Dave Gardner and I had planned on continuing our assault on the Sawatch Range by attempting Mt. Princeton (14,197′) on July 14th, 2012. I was worried about Princeton’s infamous road (for good reason!) and was hoping we could take Dave’s Jeep to make things a little more manageable. Friday night I got a text from Dave letting me know he couldn’t make it. I was pretty hungry to tackle Princeton and decided to go solo. I figured if the road gave me trouble I’d hike the trail and see where things went from there.
I left Denver around 5:30am and made the familiar drive to Buena Vista and by 7:30 I was at the lower trailhead. I put my Hyundai Santa Fe in AWD and headed up the road. The road itself wasn’t too bad since it was bone dry, but as I headed up I muttered to myself “this would be amessin the rain.” Call me psychic but I had no idea I had just predicted what was to come.
I made it to the radio towers around 8am and found most of the parking spots full. Not willing to chance the road any higher I managed to squeeze into a spot next to the high tower, however I knew I wouldn’t be able to turn around when I got back which would make for an interesting ride down. For now I put that out of my mind and began the ascent at 8:15.
The ascent starts up the road… I hate road climbing, it’s boring but I wasn’t feeling strong enough to run so I tried to keep a brisk pace. Eventually I made it to where the trail breaks off the road and began the traverse along Princeton’s east slope.
It was here my second wind kicked in and I began pushing hard towards the ridge and ultimately the summit. The final push to the summit was steep and really punched me in the mouth, but after an 1:43 I was at the summit.
The descent from the summit was loose and required some care but I made good time back to the traverse. Once I hit the road I began a light jog which shaved off some precious minutes. Minutes I would later realize were the difference between staying dry and getting soaked. I made it to the car with a round-trip time of 2:58, just under 3 hours and boy was I stoked.
However, now my focus turned to my car situation. With no room to turn around I knew my only option was to back down the road. Carefully I made my way around a bend and back to the lots at the lower radio tower where I was able to rurn around and head forward down the road. Almost immediately after I turned around I was met with the brake lights of a truck stopped in front of me. There was another truck trying to head up the road and we were at a stand-still. It was at this moment that my prophecy came to fruition, the sky opened up, and it began to pour!
After a short wait, the ascenders began to impressively back down the road for about a quarter-mile before we were able to pass. The rest of the drive down was uneventful and I had notched my 25th 14er.