- Date: August 14, 2017
- Partner: Xiaoen Ding, Thao Tran, Hieu Nguyen, Ngoc Nguyen
- Height: 14,197 feet
- Range: Sawatch
- Route: East Slopes (Class 2)
- Overall Distance: 6.50 miles
- Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
- 14ers climbed: 18 separate climbs
- 14ers remaining: 35
- Road Condition to Trailhead: It is an easy drive to the 2WD trailhead out of Nathrop. From here, things get quite a bit more serious. First of all, stay to the right as you depart from the 2WD parking lot as it is easy to miss the road continuing up the mountain. Then, you have a 3-mile slow slog up a steep, rutted single track road to get to the radio towers. My Jeep Cherokee made it with careful driving and using 4WD. There are several places to park at the radio towers if you get an early start to beat the crowd.
This hike is a deceptively long hike time-wise, even though it is not a long hike distance-wise. From the radio towers, you’ll have about 1.5 miles going steadily uphill on a winding forest road. A trail abruptly cuts off to your right and ascends a grassy hill. After roughly 0.5 mile, the trail enters into a perpetual talus field. From here, you have under 1.5 miles to reach the summit. As it gently ascends up to meet the headwall, the trail can be hard to follow in spots. The old trail cuts to the right and veers straight towards the summit. The new trail has been rerouted to cut to the left and switchback up to the headwall. Once on the headwall, things get more challenging. The trail meanders along the spine of the headwall and becomes less defined. You’ll be on the steepest part of the hike and picking your way through a mixture of solid Class 2 boulders and talus. Stay on the spine all the way to the summit.
As with any 14er in Colorado, you want to keep an eye on the weather and your footing while on Mount Princeton. People can and do die on this mountain (including one death this year). A sobering plaque just below the summit memorializes a young woman who died at the spot after being struck by lightning. Keep moving slowly and consistently up the mountain and then get off. Save the resting and celebration for after you are safely down.
And now the best news for last … joining me on this hike were my international student friends from Vietnam, Thao Tran and Ngoc Nguyen (their first 14ers). Congratulations to them on a job well done! Also joining me was Xiaoen Ding from China (her second 14er). Way to hang tough, Xiaoen! Last but not least, joining me was faithful climbing partner Hieu Nguyen from Vietnam (his sixth 14er). Hieu is becoming quite the seasoned mountaineer.
I should add that I ran into two former students from a Statistics graduate course I taught two years ago (Sam Hagopian and Jodie Daglish). One of them had since moved to California. Complete 1-in-1,000,000 random event! We had a good laugh about this and enjoyed quickly catching up. Life is full of good surprises like this 🙂