Mt. Princeton is a 14er that sits in the Collegiate Peaks, a sub range of the central Sawatch just to the west of Buena Vista. It is usually a pretty easy peak to hike and lacks any real technical climbs or descents on it. However the east face makes for a pretty nice, easy snowboard descent.
I am in an accelerated nursing program and pretty busy. This spring season has been a bit of a wash for me. I have only climbed and ridden eight peaks or so this spring. For me that is pretty pathetic. At least I am getting out a bit and next year I graduate and will be working three days a week. When that happens it will all be worth as I will have four days off every week to climb and ride without even taking vacation! Looking forward to that nurses schedule!
For now though I got ten days off between spring and summer semester and managed to get out for a few descents. I had the 19th off and no partner. I was hanging out in the Salida area for a few days to ride and was looking to do something pretty easy on my solo day before meeting up with Ben the next day for something a little harder. I was talking to my friend Joel and he mentioned that a mutual friend Otina had skied Princeton from the summit the day before. Knowing that Princeton went from the summit, I settled on that for the next day.
I drove up the Mt. Princeton road. It was free of snow all the way to the radio tower. I set up camp there and hung out for the evening reading a bit and drinking some beer. I got up well before sunrise and began hiking up the road. Within a 1/4 mile of the radio tower I started hitting consistent snow. It was so frozen and convoluted that I just hiked with my board on my back instead of skinning. The sun began to rise and I enjoyed some nice views of the southern Sawatch.
photo-Sunrise over the Sawatch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
I took the standard summer turn off for the east ridge and contoured over the saddle and onto Princeton's east ridge. From there I could see Otina's tracks from the day before. It looked like she had great snow and had made some nice turns down an east gully just to the northeast of the summit.
It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed hiking by myself. On the drive over I had seen an Oscar Meyer weiner truck driving down the highway. I was thinking about the truck and my school studies when I began to create a song in my head (the things you do when I hiking for a few hours by yourself). I made up a song about desseminated intravascular coagulation to the tune of "oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner..." to amuse myself and sang it out loud as I made my way up the east ridge. There were great views of the north face of Antero. I looked at Antero bit and thought about trying to ride that north face sometime soon.
photo- A look at the north face of Mt. Antero. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
As I got a bit closer to the summit the wind picked up and I started getting blasted around quite a bit. I almost got knocked off my feet a few times as I hiked up the ridge. It was probably gusting in the high 30s or so. I stopped hiking several times and sat behind rocks waiting for the wind to subside. It was a bit annoying because I was hoping for a nice, sunny, and calm hike up Princeton. Oh well. After a bit more hiking and ducking behind rocks when the wind gusts came in I made it to the summit. I had a great view of the east face of Princeton for the whole hike. Looking at the gully Otina had skied I decided that would be the best line on the east face for me that day too.
photo- A look at the east face of Mt. Princeton. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
The summit was really windy so I did not hang out for long. I strapped my board on and snowboarded down the north ridge to the gully drop in that Otina had skied. It was 9:30am and the snow was still real hard so I ducked down on the east side of the ridge to get out of the wind and took a nap. An hour later things had corned up a bit so I dropped in and made some really nice turns down the east face of Princeton. I rode next to Otina's tracks for a bit and then figure eighted them for a bit. Back down in the valley, it was pretty warm and I was happy to be out of the wind for the most part. I rode far enough down the east face that I ended up climbing about 500 feet back up to the summer trail and followed that out and back to my car.
The descent was really pretty good, about 2500' of 30-35 degree corn. I was happy with the descent. This is a relatively easy ski/snowboard descent as far as 14ers go but a nice day out!
photo- A look down Mt. Princeton road. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014