Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mount Princeton 7/5/13

Nualla had had enough hiking so I let her stay at the campsite for the day. Jesse and I headed out up the road we drove in on. This road, Chaffee County 322, continued up the mountain past our campsite at 10,900 feet and wound around the front face of Tigger Mountain. It eventually stops just over 12,000 feet. The mountain jumps up abruptly from the valley floor so we were quickly greeted with good views. As we continued to rise the trees got sparser and the valley below started to open up. I had a baby bristlecone grab my attention and I felt compelled to check it out. These things will always impress me.

We eventually parted ways from the road and sought out the trail to the peak.

Before it got out of view, I made sure to take another look at the valley below. 

The trail crossed tundra but quickly faded to talus interspersed with scree. The trail continued up and around and plenty of jumping around on the talus. This was to be a common theme for the rest of the mountain.

I really enjoy being a talus ninja and running amok. Time passes faster and you cover more ground when you're in the zone. Before I knew it I was at the top of the ridgeline and I could see the rest of the Sawatch range to the south. Mount Antero was first in sight and it was incredible.

The rest of the way up was spent on or just below ridgeline. Near the top Jesse pointed out a memorial plaque for a climber that was struck by lightning. It was drilled into the face of a large boulder that was the closest thing to shelter anywhere nearby. It wasn't hard to imagine what the scenario was after seeing the location. Very unfortunate that she passed and it serves as a reminder for the rest of us climbers to be careful. I can be cavalier about being on these mountains and this helped to keep things in perspective.

After making it to the top the wind quickly persuaded me to throw on my jacket. There were nice views to admire but after 20 minutes it was time to head back down.

It was a great deal faster on the way down when you can monkey across the boulders at speed. Quickly covering ground is always funner than being slow anyhow. Once back on the road I paused to check out the valley view one more time as well as bristlecone skeletons.

We made it back to camp and got everything ready to leave. It was much less nerve-racking heading downhill but I still had to pay attention. Controlling the speed was hard enough as the road was very steep. The water breaks that helped me out on the way up only wanted to bottom out the bumper on the way down. Twice, rocks got kicked up and hit the bottom of the car loud enough to startle me. That was the extent of car abuse though and I inspected everything when we made it down to the bottom. The biggest cause for concern was the bottom joint of the controller arm on the drivers side. Grease drips were slowly forming and falling to the ground. The bumper and mud guards had some new scuffs too but that's to be expected. The mountain tends to leave its mark and I'll gladly take these over something worse. Jesse got back in his car and we made our way over to Mount Antero. The road that approaches Antero eventually leads up to an old mining ghost town called Saint Elmo. Oddly enough there are some houses up there where I think people live year round. Does that make it an almost ghost town? We didn't have to make it up that far but I had been to this area a number of times before. Baldwin Gulch was the road we were looking for. After making our way up Princeton the idea was to scope out this road for an ascent. The first 100 yards made it very clear that that might prove too difficult for the wagon. Luckily there was a nice parking area right at the beginning of Baldwin Gulch. We got the cars situated and broke out the lawn chairs. I was feeling 3 consecutive days of hiking. As I was sitting there I heard a rustling in some leaves nearby. After paying attention I noticed the noise coming from a snowshoe rabbit sitting quietly at the perimeter of the parking area.

It didn't seem too concerned by our presence and we were able to take some pictures. While we sat there a fair amount of traffic climbed up the road. Trucks, SUVs, dirtbikes, and ATVs were the only vehicles to head up until a subaru came along and broke the monotony. I watched as they started up the road and then paused as if they had second thoughts. They had a rack on top with two mountain bikes. I could just see the bikes crashing off after some of that terrain. After their brief pause the wagon pressed onward. The bikes would rock back and forth in the rack with every decent sized bump. I didn't see a way the rack would stay put but wished them luck. 30 minutes went by and the subaru came trundling back down the road. I was glad to see that everything was still together on top of the car. I have to admit that I was jealous of everybody who was able to make it up the road. Not being able to drive higher entailed a 16 mile round trip tomorrow.

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