John Muir – In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
Before I begin typing about Mount Princeton, I just wanted to say that I might start adding a quote with each of my write-ups from now on. It may be specifically relevant to that hike or a touch of what I have gained and learned in my passion for climbing. I recognize how other people can portray a thought or feeling better than I can. I may be experiencing the same emotion or having a similar appreciation for my adventure, but words articulated correctly can be beautiful art.
Another Collegiate Peak, here I come! Mount Princeton sits directly west of Buena Vista. The mountain has an overpowering presence as you drive west on Highway 285 into Buena Vista. It towers over the Arkansas Valley and provides such an impressive backdrop. I have driven by the base of this mountain numerous times over the last few weeks while on my way to other Collegiate Peaks. Today, it was Mount Princeton’s turn and I was excited to finally climb this mountain.
This climb was once again with someone different. I was climbing with my friend Tony. I have known Tony over 5 years and have worked with him at J3 Engineering for the last 4 years. The best way I can describe Tony is that he is extremely funny. He is probably the most random person I have ever met. I am constantly amused at the things he says and I can’t comprehend some of the stuff he thinks of in that brain of his. I know that he says only about 25% of the crazy things that go through that head of his. We had discussed climbing a mountain together for a few weeks and his enthusiasm was evident. I was glad we were going to climb Mt. Princeton together.
I once again utilized Cutty Cabin for a base camp (thanks a million Ken and Christina). We didn’t arrive at the cabin until 11:30 p.m. that evening. I went to the Colorado Rockies game that night with my friend Mike so we got a late start towards the cabin. (On a side note, the Colorado Rockies won in true Rockies fashion by taking the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Go Rockies!). Tony and I ended up walking into the cabin and then went directly to our individual beds so we could get an early start at 5:00 am. We both thought it was a little humorous to literally walk into the cabin, put down our stuff, and go directly to sleep. No time was wasted in attempting to get a good nights rest before our climb the next day.
We left Cutty Cabin around 5:15 a.m. and arrived at the base of Mount Princeton around 6:15. There was a trailhead at this location but we decided to head up Mount Princeton Road 3.2 miles to the radio towers located at an elevation of 10,820 feet. Mt. Princeton Road to the radio towers was a 4WD road with several deep washouts but a good surface to drive on. The washouts made us think that getting a passenger car up this road would be difficult. This road was along the east face of Mount Princeton and provided us a great view of the sun rise to the east so we stopped a couple different times to capture the beautiful rising sun.
We arrived at the radio towers around 7:00. There was a single person getting ready to begin his hike. As we were preparing ourselves to begin hiking, a Chevy Cavalier with Nebraska license plates passed by us. I guess our assumption that we didn’t think it was possible for a passenger car to make up the road was proven wrong. In fact, they passed us and were continuing their way higher up the road. The Nebraska jokes then started to fly. I imagine their car had to bottom out several times coming up the road. I was impressed and baffled at the same time.
Our route was to start at the radio towers (10,820 feet) and ascend further up Mount Princeton Road before veering off. A trail would then take us along the north side of Tigger Peak to the saddle between Tigger Peak and Mount Princeton. From there, we would ascend up the southeast ridge to the top of Mount Princeton. This route comprised of both Class I and Class II difficulties and was approximately 6.6 miles roundtrip. Our total elevation gain was approximately 3,400 feet.
The hike along Mount Princeton Road was relatively easy. It was along a road….that is all I have to say about this. Unicorns are not real. I guess since I had nothing else to say I would just add something random. Better yet, how the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet? That is a great question and if someone could provide me an answer that would eliminate some unnecessary frustration!
Once we left the trail we hiked through a gentle meadow along a defined dirt path for about a ¼ of a mile. After the meadow the surface of the trail changed immediately to talus. It was interesting to me how the surface material varied drastically without a radical change in elevation. For the remainder of the hike we would be on talus. The mountain was an enormous mound of boulders.
This hike was really nice considering the lack of people on the mountain. I liked the isolation. We moved at a reasonable pace. Tony was discovering how altitude and climbing affect the body. This was his first climb and he motored through the adversity. I realized that I am now fairly conditioned. 16 peaks in 8 weeks will do that I presume and I say that humbly because I realize how persistent training and conditioning affects the body.
We arrived at the summit at 10:15. It took longer than I anticipated but we maintained a decent pace on the ascent. I think walking over the talus tended to slow down our pace. However, the timing didn’t matter. We were on top of Mt. Princeton.
It was great to see Tony so excited to summit his first 14er. He was feeling the effects of the climb but that didn’t seem to matter to him now. I don’t think he could smile any larger…ok, maybe when he married his wife or when his kids were born. However, he was happy. Congratulations once again on making it to the top of your first 14er! I am proud of you and glad I could be there to share in your moment.
While we were on the mountain I made the comment to Tony “Being on the summit feels like Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic, but not so gay”. He responded with “I want to be on record for your blog that the comment you just made was still really gay.” Fair enough Tony, fair enough! I should have come up with something better at the time because that comment sucked. I don’t really care to tell the whole world about that statement; however, I know Tony would be severely disappointed if I didn’t put the quote in this write-up (especially since he made it a point of emphasis to have his rebuttal on record). What is funny to me now is that I am going through my pictures deciding which ones to post and there was only one of us who posed like Leo…and it wasn’t me. I made sure to include that in the photo album of this climb.
We spent some great time on top. It was another perfect day above 14,000 feet. There were some localized storm clouds around us but we were lucky to be in the clear. I have been very fortunate to be on top of most of these peaks with amazing weather and clear views of my surroundings. I count my blessing each and every time because there is high chance weather will prevent me from summiting or really obstruct my view.
I think we ended up spending probably 45 minutes on the summit before heading down. Instead of hiking the ridgeline we came up, we descended along undefined paths before reconnecting the main trail. This route provided a change of scenery and a more gradual descent but the lack of a defined path added a little more difficulty. Rocks would shift beneath your feet, sometimes triggering landslides. Hiking down the talus was also tough on the knees.
We both were thankful to be approaching the open meadow, which was now about 0.5 miles ahead of us. I think we were both ready for a smoother surface after spending so much time on talus. Tony made the comment “I cannot wait to get to the meadow. It looks like the land of boobs and marshmallows.” What the heck? How do you respond to a statement like that? However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was an awesome vision! This exemplified Tony’s randomness and the types of things he thinks of. I was rolling at the continued thought of it. I am a little scarred by it though; I will now look at landscape in a whole new light…
We arrived back at my truck at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t a difficult hike. It was short hike, a little over 3400 feet in elevation gain, and was the most talus I have climbed on thus far. I am thankful for another successful summit and a new perspective of some of God’s beautiful landscape and 14ers. Tony, congrats one last time and thanks for joining me on this adventure.
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