Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  05/12/2009
Date Climbed:   05/11/2009
Author:  George Kaplan
 A Great Day on Princeton (East Slopes Route)  

I decided to climb Mt. Princeton (standard route) on Monday after seeing a few earlier trip reports on this site. All in all, I think that this was a great time of year to go after this peak, and I had a good time hiking it. However, being that this was my first 14er of 2009, it was especially hard getting myself back into shape to wrap this one up!

I got a late start at 7:00 AM. A couple of other hikers at the TH offered to give me a lift for the 3.5 miles up the road to the radio towers. I guess I was on a mission to whip myself into shape that day and politely declined (though later in the day, I would slightly regret doing so!).

The road is definitely not suitable for passenger cars, but as a high-clearance road, it seemed fairly smooth and clear all the way up to the towers. There were a few large rounded mounds in the road that one would have to watch out for. The 2 hikers I met at the TH parked at the area just past the radio towers, while another hiker with a Jeep was able to park about a 1/4 to 1/2 mile further up in the middle of the road at a small snowdrift. It seemed to me that if one could just get around or over that one small snowdrift, one could have had a good parking spot at the first sharp switchback about a mile past the towers (which also seemed like one of the few good turnaround spots on the road). Past this switchback, the snowslides across the road immediately become too large and impassable.

Parking area at the radio towers: nice and clear.

The highest spot that some one parked at that day.

This switchback seems to be the last decent place to park - if you can make it there.

The road continues to switchback up and most of the time it is easy to walk around the snowslides on the edge of the road. Eventually, the road climbs up to the base of Tigger peak and you are faced with a very large snowslide that engulfs the entire road. This snowslide actually completely obscures the intersection of where you are supposed to leave the road and head onto the trail. So at the slide‘s edge, start climbing up the snow-free hillside for about 20 or 30 yards and you should run into the trail to Princeton. This trail will head NE up the grassy ridge and then switchback towards the west. Mt. Princeton‘s peak comes into view, though it is still a long way‘s off. Say goodbye to the nice dirt trails; it‘s all talus and snow from here on up!

Instead of crossing this slide, head up the dry hill to your right.

As you hike along the north side of Tigger and Princeton‘s ridge, you are going to have to cross several significantly wide snowslides, that basically plummet down to the rocky valley below. In the morning, these slides are hard and slick and in the afternoon, they are slushy and full of post-hole traps! I took my time and kept my eyes on where I was placing my feet without looking down the slope-face. All in all, you will have to cross at least maybe 5 or 6 of these slides as you proceed along the north slope. Keep your axe out, as each slide area is hidden just around the bend from the one before it.

Mt. Princeton and one of its snowslides.

More snowslides!

There are two switchbacking routes that head up to the main ridge. You will want to take the first route (easternmost), which heads up to the true saddle between Tigger and Princeton. The second route is about a quarter of a mile further ahead and involves more climbing and one or two additional slide traverses. The problem with finding the route up to the saddle is that again its lower portion is obscured by a snowslide. Immediately after you cross maybe your 5th slide area, look closely up at the talus above you and you should see some cairns marking the trail. Either climb up the talus or climb up the snowfield to hook up with the trail that switchbacks up to the saddle.

Once on the ridge, things became a bit easier. There is a snowfield that basically runs all the way up the southern edge of the ridge almost all the way up to the summit. The pair of hikers I met earlier were coming down as I was going up, and they were having a great time sticking to this snowfield. However, I was more comfortable sticking to the talus and sandy portions along the northern edge of the ridge, but either way works.

The long haul up the ridge.

In terms of false summits, Princeton is pretty kindly. There is one false summit, but it is quite close to the actual summit so it wasn‘t too frustrating. Due to my late start, my decision to hike up to the radio towers, and taking more time than expected to cross the snowslides, I summited at about 2:30 PM. There were some terrific views to be enjoyed!

At the summit looking west.

Looking south at Mt. Antero.

A word on the weather: It was MUCH MUCH hotter than I expected. If it wasn‘t for the snowfields, I would‘ve thought it was August instead of May. I never broke out my winter gear, and was going through water way too quickly. It was sunny the entire time, and though there were a few puffy clouds, no threats of storm. It was a bit windy on the ridge, but no violent gusts. It‘s pretty crazy to see people‘s Princeton pictures from only a week ago when they‘re bundled up and standing in the middle of a blizzard. I guess all I can say is be prepared for anything.

Looking down at Tigger Peak and the route back. Note where the lowest point of the ridge saddle is, almost immediately above the western edge of that large snowslide.

I considered that it might be easier to head over and down Tigger Peak to hook back up with the road, but the other 2 hikers I talked to advised heading back the way I came as the best route back, as coming down the SE ridge of Tigger deposits you at a lower elevation on the road that you must then hike back up. Maybe I‘ll come back for Tigger another time.

Sun getting ready to sink behind Princeton.

As it turned out, I got back to the lower TH at 8:15 PM just as the last bit of daylight was fading away. Total time: 13:15.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

05/12/2009 18:52
Great information on the conditions - Thanks


Great write up
05/02/2011 14:23
A thorough report that will definitly help others who are headed up there. Isn‘t it amazing how many people are dumb enough to think it‘s ok to park in the middle of a road.


05/12/2009 20:47
Yeah, I thought the same thing. Had I gone up that far and wanted to go higher, I would have had a tough time convincing myself NOT to hook my winch up to that little Jeep and pulling it out of the way.


05/13/2009 02:28
Thank you for the condition report, my turn will be this saturday!


Thanks for Posting
05/14/2009 17:13
Thanks George for the conditions update and road details, good job bagging this thorn!

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