How to get there:
Go west on the road that
intersects US Hwy. 24
at the only traffic light in Buena Vista (Chaffee 306).
After about 1 km, there is a clearly marked road (Chaffee 321)
that forks left (There are signs for Princeton there). Follow this
road until it makes a clear bend on a hilltop where Chaffee 322
(a dirt road) continues straight ahead. Shortly thereafter you
are at the trailhead (enter through a gate to the right, there is
another private gate entrance to the left.) This is also the start
of the Princeton Road (4WD, see below).
It should be noted that Chaffee 321 continues down to Chaffee 162, a paved
road from Nathrop. The Princeton Hot Springs (large, warm pools as well
as a lodge/motel) are located at this intersection. This is also
the access road to Mount Antero (see this). Route description:
The trail starts at about 2700 m and follows the Princeton Road,
first in a couple of short
switchbacks reaching about 2800 m, then a long traverse north to
a trail intersection with the Colorado Trail. From this point the
trail climbs south on a long traverse that contours into the large
gully (avalanche gully) coming directly from the (false) summit
called Tigger (approx. 4050 m). This summit is completely dominating
the view from the trail at this point. The trail continues on the
jeep road until it touches the bottom of the gully, then bends right and climbs
the ridge/hill above with some radio antennas at 3300 m. In the summer
4WD vehicles may find parking here. From this point the trail continues
along the road on the ridge, then climbs steeply with several switchbacks.
As the road makes a long, horizontal traverse across the gully mentioned
above, one should leave the road and climb the north-east ridge
of Tigger Peak. (That is leave the road more or less directly right
and climb the ridge above.) The winter route now proceeds across the
Tigger Peak and further along the connecting ridge to the summit
of Princeton. The summer route follows a trail to the north of the
ridge, then climbs the ridge between Tigger Peak and Mount Princeton, thus
avoiding the extra effort of traversing Tigger Peak. Comments: This turned out to be a hard one.. First Attempt, March 30th. 2001.
After our successful climb of Mount Antero the day before, we wanted to
complete the weekend with what looked like an easier climb of Mount
Princeton. We got off to an early start and drove the Jeep up just
passed the 9200 foot contour before parking due to some very large
snowdrifts blocking further mechanized advancement. We decided to leave
the skis behind and climb the mountain on foot. It took us a bit more
than one hour to reach the radio antennas, however, shortly thereafter
the snow turned softer and hiking on foot for the senior (heavier)
member of the party became tricky. In order to minimize distance
as well as avalanche danger we headed straight up the ridge where the
road goes right (further north). After some struggle (skis would have
helped here, but overall judgement is still that it paid NOT to
bring the skis), we hit the main ridge coming down from Tigger Peak.
This ridge was wind blown and our climb continued up on rocks.
Unfortunately, the wind increased, clouds closed in and Pål
Jørgen got cold on his feet as well as fingers. We made Tigger
Peak and waited out the weather (Pål in the bivu-sack in order
to not get any colder). There was no sign of improvement after perhaps
30 minutes and the decision to turn around and head down was fairly
easy. We felt we had the peak within reach, but children that get
cold certainly take priority and dictated a different action. By the
time we were down at the radio antennas, the sun was back out, we were
warm, but heading down. Princeton 1, we "nothing". Second Attempt, May 6th. 2001.
We had taken for granted that the next attempt would be with a start
from the radio antennas, after all, we had already done our hike
of the Princeton Road. However, early May came with a substantial
snow fall (about one meter new snow on Princeton), and our start
this time was at the trailhead proper. The strategy called for an
early start, ski the Princeton road on the frozen crust and hit the
Tigger ridge where we could leave the skis and continue on foot.
(The Tigger ridge was free of snow, that could be easily seen from
Buena Vista the day before.) We would then hopefully be able to return
down the road on skis before the snow became too soft in the
We started skiing already at 0430, a record early start for us.
Trouble started immediately, the crust did not support me, only
Pål Jørgen. Well, hopefully it had been colder higher
up, so just struggle higher... More bad news, after digging a
continuous trench for 2.5 hours, we had climbed about 350 m and the
crust was not any better, but the snow somewhat deeper. A simple
extrapolation showed that we would need about 7.5 hours just to reach
the beginning of the Tigger Peak ridge. The conclusion was evident,
we would not summit Princeton today and be back in any reasonable
time. The ski back down in the newly broken skitrack took about 30
minutes. Princeton 2, we "nothing". Third Attempt, June 14th 2001.
Coming straight from Blanca Peak the day before, we decided to
finish off Princeton on the way home to Boulder. We drove to the
parking at 3350 meter, just after the radio towers and before the
road starts the final switchbacks up the (steeper) hill. After endless struggle
along this road on the two previous attempts we figured we had earned this.
Start from the car at 0545, easy hiking up the road, then onto the ridge from
Tigger. Here Princeton made a very good try at blowing us off, headwind of
full storm strength pushed both Pål Jørgen and myself off
balance several times. The wind got slightly better as we hiked into
the basin under Princeton, then picked up again as we gained the ridge
between Tigger and the main summit.
To add difficulties, the mountain was covered with new snow from the day before,
making all its rocks and boulders slippery. The weather was not mid June, my
water bottle froze on the way to the summit.
However, we were determined to succeed
this time and hit the summit at 0915. Mount Princeton gracefully accepted
our victory, called off the wind and offered both good views and some
sun during our 30 minute visit. The descent took 2 hours with very pleasant
conditions indeed. We met a few other hikers, but they all seemed to turn
back long before the summit. We made an entry in the trail register, it was now
completely full and needs to be replaced.
Mount Princeton seen from the summit of Mount Yale
on April 29. 2001. Compare with the pictures taken one week later.
Note that the main ridge going left from the summit is the north-east
ridge (the Tigger Peak ridge (south-east ridge) is not visible. The
other main ridge visible (first west, then north) passes point 4258 m,
then splits again at point 4100 m, in the foreground.