Mount Princeton trip report


I took a suggestion from Borneman & Lampert's book and decided to try to bike the Mount Princeton Road up to the trail. I headed up at 8:15 (quite a late start for me), but it turned out that the road was too steep for me and my bike. I ended up struggling up about 500ft vertical before ditching the bike along the road. So much for that experiment. [I had a particularly crappy bike at the time.]

After this inauspicous start, I was really glad that the weather was looking good, especially since I had really overworked my legs on the bike. I continued hiking up the road, which when dry is probably not all that difficult for normal cars, but would probably be impossible when wet. In fact, a car had made it up to about 11000ft, near several radio towers. As it turned out, most of the people who were on the mountain that day (and there were quite a few), had driven up to various points on the road with 4WD.

I encountered a group high on the road, and we ended up missing the road-trail junction. I ended up climbing an extra 200ft vertical up the road toward Bristlecone Park before looking back and seeing the trail. Arrgh! I don't feel too bad because even Roach's guidebook says that the unsigned junction is easy to miss. In addition the very first part is heavily eroded and doesn't look like a trail.

Past this first part the trail is quite good as is takes you over a ridge at 12000ft where you get your first close-up view of Princeton. There are no really distinctive features on Princeton, but it's still a pretty mountain from many points of view. After a while, the trail suddenly goes from dirt to talus, but it's still a decent trail.

At some point, you have to leave the trail and head up to the ridge. The trail goes all the way to an abandoned mine but the slope above this is supposed to be unpleasant. The gully where the so-called "Line Glacier" mentioned in Roach's guidebook lies was visible. This looks like a fun route, but, as expected, there was no snow in it.

The climb to the ridge was a steep hike over rough talus. I reached the ridge at about 13200ft at 11:50am. My weather report in my journal indicated increasing high clouds, with an occasional breeze and a temperature in the low 40s. It never really did warm up much this day, despite quite a bit of sunshine. The high clouds were out ahead of a front that wasn't supposed to come through until after dark.

The last 1000ft to the summit were a real grunt. My legs just didn't want to do 4500ft+ after my stupid bike ride. I knew from past experience that I wouldn't have any problem with the downhill hiking, so I just kept going. In retrospect, it wasn't really that bad and I made the summit at 12:48pm. This is a really dumb time to plan to be on a high summit in Colorado this time of year, but the t-storm threat was nil on this day.

There were several people on the summit, including a woman who was with the group down at the road-trail junction. She was by far the strongest of the group (of course, they drove halfway up the mountain) and ended up passing me halfway up the ridge. Before she passed me, I became good friends with her dog, Robin, who kept going back and forth between us. The woman asked me if the dog was bothering me, but I really don't mind dogs on the trail as long as they are reasonably friendly and are quiet. Aside from nasty dogs, the dogs I don't like are the ones that won't even let you pet them when you encounter them. I find this latter group almost as disconcerting as the former.

Anyway, there are about a half-dozen people on the summit. My watch was showing 38F and there were occasional wind gusts to 25mph. The woman with the dog was at least a half-hour ahead of the rest of her group and she was getting cold, so after consulting with the rest of us, she wisely headed back down. I ended up spending a half-hour on top, about normal for me.

On the way down, I decided to leave the ridge earlier than I reached it and started angling down to the trail at about 1:30. This part of the slope (from about 13400 to 12900) is still pretty solid and I made good time stepping from rock to rock. However, judging from some erosion I could see on this slope, this might be a good candidate for the construction of a trail to the ridge. An hour after leaving the ridge, I was back at the road, and after another hour I was back at my bike. I've discovered that a little bit of downhill trail jogging keeps my legs from stiffening up as much as they normally would. (Of course, too much and I would ruin my knees.)

The bike ride down was interesting as I had to pretty much ride the brakes all the way down. This really wore out my hands, but my legs weren't complaining :). I reached the parking lot at 3:52, still with good weather. I finally met up with the approaching cold front going over the summit on I-80 and got snowed on pretty good there.

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File last modified: 21 December 2004

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