Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  03/01/2009
Date Climbed:   02/28/2009
Author:  Perea

First of all I want to thank Britt for organizing this group. Sometimes it is hard to get everyone on the same page especially a group of 9. That was not the case this time. The first group arrived on Friday at the trailhead parking lot about 3:30pm and the second group arrived at about 4:00pm.
We unloaded the heavy packs with all our winter camping gear and began up the long 3 mile road to the radio towers.
The last half mile we had to use headlamps as the sun went down. We arrived at camp and the first group had already set up tents and looked nice and toasty in the 5 degree weather.
It got to -5 overnight which doesn't make for a very good night‘s rest. A couple of the stoves were not working and some of our water bottles froze. The main lesson learned over the weekend at least for me is that H20 is pretty useless when frozen(I will be investing in something to prevent this from happening again).
We woke up and were all motivated to hit the trail. As I was getting my daypack ready I looked over and saw blood on John's face.
I thought maybe Dima had hit him for kicking him the night before as he kept sliding down the uneven slope the tent was on. Turns out he had went to drink from his cup and it stuck to his lip from the cold and when he pulled it off it started bleeding. I guess he is ready for Denali now.
We hit the trail and it quickly warmed up so we started shedding layers.
We approached an area around one of the switchbacks on the road and our personal avalanche expert 14 year old Eric who has taken numerous courses measured the slope and recommended we not play Russian Roulette with mother nature. We agreed and instead of crossing it we headed straight up a steep slope and met the switchback on the road about 50 yards above. From there it was easy going as we reached tree line. Tiger Peak and Princeton came into focus. At this point there are two options the summer route or climb Tiger peak then cross the ridge to Princeton. We kind of split up here. Some went the summer route and some went straight up Tiger. I chose to stay off the summer route because there are several steep gulley's that must be crossed that I did not feel comfortable on. So I start the steep 1 hour climb up Tiger and am totally exhausted by the time I get to the top with little water. Decision time do I continue or turn back with the others who would stop here.
Here is a nice pic of Antero it looks pretty mean from here.
I decided to continue on I had 2 frozen water bottles in my pack and in my jacket that I was desperately trying to thaw out. Every 20 minutes or so I would get a few drops but they never completely thawed enough to hydrate properly. The group that stayed on the summer route apparently came across one of those gulleys and decided to go straight up instead of cross it which made for some class 3 or 4 climbing to get to the ridge. John,Mike and I continued along the ridge toward Princeton. It seemed to take forever to cross.
Finally we get the steep final push for the summit. By this time Mike and John were about 200 yards ahead of me and assuming we were going to be the only 3 to summit I look back and Ryan(BAUMGARA) who did not camp with us and left the parking lot at 7 am comes in like a bat out of hell and catches me. We chat for a while he shares some of his water which was a lifesaver and off he went. I stayed there for a few minutes to catch my breath and let my legs rest. I seriously considered turning back at this point but I was so close I was going to make it if I had to crawl to the top.
Next I heard a few unpleasant words from the guys ahead of me. They had reached the top of what we thought was the summit and realized we had another 500 ft to go. Everyone pushed on and finally we made it. l would have let out a victory scream if had the energy.
The Sangres in the background
We hung out for about 15 minutes took a couple pics and headed back down. Everyone was tired at this point it was decision time again go back over the ridge or go back down the summer route that we had avoided earlier in the day. Since I was a good distance behind the group I didn't have a say in it and saw them cut down toward the summer route. Uneasy about the decision I followed them instead of having to hike alone and take the longer route.
I didn't get any photos on the way down because I was too lazy to get out my camera but I can say this was the most unpleasant part of the hike. Even though the others broke trail for me I was still postholing and banging my shins twisting my ankles and trying to just stay on the boulders. When we came on the 3 or 4 dreaded gulleys we got the ice axes out and crossed one at a time. The snow seemed pretty stable but my heart was still racing. We made it across all of them without incident and continued on to camp then to the parking lot. It was a great day on the mountain and was good experience.

After getting to the bottom we headed to Coyote Cantina where Shogun set the Grande Burrito eating contest in a Buena Vista record 2 minutes 24 seconds.

Good times! I hope to hike with you all again soon!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

H2O problem
02/05/2011 00:22
Keep your nalgene/water bottle in your bag with you at night, and that should keep it from freezing. And if you can, heat up your water before sleeping with the bottle.
On a hike, keep a bottle inside your jacket, close to your body for heat, and that should help keep it from freezing as well.
I use the nalgene insulators and they work well if it‘s not too cold out. But I also put the bottle upside down so the bottom freezes before it will around the (wide) mouth piece.

Other than that, congratulations on your summit! And good for you for sticking with the climb.


Agree - sleeping with water
11/30/2010 17:28
When it's that cold, everything goes into the sleeping bag - even the boots! I throw all my Nalgenes into a garbage bag and tuck them into the bottom of the sleeping bag - boots go in another bag, etc. But you probably figured that out :-) That's my argument for owning a larger bag - you will need all that space in *real* winter camping (sub-zero temps), and when you don't you just tuck the extra bag underneath your body. As for the stoves, if you let your fuel get cold, it will take forever to burn (hours) so before you give up on them test them with warm (room temperature) fuel - yup, that goes inside too... lessons learned - the hard way.

Thanks for the report - glad to see you made it up. That is a long, talusy, slippery haul under snow - don't know if I could do it!


06/02/2011 14:57
Congratulations and thanks for the report and the pictures.


Good Work!
03/02/2009 18:11
Way to keep at it. It‘s 90% perserverance, eh? Way to push through the adversity!

You illuminate a good question: ”When is it essier to cut off three miles on summit day and when is it easier to get a good night‘s (warm) sleep and an alpine start to push through in a day?” Of course the answer is individualized. In this case you can‘t compare apples and oranges since the camping group broke trail for the other group. But for me, it‘s easier NOT to camp when I can avoid it. Darin and Susan gave the right advice re: Frozen water.

Again, good job overcoming all to get a long winter 14er!



When to camp
04/18/2014 19:27
I agree I would have been much stronger getting a good nights rest and a good breakfast but it was fun camping regardless.


And I higly recommend...
03/02/2009 18:59
...the queso cheese on the burrito!

Thanks for writing up the report Paul. Antero is next?!?!


road conditions
03/09/2009 03:48
Nice report! I‘m planning on attempting Princeton this Saturday. To that end, I have one question:
You all parked at the main (2WD) trailhead and hiked the 3 miles to the radio towers. I see at least two SUVs in the picture at the TH. Was the road drivable and you opted to hike instead, or it was impassable and driving wasn‘t option?



Road Conditions
04/18/2014 19:27
You may be able to drive up a short distance but you would soon hit areas that are impassable. So I would reccomend starting from the parking lot.

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