Mt Princeton, CO- Elevation 14,197- 06/19/2004 & 08/06/2004
This is my second attempt at Mt Princeton and this time I prevailed. This mountain scares me for some reason. My first attempt was in June 18th earlier this year. I had to turn around just a few hundred feet from the summit because the clouds were becoming very threatening and lightning was striking all around. Nothing seemed to feel right that day and the thunderclaps were like announcements that it was time to leave. I left the house at 6 which I thought was early enough. Got to the radio towers on Mt Princeton road and parked there figuring I'd make the hike a little more challenging my not driving up any further (my first mistake). At 9:30 I took my time and ate lunch before going up, I passed several other parties on the drive up so I figured I was at least ahead of them. Once I finally got going I hiked the road, then missed the trail up the side of Mt Tigger but eventually caught it after hiking up some rocky terrain. From the 4WDR road you can't see Mt Princeton except on a couple of corners and Mt Tigger its little brother a 13er seems to look prominent enough to be Princeton. When I first turned the last corner of the road where you start to get past the treeline I saw Tigger and thought it was Princeton and I was almost there, this made me feel better since the clouds were coming in. Once on the trail I started to pass a couple large parties who eventually turned around because of the weather looking nasty. I also figured out where the real Princeton was as I skirted around Mt Tigger and passed it, and Princeton was much further away than I thought. The good trail seemed to be going around the bottom of Princeton and I was wondering if that was even the summit or if it was on the other side of the peak I was seeing. I started to go up the nasty scree to gain the ridgeline which took up more valuable time. As I finally gained the ridgeline between Tigger and Princeton the Thunderclaps were more than I could take, I was tired, frustrated, alone, and afraid for my life. It just seemed that something was wrong and a voice in my head kept saying turn around. Hesitantly I did decide to turn around and come back another day. One the way down I passed a solo hiker who was determined to summit, he parked much further up the mountain and I did see him drive pass me on the way back down when I was almost to my car. Soon after I met another party of two who had just flown into Denver the day before, as we talked there was some loud thunder and he said "I guess that means its time to continue on". They continued up and I saw their car on the hike down, I hope they made it. Although I was very disappointed after a 3hour drive each way and a lot of effort for nothing I'm glad I'm still alive to do this another day, no hike is worth risking your life for.
My second attempt was much better. I had contemplated whether to attempt this again or not and decided I needed to do this to get it out of my head. The weather report wasn't much better than the first time I climbed this mountain but I did get a half hour earlier start and drove a mile further up the road to ensure my successful summit. When I checked my watch to see what time I started the hike it said 9:11. No joke, it kinda freaked me out but I was not going to be defeated this time. I knew the route and didn't make the same mistakes I made the first time. This time I cut up to the ridgeline before the trail wandered off into nowhere land. This time the weather was holding and I continued on and made the summit in two and a half hours. There were three other people on the summit who where just heading down and one of them talked to me for a few minutes to chat about photography. After he left I had the summit all to myself for the 45 minutes I stayed to take pictures and relax. A bird kept swooping by as if to greet me and weather was outstanding about 60 degrees and little to no wind which is rare up this high. I finally got back to the car just after 3 making the descent down actually take longer than the hike up. I'm glad I made it back and summited Princeton. Now every time I see it when I drive out this way I can think of my success rather than that creepy day when I failed to summit.
As seen from Buena Vista Mt Princeton in the middle, and Tigger on the left.
The radio towers where I parked on the first attempt. As you can see it was a nice day at this point.
Another pic from my first attempt, this is just coming around the corner of Mt Tigger and not to far after leaving the 4WDR road you get your first clear view of the Princeton summit which is overshadowed by threatening clouds on this day. I eventually passed this large party ahead of me who then turned around just as would later on.
Another large party coming down the mountain from the summit. The clouds were very low as passed right through us which was very unsettling when you can hear thunder and see lightning down in the valley. Although this party was on a different route than me I chatted from a distance briefly with one of the guys. I mentioned that I saw another large party like theirs behind me who turned around and one girl blurted out "they were smart". That is easy for her to say already having reached the summit, but nevertheless it bothered me and kept repeating in my mind like some kind of curse. I managed to get a little higher than where the party was in this picture but then decided to turn around and come back another day.
On the way back down it briefly cleared up, then looked nasty again as I was getting close to the car. A couple loud thunderclaps from very close lightning seemed to speak to me saying that I did the right thing getting out of there ASAP.
This is the car of the two guys I saw last on the mountain. Kinda reminds of the old cartoon speed buggy.
This tree is like the mascot for Princeton, its the most noticeable thing on the Princeton road.
Ahh its a bright sun shiny day, just like the last time I was here. This is the beginning of the Mt Princeton road where some people camp or park, I drove up a few more miles to make sure I made it to the top this time. The road up wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered and only took about a half hour to get up; other than the need for high clearance in some places the road was fairly smooth.
My hike up this time was fast and I didn't stop to take as many pictures because I wanted to summit. Here I am almost to the top and saw the plaque of a lady who wasn't so lucky to make it down during stormy weather. I wondered if it was her spirit telling me to turn around the last time I was near this point.
Victory at last! This time there were some dark clouds around and to the north especially but amazingly I didn't see a flash of lightning all day.
I ponder what mountain will I hike next? After my first failed attempt here I wondered if I would just give up this crazy idea of hiking 14ers but now I know it is something I love to do and need to do.
WOW! One reason I love this is the views. This is looking north over 14er country, from here you can see several different sawatch 14ers.
Looking back down at Mt Tigger you can see the nice trail to the left. I had considered going to Mt Missouri but figured if I made it I would have to hike back in the dark and be very late getting home so I opted to traverse the ridgeline to Mt Tigger a 13er. That added a few hundred feet more elevation gain to my hike bringing it to just over 3000 on the day and adding at least another hour to the descent which was down the right side of Tigger in this picture and ended up at the beginning of the 4WDR road. I was wondering if there would be a register on Mt Tigger, but there wasn't, however that route was a little more challenging and there were beautiful crystals all over the place.
A summit pic on Mt Tigger 13300 ft with Princeton in the background.
Here is a look up the route I took down Tigger. Its a little rougher than the standard trail but still class II.