East Ridge from the road
Sunday July 31, 2005
I awoke at 3:15AM and since I had packed everything the night before and I was soon on my way to Buena Vista via route 285. The darkness gradually gave way to a most beautiful sunrise and the morning was already very warm. I drove up the narrow, rutted, dirt road well beyond the trailhead parking lot as it winds around and back and forth on several switchbacks. I now came to the Radio Towers where I thought I would need to park, but I kept on going quite a bit farther until I came to a hairpin switchback that I decided was the place to stop. At this point I had to put it into 4-wheel drive to position myself next to another vehicle to allow others to pass-by as needed. I chocked all four tires with rocks and at 6:42 hit the road, literally, walking up the dirt road.
I walked up about a mile or so where I then saw two large cairns on the right marking the way to the trail. Directly in front of me here stands Tigger Peak. The trail begins a bit steeply for a brief while and then leveled-out as I walked around a grassy section at tree line and then proceeded to walk up and all the way back around to the left, I could now see Mt Princeton and the trail is most clearly defined as it traverses around the east side of Tigger Peak and on up to the summit ridge.
I passed a small group of 4 boys and a man as I made my way through the grassy section as it soon gave way to a very well traveled rocky trail. The trail is very good, worn smooth by heavy foot traffic and makes for an unmistakable passage as it’s the only way to go. With the sun beating down and nothing but rocks it was becoming very warm and I was glad that I wore only a T-shirt, shorts, and plenty of sunscreen as the skies were clear as far as I could see. I could now see two people well ahead on the trail just below the saddle going up to the summit ridge.
The trail continues at a gradual pitch all along the vast traverse and winds around a few trough looking areas. In a couple of places I could hear the gurgle of subterranean creeks right under the rocks as I walked along and up to just below the saddle that runs between Tigger Peak and Mt Princeton. Here the trail seems to disappear somewhat as I scrambled up to the saddle and then found a thin trail marked by cairns heading towards the summit. I now passed a guy and an obviously pregnant women as I was now heading up a very steep ascent on a thin trail that made it as much a scramble as anything.
After ascending up this very steep, rocky, undefined section I was just below the summit and looked back down the trail where I saw the guy and the gal I had passed and another two people coming across the saddle from Tigger Peak, otherwise there was nobody else around as I reached the summit at 8:36. The weather was absolutely perfect; brilliant sun, crystal blue skies in every direction, and just a whisper of a breeze from the west.
I had the summit to myself for a good 30 mins and took many photos, viewed many other 14’ers in the area, had a bite to eat, and a long rest until the two guys coming from Tigger Peak arrived. Both were rather stuffy and seemed a bit perturbed that they didn’t have the place to themselves………too bad!!!!!!! I made a quick exit after these two arrived and by now the guy and the gal were reaching the summit too, so they still didn’t have it to themselves………sweet!!!!
Anyway……….I headed back down and the steep section from the summit to the saddle wasn’t any easier and hopping from one rock to the next seemed like the best way. I could now see other people heading-up the traverse and found my own way back down off the saddle and back to the main trail. The descent was now pretty easy and I stopped and took photos along the way and saw many people now coming up as I was heading down.
When I got back to the dirt road there were several vehicles parked right at the start of the trail and I saw others now driving up from below. I walked back down the road and reached my truck at 10:40. My 15th 14’er and another beautiful morning in Colorado. Sweet!!