Last Summer I started climbing my first 14ers. The very first one I had attempted to climb was Mt Princeton and I did not make it. It didn't help that I had no idea what I was in store for, my friends made it sound like it was just a mild uphill walk, I was not in shape at all, we started late, we climbed the obscure Grouse Canyon trail, and lost most of the trail bushwhacking most of the way. This time I decided to do the normal Merriam Creek/Frontier Ranch trail and had the intention to summit and get the big chip off my shoulder that has been lingering since last summer. I planned to do four trips this week and looked for climbing partners on this site and found one for Princeton! Monday evening I arrived at the base of the 4wd Mt Princeton Rd and texted my climbing partner Erin saying I was coming up with my 98 Ford Ranger "POS". The road was not terribly bad and I honestly think that if I had slowed down and/or replaced my tires with larger higher clearance tires then I think I would have gone the whole way. I made it past the radio towers and the first few campgrounds just fine and even stopped to find my climbing partner, but she was up higher. Then about 1/4 mile from the stairs where Erin was parked, my truck hit a bump and my muffler and tail pipe broke off and jammed in the back of my truck. The tail pipe dragged a bit before I heard and felt that I wasn't gonna make the next switchback turn. I was being stupid and got out and tried to move the tailpipe out only to burn my right thumb and index finger. I knew I wasn't going anywhere so I called Erin and got her to help me move the truck to the turn and just park it out of the way there and bring my stuff up to where she had parked. We got my stuff moved up and I found a small ledge just below the stairs from the road where I could set up my tent. About 10:30 pm and I was in my tent trying to sleep, but the slight incline had me tossing and turning until our wake up time of 4:00 am. By 4:30 Erin and myself were ready to climb and started up the stairs. Just to back up a little in the story...the reason this was my first 14er of the summer was the last two summers I worked at a camp around Pike National Forest but this summer I worked around the Lake of the Ozarks in MO. I was going to a wedding on the 10th in Loveland and it gave me an excuse to plan out some hikes because I really wanted to climb some more . I had arrived in CO Sunday night so I feel as though I was still getting used to the altitude. Erin was wanting a slow pace so it complimented well since I was still adjusting. We made it about halfway up the ridge before the sun rose. Another sign of my lack of preparation was my light I was using was a 4D battery mag lite. I had the opportunity to buy a headlamp when I was at the REI in St Louis but dumb me decided to go with some vibram five-fingers instead (I did not climb in them, but question if I should have...more on this in my Elbert report). The climb up was fairly interesting because I lost the trail numerous times since the ridge below the false summit at 13,270 to the peak is just one giant talus field. We ended up scrambling up fairly slowly and were able to get some nice sunrise pics as well as a beautiful view of Mt Antero along with Buena Vista.
View of Buena Vista
Gotta love the Mountain Sunrises We scrambled up the remainder of the talus field and found the memorial to Catherine Martha Pugin and reached the summit at 8:15 am. This was the first time I have been the very first in the day to sign the registry so that was nice. I got my panoramic pics, the smiles with the signs and my summit pipe shot.
The Obligatory Pipe Shot I also got a look at the infamous SW Ridge and wonder if I will ever look at that route again.
The infamous SW Ridge Then Erin and I made our way down. We started to see a few people coming up, and Erin was going at a much faster pace. I don't know what it is about going down, but I hate the incline and the talus fields make me want to just find a hang-glider or parachute to get down. Then again I'd like a million dollars as well, so my wishful thinking was getting me nowhere. Erin ended up finding the older trail which dipped down much lower, but I was being stubborn wanting to stay with the standard route although I started to eventually descend and jump around most of the stable rocks and freak out at the few unstable ones. Later Erin and I finally met up just before the old trail meets up with the new and I conceded that I should have followed her path the way down. We met up with a few other couples and also oddly enough a camera crew with some news station. When we got to the bottom of the trail when it meets with the road I packed up my stuff...also another dumb move I took out the stake of my tent before I took out the poles so my tent blew about 50 feet down the mountain. That was not fun to retrieve...Anyways we loaded up Erin's Xterra with my stuff and proceeded to try and figure out my truck. The muffler/tailpipe was still jammed in the back near my spare but it was driveable, we took it very slow and I made it down safely. Erin and I parted ways and I started calling to get the truck fixed only to find that Buena Vista has no shops that do exhaust work and Salida wasn't gonna bring me in till the next day. I decided to go back to my former camp around Pike and was able to get out the muffler. For the remainder of the week I just decided to drive without a muffler and the truck has been driving fine ever since. I think it was pretty plain to see the bonehead mistakes made. I'm still very happy that I made it up and got to redeem myself from the climb I had last summer. It did come at a cost though. I was planning on hiking Grays and Torreys the next day, Longs on Thursday, and Humboldt on Friday. I ended up canceling all of them and hiked Elbert on Friday instead. I don't know if this was the best move, but it was the one I made, and it was a fun trip regardless.