just headed straight up the East Ridge. In many sections, the snow resembled knee to waist deep Dixie Crystals that seemed to negate the utility of my snowshoes. As much fun as that was, I was glad to reach the treeline after about 3 hours of swimming. I initially planned on taking the ridge all the way to the summit to avoid any avalanche prone slopes, so up the ridge I went.

Tigger Peak with the summit peaking from behind as seen from around the treeline:

The visible parts of the remaining ridge, as well as the east face of Princeton didn't seem to have very much snow on them. The talus up to Tigger was pretty solid and snow-free, which made for some really fun class 2 rock-hopping. The ridge between Tigger and Princeton was about the same, but the rocks making up the talus were smaller and hence not as much fun to hike on. Nonetheless, it was very easy to stay off of the snow for almost the entire route.

Route as seen from Tigger to Summit:

Route as seen from Summit to Tigger. You can see most of the ridge from the radio towers up to the Summit as well as the standard route trail:

I figured that since there didn't look like there was any avy danger on the standard route, I would cut the corner and take the trail back to the treeline. I am always interested in different perspectives. Yeah, this perspective SUCKS. Contrary to what it looked like from the distance, there was plenty of snow AND rocks, which meant that you couldn't stay on just rock or just snow. When you couldn't avoid the snow, you hoped the abdominal snowman wouldn't suck your leg down in a hole, and when you couldn't avoid the rocks, your snow-covered boot usually just slipped off them. It was REALLY slow going, and an early fall led to a very tediously cautious, one rock at a time, hike back. In short, it took me just as long to travel from the treeline to the summit as it took me to travel from the summit back to the treeline.

Welcome to the suck:

There were also a few snowfields that were hidden from view before that needed to be crossed. The snowpack was pretty well consolidated, but was still soft enough not to necessitate crampons. Ice ax was a must, since a slide would end on some most-decidedly unfriendly looking rocks. Descending from the treeline was fun, as it was mostly skiing/sliding/falling through the deep, sugar snow from before. The hike down along the road from the towers was uneventful as well.

I think I will stick to windblown ridges for winter ascents from now on. 13 hours from car to car with 20 minutes on the summit.

Ski conditions? Looks like the northern part of the east bowl would provide a good line from near the summit, but runs out at the bottom. See for yourself:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Guess the fetches...
02/24/2009 00:43
..had snow on Shavano and not on Princeton That ski route just to the NE of the summit looks good right now.


02/23/2009 17:47
I plan to climb Princeton on 2/27-28 and this report has helped a lot in my planning. Congrats on the summit.

CO Native

Nice day??
02/23/2009 18:21
Looks like you had a really nice day for hiking. I tried to do Shavano the same day and above treeline this is what we experienced:

We gave up at 12,000.


good perspective
02/23/2009 19:26
Looking down from the summit, I would no doubt have made the same bad choice! It looks amazingly snow-free.


02/24/2009 02:12
It was gorgeous. Winds were out of the NE (which I found odd) ocassionally gusting to 20-30 mph, but nothing like that picture.

Shogun, feel free to message me if you have any questions.

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