Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  02/02/2010
Modified:  05/15/2010
Date Climbed:   01/30/2010
Author:  Dancesatmoonrise

 14ers Group Winter Ascent: Mt Princeton  

Winter Ascent of Mount Princeton by the 14ers Gang

Peak: Mount Princeton
Route: East Slopes (Standard)
Date: January 30, 2010
Length: 13 miles RT
Vertical: 5400 feet
Travel time: Variable, by party
Ascent Party: Over a dozen 14ers members:

Scott P
Native Mtnguy
Boggy B

Morning moonset over the Sawatch...Image

Winter's Dawn ... Image

"Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris…"

In 19 BC, Virgil sang the epic praise of arms and the Trojan Aeneis.
On January 30, 2010, thirteen Colorado mountaineers sang the praises
of the Colorado backcountry at 14,000 feet in January.

Thanks to Scott P, who got this mini-epic odyssey started with a post on 14ers. By the weekend, there were over a dozen 14ers folks joining in.


Michael, Jeff, and Dan getting started...
Photo by CVV15er.

The Plan…

Michael (Boggy B,) and I had been trying to get out on a climb ever since Antero in early December. (See his TR.)
I had turned back in whiteout conditions on Ute Pass and missed that trip. True to form, Sgladbach had carried on.
He will tell you the story of negotiating the crux of the route, which for him, occurred on Highway 50 that morning.

Since Michael and his crew had two failed attempts on Princeton this winter, and Sgladbach threw his hat in the ring for Princeton,
and I still needed Princeton, it was a go. I would be meeting Michael, Jeff and Dan on the trail.

The snowpack had been troublesome this winter, and with the recent foot of fresh snow stressing things further, we had our concerns
about avy conditions, as well as the potential for an unintended ride down one of the gullies along Princeton's standard route.
Approaching the Princeton summit via Tigger would obviate most of these issues, so that was going to be our tentative plan.

Avoiding the slide area near treeline…

I planned to start late and move fast. Michael, Dan, and Jeff, would be starting a little earlier, and moving a little more slowly.

We had planned to hook up below the area of our first challenge, about 1/2 mile beyond the radio towers, between 9:30 and 10:00 am,
to assess the situation. The default plan was to leave the road and take the ridge straight up:


We knew this could mean some deep post-holing if there were no track. We were prepared to explore the road a little further up, but
given the lousy snowpack this winter, particularly on eastern aspects near treeline, I did not want to traverse the slide gulley.


A Pristine Winter's Day...

I arrived at the large, well-plowed parking lot at 8:00 am.

Mount Princeton from near Nathrop Image

The quiet and the lack of activity at the trailhead was a little eerie. There were a dozen parked cars, tracks in the snow, and not a soul around.
I hit the trail at 8:30 am.

Making good time in the warm midmorning sun, a foot of fresh snow on the road was quickly melting. We had a good high pressure window.
The trail was quite bootable along the road:



At 9:55 am I had passed by Scott's camp on the radio ridge:

Photo by Slimshady

I found Michael and Dan just beyond the radio towers, as planned, in very good spirits, and rarin' to go:


I'd like to believe that great minds think alike: We found a track up our intended variation (see map above.)
Michael and Dan had conjectured that Sgladbach was our benefactor, given his propensity for ridgeline travel in winter.
I couldn't disagree. No heart-breaker, we followed our proverbial Moon River and indeed found it "going our way."

Near 11,400, we found Mike and Matt (Smoove and Native Mtn Guy) relaxing in the mid-morning sun.
We had a laugh about Smoove's "Anxiously awaiting The Barron's response" post on that "First Accent" thread. : )
'Bout fell out of my chair! ... Hey, it was great meeting both of you guys!

We soon found our benefactor's line veering a bit more southerly than anticipated, but heading up the hill near treeline in the nick of time,
to arrive at the 12,000 foot knoll, where we caught up with Jeff, and another Jeff (Aerophex,) and a half dozen pairs of snowshoes lying in the snow.

Photo by Slimshady

Scott and John, on the 12k knoll, before we arrived. Image
(Sgladbach photo)

The Standard Route???

The remaining six, with Sgladbach busting trail along the traverse, were 15 minutes ahead, around the corner, on the east slopes.
We noted that there were no tracks up Tigger. This was a disappointment. We could not imagine why the group
attempted the standard route with the new snow. With old hard snow in the gullies, covered with new snow, it would be a little spooky.
I was later to learn that we were not the only ones who felt this way about the conditions on this section.

Still, with new soft snow mostly on no base, a lot of kicked in steps, and a knowledgeable leader traversing the standard route,
versus a non-scoured, snow-covered, untracked, arduous line up Tigger, we opted to follow Steve and his crew on the traverse through the bowl.
We added ours to the vault of PFD's in the stash (Personal Floatation Devices,) spent some time socializing, donned spikes, and got on it.

Jim, Dan, Michael, leaving treeline. Photo by Slimshady

The traverse was pretty much as anticipated. The areas which were entirely new snow, were well-kicked-in by the group.
Occasionally the spikes would slip on the unbonded layer between the new snow and the hard snow beneath in the gullies.

Photo by Slimshady

Photo by Slimshady

John (Sgladbach photo)

Gaining the Ridge...

Steve turned upward out of the traverse to gain the Tigger-Princeton ridge; I joined him there.

Photo by CVV15er

Photo by CVV15er

Photo by Slimshady

We chatted as the front of the group assembled at the saddle for worship on the final pitch to the summit.


As we talked, I wondered if Cooper would be the first canine to summit all the 14ers in calendar winter.
Steve and I talked about the arduous tasks required nowadays for any climbing/mountaineering "firsts."
I think Steve's position is pretty secure on several of those fronts. He certainly has my vote.

Looking upward, we gazed at the final 1000 vertical feet of steadfast penitence.


Dan proved to be a very capable climber, making light work of the final pitch.

The ridge was not blown-off. However, with careful foot placements, one could mostly stay on dry talus, or presumably frozen-in-place rock.
The spikes are a God-send for this type of mixed climbing. I can't imagine Steve doing this in rubber-soled boots.

The spikes held fast to the mixed conditions, and as long as foot placements were logical and accurate,
the ridge melted away quickly to concede the summit.


I have to confess that, as always, there were a few places of hard slab/cornice, on the ridge, the lure of which I found irresistible.
Not to mention the ability to ascend quickly on very spikeable hard slab, and the incredible views down the other side!

Photo by Slimshady

Cooper and Steve confer about route ahead. Image




14,197 feet...

We assembled at the summit in near-perfect conditions: Warm weather, clear sky cover, minimal winds, around 2pm.
We stayed about an hour.

Photo by Boggy B

Photo by CVV15er

This was a social Fourteener day. Most of us opted to borrow daylight for enjoying conversation at the summit in warm weather,
to pay back by headlamp on the long road back to the cars that evening.

Photo by Slimshady

Photo by CVV15er

Here is my favorite photo of the trip. Dan took this with a tiny point-and-shoot camera. It looks like a painting!

Photo by CVV15er

The Sangre de Cristo tropical islands... Image

Saying Goodnight to Paradise...

Dancesatmoonrise descending....
Photo by Slimshady

I don't know how the other guys felt, but getting down from the saddle to the bowl traverse was the hardest part on my body, personally.
Steve just hit the snow and glided down on foot, commenting that he "personally preferred the snow."
The rest of us mortals could see why, as he disappeared from view. : )

Photo by Slimshady


The triumphant triad, Michael, Jeff, and Dan, having finally bagged Princeton in winter, walking down the road back to the cars.


Michael also managed the number one spot on SP's Featured Trip Reports this week.


And at the end of the day…the sun having set…the moon once again joined us, rising in the east, to guide our way safely back to the cars.

Photo by Boggy B.

Michael and his cohorts at last got their Princeton summit. I got a chance to finally climb with Michael, and with Steve again.
We all got a chance to meet a number of other wonderful 14er folk.

Thanks to Scott P for coming up with the idea for this trip, and to Steve G for guiding our efforts,
and to everyone that made this January Princeton summit bid an enjoyable experience.




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Group effort...
02/05/2011 00:22
Steve, I think that was 3500 vertical. The TH starts at 8900.

At the time we weren‘t sure who are ”benefactors” were that put the line up the treed ridge, but learned that Scott‘s group was out there the night before, working hard in the light of the full moon. Thanks, Scott, Kenneth, and Joel!

As Steve pointed out, a lot of folks put in a lot of hard work to bust open a foot of new snow and make safe and efficient route-finding decisions, paving the way for the entire group to successfully summit.

Thanks and kudos for the hard work of these leaders. On behalf of the group, I wish to thank you guys for making this an incredible winter experience for all of us.



One nice day!
11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks to Kenneth, Joel, and Scott P for coming in Friday to break the first 3200' of trail to 11,400'. Thanks to all six in the first group on the route decisions (especially Scott P‘s input.)It was cool to have a great team that could put 12 people on the summit in winter. Thanks to everybody for waiting at the snowshoe stash to see everyone safely out of the bowl's difficult areas.

Jim, nice choices on the compilation of the group's photos.


Ridge runner

02/05/2011 00:22
Congrats to everyone who made it up there! Sounds like a good group effort. Princeton isn‘t really on my immediate to-do list, but I can‘t help but want to poach off of your trench.

Jim, I really like your second photo. The one of Antero by CVV15er is also really cool.


Nice compilation
06/02/2011 14:57
Way to get so many great shots into your trip report. Looks like fun and adventure was had by all.


Missed out...
11/30/2010 17:28
CVV15er's Antero/Cronin photo is surreal and dreamy. I gaze out all those peaks and can't help but want to see the vista from the top of each.

Nice touch Jim, beginning and ending the TR with the moon. Enjoyed reading it.

Congratulations to everyone involved. It's cool that part of the group put in a trench the night before under the silvery glow of a full moon. Now that sounds like hard work, but it sure beats a day at the office.


Beautiful summit views
02/03/2010 05:10
Nice report and pics. Especially like all the summit shots. Sounds like it was a great day.


Group photos...
02/03/2010 17:53
Yes, I was impressed with the quality of photos from the group as well as the collegiality among the participants. It was nice having a lot of photos to chose from in putting this composite together.

I can see why Scott later said their group nearly decided to summit in the moonlight that night!


02/03/2010 22:41
Great trip, guys!!
Definitely sweet to get that large of a part up there in January. Way to go.


photo chance
02/04/2010 01:41
I should have known that you guys were going to be up there because I was at the base at frontier ranch and I had a pretty good telescope where I could have seen you guys on the summit.


Nice group effort!
11/30/2010 17:28
Way to go to all of you. A January winter summit with such a large group. I'm green with envy. Wish I could have been there. Thanks for the great trip report!


Great Post!!
02/08/2010 16:10
Love the pics


08/02/2010 22:44


Susan --
02/19/2010 19:14

Yes, got Huron...and how sweet that was. As GREAT as Princeton was, Huron was so so good. The solitude and quiet back there in winter is unsurpassed.

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