Dying To ClimbThe weekends before the climb were becoming more and more painful, due to the fact that I hadn't had stood over 14,000 feet since August 28, 2005! The weekends were either taken up by my dad spending the whole time with the military or the weather being crappy. For a month, when the weekends were nice, I was grounded for alcohol abuse. God, please give me a chance to get into the fricken mountains, I don't care how painfull it will be! Just get me there!
The PreparationQuandary? No. Pikes? No Way! Bierstadt? Don't even ask. What peak should we pick, well how about Princeton? Yes, this was the perfect decision due to the fact that we thought that the road would be open to the radio towers, and hey this would be a lot more interesting in these conditions then in summer. We decided that Princeton and procrastinated putting our gear together all day. Finally we had our gear set and we crashed at 11 pm on Saturday night.
My Dad woke me up at 5 am, a pretty late time to get up considering the drive ahead, but the forecast couldn't be any better. As we drove around Kenosha Pass, I acted like I had never seen the view in my life. It had been so long since I had been in the high country that I was pointed at every peak I saw. Man I love Colorado. Soon enough we caught our first glimpse of Princeton, and the view never bores me. The peak looked pretty dry up top and a few tounges of snow streched down Princeton's southeast slopes. I yelled that today was our day.
We bounced and rumbled our way up Mt Princeton road and not a patch of snow in sight and this was the case all the way up to the radio towers. We pulled by one of the towers and unloaded. I always love the first deep breath I take once I get out of the car. The air was so crisp and clear... I was so pumped up!
We hit the trail at 8:50 and each step I took, the more excited I became. The road was dry for another few hundred feet or so, until the snow descended across it, making the trail slant...no way someone could drive across this! We followed the long switch backs and under a couple avalanche chutes. At one point, the road disappears completely under the snow and you have to cross the chute. We were too lazy to break out our ice axes, so we carefully traversed the snow. Once across, ow man! The road made another switch back across the snow. We then decided to take a direct line beside the chute. We hiked up the slope, until we met up with the trail again as it begins the final approach to Mt Princeton. We sat on the small hill and pondered the route ahead.
We came to the conclusion to just follow the trail instead of taking the ridge up Tigger Peak. We followed the trail as the snow became more plentiful. Our ice axes helped us across the smaller snowfields. Then, the trail disappeared under a wide snowfield. We took a short break and put on our sun block, avy beacons, and crampons. At that break, I fell in love with wild berry jolly ranchers, they are amazing!
My Dad was the first to cross the snowfield, when he was about 3/4 of the way across, I began my traverse. The snow wasn't very nice at all, It would be hard as ice one minute, then unstable crap the next. To make things worse, when I punched my ice axe in, I could feel the top layer, and at times, table sized squares of this layer would break loose. I was freaked out by this and called ahead to my Dad, "I don't like this!" He agreed and we then ascended up a band of rocks that would be safer. Once out of the snowfield, we traversed across snow covered scree. This was a serious pain, since the snow was warm and we were wearing crampons. Man I hate the noise of crampons screeching on rock. Due to the fact that we changed our direction in the snowfield, we were now above the trail. After what seemed like forever and another snowfield crossing, we rejoined the trail. We followed the trail to our final snowfield traverse.
My Dad insisted on crossing the whole snowfield, before I began my traverse. I anxiously waited for him to reach the trail, protected by the rocks above. Once safely across, I began my traverse. I was pretty much jogging across, just so I could feel safe again. Unfortunatly the snow was my enemy by balling up really bad, so I had to be careful. Once back on the trail, we knew that we would summit. The snow kept balling up, so we decided to take the crampons off. My Dad was going really slow, so I branched out above him. I was feeling pretty good, since the snow patches above the trail were solid. I angled up towards the ridge and quickly daggered up snow patches. As on every climb, I had one song stuck in my head this time in was Bob Dylan's Tangled Up In Blue. It was driving me nuts.
I blazed my way up to the ridge and periodically looked back at my Dad and the summit. I scoffed at my own stupidity for thinking the summit was so close, way back when we emerged from the trees. From this point, the summit only looked a little closer. I quickly found myself on the ridge gazing at Antero.
I sat in awe of the view, and waited for my Dad to arrive. I was so pumped up that I let out a scream of joy, something that I rarely do. Once my dad arrived, he too was in awe of the view. We debated on whether to make a stash n' dash, or to carry our packs up. I convinced him that a stash and dash would work out best. We knew that we would retrieve our packs on the journey home, since we were planning on taking the ridge to one of the snowfields and then descending down one of those to the trail. That way we wouldn't have to deal with the mess of scree that was directly below us.
We set off for the summit with only a camera and bother our ice axes. I felt like a new man. I followed my Dad for a little bit, until I took a different line that involved steep snow patches, I daggered up these and left my Dad a few hundred feet behind me. He kept yelling up to me in frustration about the never-ending ridge. I felt good and hollered down to him that I was about 10 feet away. Not true, but hey I was there in no time. I walked the last few feet with a big smile on my face, I stood on the summit at about 4:15 pm, what a long ascent! I then pointed down to Buena Vista and said "Look at me!" I thrusted my axe into the snow and took in the views. AMAZING! My dad arrived about 10 minutes later, and we took our victory shots.
At about 4:30 we began the long journey back to the car. About halfway back to our packs, we met another climber and told him that he was close to the summit. We reached our packs, and hoisted them back on. I then felt like another new man. Aw, how I hated putting that pack on. We followed the ridge until we found our designated descented snow gully. It was so late in the day that the summit cast a shadow over the snow, making it firmer and safer.
We soon found ourselves back on the trail, and the climber caught up with us, after some talking, he took off ahead of us. We traversed back across the snowfields, which weren't too bad, since the snow was nice and firm.
I have a habbit of dragging on the descent, and this climb was no different. We finally reached the trail where there is no snow on it. I was absolutely wasted and my Dad had to coax me to go faster. I was really dragging as we descended into the trees, but after we crossed the avalanche chute, I was to tired to hurt anymore.
We got closer and closer to the towers, and I has only about 5 feet behind my Dad. I was to the point where I was just moving, like a machine. It is hard to explain, but I'm sure you all know what I am talking about. We finally reached the jeep and I threw my pack off in exasperation. Finally done! The sun was setting and we loaded into the jeep. I love the feeling of putting on my pair of slippers and getting into the jeep at the end of a climb. Then began the long drive home. I kept telling my Dad that I wasn't going to school the next day, but sure enough I was in CHS the next day.