Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mt. Princeton, monarch of the Sawatch

Mt. Princeton   14,197'

RT Distance: 6.5 miles Elevation Gain: 3400'  Difficulty: Class 2

My climbing partner and I kicked off the "summer" climbing season with a spring climb of Mt. Princeton in the Sawatch range. At 14,197 feet, it towers over the Arkansas River valley. The iconic image of Mt. Princeton is best seen from US HWY 24 as you are driving down into the valley near Buena Vista.  Princeton is somewhat unique in that from the road, you can see the entire route from start to finish. We started at the "radio towers" area at 10,800' up a rugged 4WD road.

Mt. Princeton as seen from Buena Vista, later in the afternoon. "Tigger" is the left sub-peak.

Around 11,500' withe the summit in the background.

The snow drifts were receding and plenty of drivers made it past this point.

It starts off as a very mild "road hike". This could be brutally hot in the late summer.

The turnoff from the road is down about a 1/4 mile from here, in a patch of snow.

Leaving the road and gaining the trail. The nice sand/grass trail would not last long. This hike is somewhat unique in that the summit is visible much of the time you are hiking.

You can see hikers in the middle on the trail. At this point it was all rock, all the time.

Around 12,500' the summit tantalizes you, but it's almost 2 miles away.
We have gained the summit ridge, around 13,000', but have a ways to go.

So close to the summit, and the air is getting a little thin.

Scott charges up to the summit.

I celebrate, Platoon style. It was very calm and clear when we summitted.

Mt. Antero's huge massif dead center. Mt. Shavano and Tabaguache Peak distant left.

Looking NW toward the Elk mountains. Snowmass and Holy Cross visible.
Summit Panorama!

I decided to scramble up "Tigger" solo and take this silly self portrait.

Later on, exploring: below Cottonwood pass. The clouds were doing the usual thing.

Nearby Cottonwood lake, looking west. This is a popular place for fishing.
 It was a fun, exciting, scenic hike with awesome weather. Had we waited a couple more hours on the summit, we would have gotten blasted with winds and snowed on, as happened to our friend Joey. See what it looked like the next day:
Mt. Princeton with snow on it (left), taken the next day from Mt. Yale.

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