Backcountry Skiing in Colorado

Skiing and Hiking in the Colorado Backcountry

Schooling Mt. Princeton (14,197′)


View of the ridge and Princeton’s summit

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.

Summit shot looking out over Chaffee County

Antero in the back drop

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.


Author: ToblerX

Husband, Father and fun-lover. I love to ski, climb, hike and preferably all of them together!

2 thoughts on “Schooling Mt. Princeton (14,197′)

  1. Nice work bud! Just so you know, uphillers should always have the right-away on 4×4 roads. It’s much easier (and safer) to stop going uphill in reverse than downhill…

    Are you around the first weekend of August at all? If not, we need to find a time to get together before I journey away!

  2. Hey man, that’s strange because we encountered 3 uphillers, all 3 backed down for us. Oh well. I posted on your event page, the first weekend in August is our anniversary weekend, we’ll be in Pagosa Springs Friday-Sunday.

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