Mount Princeton (14,197 feet)
Via the Mount Princeton Road TH
July 23, 2004
After the rough day at Evans, Scott and I decided to head out to the Sawatch. Our goal was to hit Princeton in the morning and Antero in the early afternoon. We drove up the Mount Princeton Road, and found the greatest camping spot, about ¼ mile past the radio towers at about 11,000 feet. As we were crawling into our tents for the night, a light fog came in. Needless to say, we didn’t have the beautiful view of the stars that we had the previous night.
When we woke, around 5 am, the fog was still on the mountain. That didn’t stop us from heading up towards the summit at 5:30 am. The trail follows the road for about a mile. Then, the trail, turns right off the road, and climbs to a low ridge, off of Tiger Peak. At this point, the fog cleared for a moment and we got a great view of Tiger Peak. As sometimes happens, I mistook this sub-peak for the main peak. But, this time I had the excuse of the thick fog.
When, we finally started around the base of Tiger Peak, the fog really cleared and Princeton was revealed. I said, “Now that looks more like 1000 feet of elevation.” The trail works around the north side of Tiger Peak. It alternates between dirt, small rocks and boulders. The trail is pretty well defined. The only time that you might miss the trail is when there is an extended distance of boulders. This only happens 2 or 3 times along this part of the trail. Needless, if you just look forward 30-50 feet, you can usually find the trail. Plus, at this point, the trail does not gain much elevation. When the opportunity arose, we decided to leave the trail, and summit the saddle between Tiger and Princeton. There is a steep switchbacked trail and a cairn marking the point. On my way down, I noticed several groups going straight towards Princeton. This looked tougher, as it didn’t take advantage of the ridge climb.
After we made the saddle between Tiger and Princeton, Scott decided that he should turn back. The fog hadn’t gotten much better, and I think that he was a bit gun shy from the tough weather day at Evans yesterday. I kept going forward. In fact, I ditched my pack at the saddle, and booked it up to the summit. I made the summit (from the saddle) in about 40 minutes. Total time to the summit (from the camp) was 2 hours 20 minutes. The ridge climb from the saddle was not too bad. The trail was off and on, but it was no more than class 2 boulder hopping the whole way.
I only stayed at the summit for 5 minutes this time. I kicked back down to the saddle, and picked up my pack. At this point, I looked south and got a stunning glimpse of Antero. This was the clearest the fog had been all day.
I scooted down the trail. I passed a few groups. I mentioned to each group that the climb to the saddle was probably easier than straight up the side of Princeton. When I reached the road, I ran into Scott again. He had descended gradually and had a lot of fun talking to people and viewing the wildlife.
We reached the car in 1 hour and 35 minutes from the summit. I really liked this peak. It was a great, simple, Sawatch. I highly recommend getting the vehicle to at least 11,000 feet before starting the hike though. The road hike just wasn’t that entertaining. The road would easily allow even a 2 wheel drive vehicle, as long as you took it slow. In fact, on our way out, we saw a little Subaru Justy (or something like that) parked at the radio towers.
Off to Antero for the afternoon; or at least that was the plan…