So this past week has been interesting, to say the least. Last Wednesday, I took my GRE, and for about a month before I used The Princeton Review GRE book to study for it. So, when I decided to ski another 14er this past Friday, I knew that Princeton was the way to go.
After departing Denver around 6AM (a little late, I know) we made our way to Buena Vista, where we found the correct roads and then found the Mt. Princeton trail head. The road looked dry enough that we knew we could make it up pretty far, and we ended up about a mile from the radio towers. At this point there was about a half mile of deep snow in front of us so I knew I should not go any further. As I would find out later, I had already gone to far. We put our skins on and starting the tour around 9AM.
Rather than take the road, we decided to short-cut up the slide path which was frozen solid for the time being.
At the top of the slide path (about a mile from the radio towers) we came out on a ridge that gave us a view of the task at hand, as well as the southern Sawatch and the northern Sangres. At this point we strapped our skis to our backs and walked along the summer trail. There are sections of the summer trail where we were able to skin across, but for the most part we just beat up our AT boots walking on rocks and occasionally post-holing for good measure.
My energy level crashed pretty hard about 500 feet from the lowest point on the ridge, and after some sitting and some water I got my second wind and started trucking again. Once I was on the ridge it was strictly a walking-only exercise.
7.5 hours after leaving the car, I finally made it to the summit. It was easily the most greuling summit I have ever earned, a combination of the early morning, hiking entirely in ski boots, and my skis on my back for so long. Chris wasn’t too far behind me, both in terms of time and in the struggle for the summit.
After a little rest, we traversed over to the ski line. It was already so late in the day the snow was just about fully re-frozen, which made for some really tough skiing.
After skiing into Dry Creek, we hike for another hour back to the ridge above the radio towers, then skied the slide path (completely re-frozen at this point as well) down to the car. I got there at about 7:00PM, making for a full 10 hour day on the mountain.
This is where the real trouble began. When I had driven up the road, I had gotten over a lot of snow, but had stopped at the last dry spot at about 10,600 feet in elevation. The problem was that the dry spot was extremely narrow, and that I would have to take a snowy corner in reverse to turn around. I tried to take it slow and in 4×4 low, but as soon as my front tires got on snow they slid right off the road and I got high centered, overhanging a ravine. I am pretty lucky that I didn’t go for a ride down the hill, there was nothing to stop me for about 500 feet.
I applied the parking brake and got out in less than 2 seconds. I took a little bit of time to calm down and make sure I didn’t poop my pants before we decided to call 911. 3 hours and a complete walk down to the trail head later and we meet up with a tow truck driver dispatch had sent to us. It took their truck 2 hours to make it up to my truck, mostly because it weighed 3 times more, and the frozen snow that I had gotten over that morning was now slush up to two feet deep in some spots. This is why I highly recommend that you don’t drive much above 10,000 feet in elevation at this point on the road in anything less than a 4×4 vehicle, you don’t want to end up like I did, or worse.
After 2 hours up and a half hour down with the tow truck, I had a hefty tab to pay at the bottom, and I tried to show the driver my insurance card. This card was in the same envelope as my car registration, and somehow the registration did not end up in my car even though I didn’t think I took it out. If anyone finds it in the Mt. Princeton parking lot please let me know soon.
The story doesn’t end here. We got out of Buena Vista around midnight and decided to drive north through Leadville back to I-70 so we could get to a place in Idaho Springs for the night. Deer where all over the road from Buena Vista to Leadville, so I was going about 15 mph under the limit the whole time, being super cautious. By the time I got to Leadville, I must have missed the 25 mph speed limit sign and I got pulled over for going 35 in a 25. (It was at this time I realized my registration had gone missing). After spending a long day on the mountain, I was windburnt with bloodshot eyes and a very dry mouth from dehydration (I ran out of water when we were leaving Buena Vista). The cop, clearly looking to get more than a speeding ticket out of the stop, was thoroughly convinced I was stoned. After a roadside sobriety test I was cuffed, put in the back of the cop car, and taken to the Lake County Sheriff Station. The three cops were so convinced that I was stoned that their jaws hit the floor when my urine test came back negative for all drugs. One was so amazed that he ended up dropping all charges, including the fact that I couldn’t find my registration. When we were leaving the station he said “Man, this must be why people hate cops.” Yeah. Must be considering the first time I have ever been pulled over I was cuffed and taken to jail under false accusations.
After this 45 minute detour with the police, we got out of Leadville around 2, into Idaho Springs at 3:30, and fell asleep before our heads even hit the pillow. It was probably one of the most interesting days of my life, and took way too much out of me to do Evans on Sunday. I might do another peak this weekend, but I’m just playing it by ear at this point. Check back soon.