Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  01/02/2011
Modified:  01/22/2011
Date Climbed:   07/03/2010
Author:  jagfoot04
 Mt Princeton and The Phantom Grouse Canyon Trailhead  

Greetings to all Peak Baggers. You will have to excuse the tardiness of my report since I climbed this over the summer but did not become a member until a few days ago. On July 3rd of this past year I attempted and failed my first 14er. There were a lot of good things that I learned from this trip, and some other experiences that either made me stronger or showed that I am going crazy....Anyways...The trip started from the Camp retreat area that I work at over the summer just NW of Woodland Park. Our crew woke up around 5 am and headed out to go climbing. A bad omen could be sensed already as I was a backseat passenger down windy roads and I easily get carsick that way. Unfortunately we did have to pull over before we got to Hwy 24... When we met up with the some more people in Florissant we traveled to Buena Vista to meet up with some more people who were friends of one of our fellow counselors putting our group total at eleven. Finding the trailhead from there was a little bit tricky and I was just along for the ride allowing others to lead the way. When we got to the trailhead we were at a rocky dirt road that did not have as much as a sign saying anything about Mt Princeton. I found out later through looking into some reports on this site that I was at the Grouse Canyon Trailhead. We started fairly late around 8:30 to 8:45 am and started up the trail. Very quickly we were already in trouble as we cut the trail and basically lost it for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. On the way up we still got some nice views Image
View to the south from the trail
while we were unable to get much of any footing on the mountain as we bushwhacked up. Unfortunately because of my inexperience, one hour into the climb and I was already exhausted. We had a major delay that ended the trip for three people in our caravan because of falling rocks. The fellow counselor who basically orchestrated the whole climb named Jazz had grabbed a boulder for leverage and a piece fell off and slammed into his big toe. Image
My friend "Jazz" nearly loses his big toe
He needed stitches and was not able to work with us at camp for about 2 1/2 weeks. Later on we were getting ready to climb and another friend in our group grabbed the same boulder and had it slam on her thigh and skin my leg a little. I was okay but she was done. We decided after the unfortunate trauma that was gone through that we would brave the climb still. After a little more bushwhacking we finally got back on track with a streambed that basically led most of the way. We found out later that if we would have stayed next to the creek and only moved up when the streambed appeared then our issues ascending up to the tree line would have been minimal. When we started to get to the tree line I started to cramp. I have had cramps before but was unaware that I was in need of potassium, sodium, and electrolytes. Unfortunately I just packed a generic lunch and lots of water. Not much of the nutrients I needed at that point. By 12000 feet our group was pretty well separated. We had a group in front way ahead braving the journey to the class 3 and 4 climbing at Point 13,900 ft. We had the fellow camp staff that was actually "in shape" before the saddle at 13000 ft and you had myself and another friend huffing and puffing around 12 to 12,500 ft. It was about 1 pm when the front group knew they were going to need another hour from their location to reach the summit and there was a storm brewing from the south. They went ahead and came back to where I was along with the middle group and we stopped for pictures and lunch. Image
View from about 12,500
Some of the group I was with
As we descended down the accursed trail I fell behind again and started to cramp up badly. At one point the cramping was so bad that my lower body just could not move and I ended up falling to the ground screaming like a baby. When I finally gained my composure I tried to suck it up and get back down this trail that was laughing at me. Ironically enough when we got to some of the cairns that had been incorrectly placed on what I will now call the bushwhacking trail we decided to take that trail instead of following our faster guides down the streambed which we found out was in fact the correct route. Eventually my cramping became less painful and we made it back down to the trailhead. Even though it was my first attempt and my first failure it was still a fun time. Scenery was beautiful, the trail(when we were actually on it) was all ours, and because I was so motivated after this I was able to climb and summit two 14ers later in the summer. What I would recommend if you will take the SW Ridge approach from the Grouse Canyon Trailhead is please PLAN AHEAD, START EARLY, and make sure the whole group is informed about what is going on. At the very least make sure you have one leader who knows exactly what to expect along the trail. I'd highly suggest getting informed with some literature and look into other more successful journeys from these trip reports. For a trip like this I will have to say that I am determined to attempt this difficult route again some time in the near future.

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