Peak(s):  Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  06/28/2020
Date Climbed:   06/21/2020
Author:  mnsebourn
 The Princeton Slog   

My dad and I slept in the truck and started up Princeton from the 2WD trailhead at midnight.

Why such an early start? My dad’s the first to admit he’ll never be the fastest guy on the mountain, and we both love the experience of watching the sunrise from above tree line.


The first few miles went well. We made it to the radio towers much faster than we thought we would, discussing most of the way whether or not my 2WD Tundra could’ve made it (“Yeah, probably, but I’m glad we didn’t try. Look at how narrow this road is.”)

Beyond the towers, things continued to go well, though my dad started feeling the uphill and the thin air. (“I’m from Arkansas. I breathe water.”)

Perhaps the highlight of the hike came as we were ascending the switchbacks above the towers.

Arkansas night skies just don’t look like those in the Rockies. Only on our fourteener adventures do we actually *see* the Milky Way. And this was the first time we’ve ever rounded a corner and walked straight toward the Big Dipper. It was so bright and clear, my iPhone almost did it justice.

After the Astronomy Switchbacks, we spotted the trail junction easily enough and stopped for a break.

And this is where things started getting... rocky. Literally and figuratively.

I handled the hike fine. I found Princeton to be the most maddening of the 20+ high mountains I’ve hiked/climbed, but it never came close to defeating me.

For my dad, though... the never ending scree slog and talus hopping that Princeton becomes after the trail junction, combined with some persistent and very cold wind gusts... it all proved to be too much.

By the time we were on the ridge, my dad was done. He told me to bag the summit, and he’d wait at the saddle. (“My legs feel weak, and we’ll be on this thing till sunset if I keep going. Go on.”)

So, with decent cell service and a planned rendezvous point, I continued.

The Good: I made it, and those views of Antero are outstanding.

The Bad: The Princeton Slog caused my 68-year-old dad to declare his retirement from fourteeners after a good ten-year run; he’s gotten a lot of them. And I will say: that summit ridge is like talus hopping on a treadmill. The final push to the summit seems to never get closer. I indeed found Princeton to be a slog, and I declare it my least favorite of the Sawatch range.

But it’s a beautiful peak from below, and I’m proud to say I got it.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Good Work
06/29/2020 06:06
I'm probably doing the same if I can ever get back to Buena Vista (Hot Springs are right there!). It's definitely longer and with significantly more climb from the 2WD trailhead. Was the down equally sloggy? Are the views mediocre below ridge, or are those views up to Princeton enjoyable? Thanks.

Views, etc.
06/28/2020 21:10
If Princeton were my first fourteener, I think I wouldâve been amazed by all the views. I mean, itâs Colorado. Thereâs nothing ugly about any of it.

As is... I just think Princeton offers the least bang for the proverbial buck.

The initial view of Princeton is awesome. Then it just gets frustrating. Itâs over two miles of rock hopping once you hit the Princeton trail, and nothing ever seems to get closer. Nothing difficult, it just gets old, IMO, and none of itâs particularly fun or thrilling like the class 2 stuff at the tops of Yale, Massive, Blanca, etc.

06/29/2020 07:19
Princeton is in my top 5 mountains in CO from an aesthetic standpoint (especially as viewed from 24 headed into BV). Just a beautful peak to look at from the valley, and it seems much more imposing than any other in the Sawach from that perspective. As far as the hike itself - I'm glad it was the 3rd 14er I did. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad now after getting more experience over loose talus, but I just remember it being really tedious and loose.

06/29/2020 09:49
Iâm by no means the most experienced hiker/climber on this site, but Iâve done 20+ of these things, including Blanca in a day from the lower TH.

And your recollections are still accurate. âœTedious❠is a good word.

06/29/2020 15:53
This all seems reasonable. I was just in BV last year for my 40th birthday. Strongly considered Princeton just because it's such an amazing mountain to see from the valley. However, I ended up going with Yale because I was time-crunched to get back to Denver that evening and I had also heard grumbling of the "tedious" and extended rock hopping required to summit. Yale was glorious and a very enjoyable trail the whole way up. However, there's a lot of space around Yale and I think it was missing that close view of another 14er (like Antero from the Princeton ridge). We'll see when I can get back.

Also, Blanca from the Lower TH in one day...props. I see you are also an "all the way up" kind of guy. Nice.

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