Mount Princeton Mount Princeton
Colorado 14er
14,197 feet - 4,327 meters
14ers FAQ|New Climber FAQ

Summit view looking northI am always amazed at what I see on Colorado 14'ers and the sight on Mount Princeton took the cake or should I say the chips.

I met up with Patrick on Saturday night after my climb of Harvard earlier that day. We had a gourmet dinner at the local Pizza Hut in Buena Vista and turned in early at the Super 8 Motel across the street.

We drove up the 4-wheel drive road to the radio towers near 11,000'. Since it was about 7:00, we easily found a parking place but upon our return later that day, there were no places to park. Patrick and I set out about 7:30 AM on Sunday June 26 for the summit. While the clouds looked ominous, we felt safe that they held just sprinkles and no lightening.

I was glad we didn't park at the "true" trail head three and half miles back down the road at 8,900'. I love hiking below treeline but walking a dusty road with jeeps swerving past is not my idea of a good time! It was an overcast morning with a slight sprinkle that soon passed as we headed up the dirt road. Soon we found the obscure trail around "Tigger", Princeton's 13,300 foot sub-peak, and left the road on the right through a small patch of snow.Mount PrincetonPrinceton as seen from low on the route

The well worn trial switchbacked a few times and soon revealed Mount Princeton. We could easily see the trail all the way to the abandoned mine on her eastern slopes remembering that we needed to watch for the break to the ridge in order to avoid the "unpleasant" scree above the mine. The clouds swirled overheard and a chilly wind soon picked up. There were a few other hikers on the route.

After an hour or so the trail was blocked by a short wall of rocks pointing to the first trail towards the ridge. We called out to a party ahead that had missed this turn-off so they took the next path straight up the side of Tigger. This was around 12,700'. The trail continued to the mine and there was an obvious route to the summit above the mine for the ambitious out there but we took the normal route and obtained the ridge. Again, the trail is well worn and route finding is not a problem on the peak in the summer. In the winter, any route would do minding avalanches to be sure.

Young climbers
Once atop the ridge the wind really picked up so we added an extra layer as we picked our way through the boulders. At about two hours we were making good progress towards the summit. The trail played hide and seek amongst the boulders on the ridge and we picked up a party of three in their tennis shoes and shorts that wanted to follow our lead. About 500' below the summit, a small plaque marked the spot were a woman was killed by lightening in September, 1995. A grim reminder of the dangers while climbing 14'ers. I checked the sky again.

About 11:30 we made the summit and quickly hunkered down behind a rock wall that provided little protection from the crisp wind. Our friends were nestled in a small hole like sled dogs taking a break. I ate the rest of my pizza from last night as Patrick assumed the Tensing pose for his summit photo. I took my summit video. And with that we left.Summit view

We took the first path down to the main trail from the ridge line. The clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful day. Perhaps it is this mild weather that fools people into taking 14'ers so lightly because soon we saw a sight only to be described and not photographed. He was probably under 20. Dressed in cotton jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt, he approached us quickly. It was not his dress that caught my attention but rather the open - giant size - bag of nacho flavored Doritos in his left hand! And he didn't even offer us one! But he was not alone, his twin was close behind and he was carrying a large bottle of Gatoraid. I think I need to review my list of the 10 essentials.

Arkansas Valley

Mount Princeton is a straightforward peak with nice views of the Arkansas Valley and Buena Vista. From the summit you can see 30 14'ers on a clear day according to Gerry Roach. We made the 6 mile, 3,400' round trip in about 6 hours - 4 up and 2 down at a leisurely pace with lots of photo-op stops. It was a nice day but next time I will bring Doritos to go with my pizza.