My Mount Princeton

By Richard R. Cuyler

Up close, Mount Princeton is an ugly pile of granite; from a distance, it is beautiful in all its changeability of weather and seasons.

At 71, should I have known better? Six of us, Princeton University alumni and friends, gathered for the annual climb up “our” eponymous mountain. Since it was mid-August, I dressed in my usual eastern gear: shorts, T-shirt and hiking boots, with a fleece pullover and a poncho for good measure. We met in a drizzle, so out came the poncho. I was chilly, but why break out the fleece when the climb would soon warm me up? Our late start didn’t concern me. I knew about the furious afternoon storms but thought they couldn’t happen on an overcast day, since heat wouldn’t build up, a condition I understood as necessary.

First the road, then the trailhead, then the short stretch of tundra before the boulders, interrupted occasionally by sections of rough trail. I could tell the air had become thinner, but the light rain had stopped. I was warm and content. Although I had to stop frequently to catch my breath, I was exhilarated. Sometimes I could hear water purling through the jumble far below my feet. Everything, including my knees, was right with the world.

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