Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,200 feet
Date Posted:  07/16/2012
Date Climbed:   07/10/2012
Author:  DavidLeVan
 Bouldering up Mt. Princeton's standard route   

My thirteen-year-old son Will and I have climbed three 14ers so far this summer and seven total with Princeton being our eighth. We've been to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs numerous times, and this year we decided to meet up two friends Aaron and his son Brennan to climb Princeton one day and then hit the Hot Springs the next. We thought it would be a nice combination. It would be the second 14er for Aaron and Brennan's first. We took our dog Sadie with us as well for her fourth 14er.

After reading the TH reports, I was a little worried about the road getting up past the main TH. I wanted to get up to the radio towers which we were able to do without too much difficulty. It is certainly true that had we encountered a vehicle coming down it would have been quite interesting since it is a very narrow road with very few pull outs. We drive an AWD Hyundai Santa Fe and went slowly up without any problems. There were already a number of vehicles at the radio towers when we pulled in a 0735. We got out there and started walking. Ironically, it seemed that the road actually got a little better after the radio towers, and we clearly could have kept on driving all the way to the rock steps. In fact, a Tacoma truck drove past the rock steps and parked at the end of the road. There were also a couple of spots to park at the road switched back.

Anyway, it took us an hour to walk the road to the rock stairs, and we actually missed it at first since we were busy talking even though it is incredibly well marked with clear rock steps and a huge cairn. Luckily the guys in the truck from Johnson County, KS were walking down and showed us the error of our ways. It helps to pay attention as you hike.

We hit the first ridgeline at 0845 and then began the long slow trudge through the rocks along the north face of the unnamed peak in front of Princeton. A number of paragliders left from there about an hour later. That would have been a crazy adventure. I wonder where they landed. I hope they made it past the trees.


There is a cool rock hole that the boys climbed into which we reached by 0910.


There is very little water on Princeton so come prepared. We met a couple of hikers who had turned back because they ran out. This is the only stream we could find, and Sadie took her time here.


We reached the rock wall which signaled the start of the new trail at 0945 and then reached the upper ridgeline at 1000 after a short but quite steep ascent up the side of the ridge. At the ridgeline we got a good look at Antero to our south, and we stopped and had a break.


We passed a number of hikers already making their descent and one stopped me to say how hard it was to follow the trail along the rocky ridge, and he was certainly right. There were numerous cairns dotted on the boulders but the trails seemed to start and stop as we bouldered slowly up the side of the mountain. The boulders never let up, and the climb towards the top seemed to get steeper and steeper. We nearly reached the top when I realized that we had reached a false summit and still had more elevation to climb. Aaron and Brennan were behind us but still climbing slowly while all the other hikers at the top were heading down.

Will and I reached the top at 1145 and were quite excited about the great weather which allowed us to hang out at the top for an hour. We only saw light puffy clouds in the distance and little wind. An ideal day. Brennan and Aaron arrived around noon, and we relaxed and had lunch. Here are a number of obligatory summit pictures:




We left the summit around at 1245 and came across a plaque to Catherine Pugin which serves as a somber reminder that there are no easy 14ers. RIP.


I thought the climb up with all the boulders would be bad, but it was actually worse going down, and Brennan rolled an ankle which didn't help any. We went slowly down reaching the upper ridge line at 1400 and the rock stairs at 1530 before getting back to the car by 1615. We did get a nice muscle shot on the way down, however.


Princeton was a challenge. The trail was poor in many places, and the bouldering got very old. We reached the summit of our eighth 14er, and I am glad to have climbed Princeton, but it was one of the least fun hikes we have taken. I found it harder than I thought, and I doubt that I will try it again. I have hiked a lot more enjoyable trails. I doubt I'll ever stand on that summit again.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Boomer Sooner!
07/16/2012 20:22
Congrats on the summit from a fellow Sooner. That last push up the talus is awful. The road also worried me on the way up.

07/17/2012 01:29
Nice photos!

07/26/2012 19:48
I have a 19 year old boy and i will be bringing him out to do his first 14er. we are from Florida, so flat landers. i have done 3 in the past.

i was thinking of Princeton, but after reading your post, was wondering if you had some better ideas. another Collegiate-- we are staying outside of FairPlay


Response to wesiv
07/28/2012 03:31
We have climbed 9 14ers. Princeton was my least favorite. Yale is a favorite of mine, and we made it up in 3.5 hours. There is easy access from Denny Creek. I recommend that one for sure. We climbed Harvard today. It is a long hike but quite enjoyable. Sherman is not a Collegiate, but it is one of the easiest and could make for a good starting point, plus it is right outside of Fairplay. Hope these help.

Fast Jimm
May have been off trail
08/07/2012 00:03
Did you notice a sharp right turn on your way up that led you to the ridge above? The turn is marked by a rock wall and cairns at about 12800. The old trail is more visible, especially from the top, but the ridge is much easier to ascend and descend.

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