I had planned on doing Holy Cross on this day, but after the amount of snow that I saw on Belford 3 days earlier and the amount of snow that was visible from U.S. 24 on Notch Mountain, I decided to try something a little easier. The forecast was for absolutely perfect weather, so I decided to get a later than usual start. The alarm clock went off at 6:00 a.m. and I was out the door by 6:30. The drive from Avon seemed to take longer than I had expected. After a quick stop at the Buena Vista Phillips 66, I was headed up the Princeton Rd. and found myself parked just above the antennas about 8:15. Packed up and ready to go, my partner (Kim) and I were underway at 8:30.
Hiking the Princeton Rd. was pretty boring and presented no problems. Nearing the upper road switchbacks, I found a vehicle parked. We would not be alone on the mountain today. This guy was smart enough to chop off 500' or so to his climb. Darn that 3,000' rule!!! Well, we arrived at the bend in the road near 11,800' and the trail up to the east slopes was obvious. I had read several reports of people that had missed the trail and ended up back tracking and having a long day. We were fortunate enough not to have had this happen to us on this day. In fact, I am not real sure how you could miss the trail. Actually, there are three trails in the area that lead to the same place. After hiking the trail and gaining the east slopes, the rest of the route was obvious. After about an hour, we came to Tigger peak proper around 12, 200. I was still sore from my trip up Belford three days earlier and being a flatlander, I was very happy to have made 1,200' in the first hour. After a short break and some photos, we were headed back towards Princeton. The trail is very stable talus and impossible to lose. This all changes around 12,800' or so. We had decided to follow the route to an obvious "Y" in the trail and then head up. From that point, the route becomes a very faint trail that is steep scree and loose talus. This was the mistake of the day. The trail slowed us down considerably and I found myself in the area that I had heard so many others complain about. Well, finally we gained the ridge just above 13,600'. From there we found a very good trail that pretty much followed the ridge all the way to the summit. This part of the route was just as steep as the previous section, but was a lot more stable and thus made the final push to the summit very enjoyable. We arrived on the summit in just over 4 hours and had it all to ourselves. The only snow on the entire mountain was in and around the three wind shelters on the summit. As we took in the views from the summit, it appeared that Mt. Princeton was the only high peak within 100 miles that did not have any snow on it. In fact, it was like being in a different region than Belford from just three days earlier.
The weather was absolutely perfect, with light winds and only a few scattered clouds to the north. However, after 30 minutes or so it was time to say good bye. We followed the ridge route back to 13,600' or so, where we met two others making the same mistake that we did. I motioned for them to traverse to the ridge and as they did they were very thankful to be back on a real trail. We continued down the ridge, contouring around a few rocky outcroppings. Around 13,300' we found an obvious trail that came down from the ridge back to the main trail. We followed this and hit the main trail in no time. This trail had short switchbacks that cut down on the steepness. Also, the rock along the trail was very stable and there were just a few sections where the footing was tricky. This was by far the way to go up to the ridge. Man, if I only knew, but now you guys do. As we hit the main trail, the pace picked up and we were back at the road in no time. Traveling back down the Princeton Rd. was no big deal, but it seemed to take longer to get down it than it did to get up it. I am sure this was not the case. It is too bad the boring part was at the end of the day. Back at the car, a little over 7 hours after starting up Princeton, I was very pleased on how the day had turned out. The weather had been perfect, we were 2 of only 5 people that summitted all day, and I had made it through the season without a fall.
This was the last 14er of the season for this flatlander. I had made two short trips to Colorado and bagged 12 14ers. I know that is just a weekends worth of work for so many, but I am very pleased. Man how I envy you guys that can head to the mountains on weekends and on your days off. Good luck to those of you that still have a few climbs left this year.
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