After a good night’s sleep at the Chalk Lake Campground, Brent and I were up and about by 5:30 am. Neither of us was hungry, but knowing we would need the energy, we each managed down a power bar and an apple for breakfast. We packed up the tent and were on the road by 6:00 am. Considering the fact that we were tired from the day before, and that we wanted to conserve our energy for the days ahead, we decided to drive as high as we could on the Mount Princeton road. We managed to make it to 11,400 ft. at which point we could go no further. At one of the switchbacks there was a gnarly eroding rut that we couldn’t make it past, so we had no choice but to start our hike there.
It was a beautiful cloudless morning, and it was unexpectedly warm. The thermometer in the Blazer was reading a balmy 53 degrees. That’s about 15 degrees warmer than you’d expect to find at 7:00 in June at 11,000 ft. We hiked up the road for about a half-mile to the point where the trail departs from the road. Once above timberline, the summit looks so close, but looks can be deceiving. While traversing the boulder field, there were several snowfields that had to be crossed. They were steep enough to cause concern, so we took it slow and made sure that our footing was secure. We continued along the trail to about 12,900 ft. at which point we began to head up toward the summit ridge. Many hikers leave the trail at 12,700ft. and head toward the saddle, but that route is covered with dirt and loose talus. Heading north on the trail for another 200 yards makes for a steeper but much more solid ascent to the ridge. Once on the ridge, it is just a short hike to the summit.
Brent and I conquered Princeton at roughly 10:00 am. The summit offered some spectacular views in all directions. We could see the campground where we had stayed the night before, and we also had a spectacular view of the Arkansas River Valley, which was spread out 7000 ft below. When we arrived, there were four others resting and taking in the view. One couple was from Steamboat, and they had come down south for a couple days of peak bagging. The other two were men from Denver who were just up for the day. We stayed up top for 20 minutes and enjoyed a power bar and some Gatorade. After the rest and refreshment, we wished safe travels to the other hikers and started our descent. Our trip down was uneventful, but we did notice that the clouds were beginning to build. While driving down the road we saw several groups of teenagers that I can only assume were coming from the Young Life Frontier camp that is located at the base of Mount Princeton. We stopped for a short rest at the trailhead parking lot. The clouds were starting to look ominous, so we were glad that we had an early start.
Princeton was 14er number 12 for Brent and me, and we were hoping to bump that to 15 by the end of the week.
"After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world."
--Oscar Wilde on Absinthe