Bancroft summit: 9:05
Parry Summit: 10:00
Gear: This was one of those days where you realize the difference your gear makes. Having the right stuff is the difference between being able to do something or not, and having it be enjoyable and safe. Microspikes, Ice Ax and gaiters (not to mention my fantastic Kaylands) were the reason I was able to make this happen.
Had originally planned to do James + Bancroft with my buddy Mike but he’s nursing a stress fracture in his foot (get well soon!) so I headed out solo and decided on Bancroft + Parry to get myself two new summits (I’d done James a couple years ago). Was inspired and greatly helped by reading BobbyFinn's TR from last week – I won’t duplicate most of the route description or pictures here as he did a great job detailing what’s in store up there - if you're headed up, be sure to read his TR as well. I will say that conditions were pretty much the same as he experienced, except in the big alpine meadow above the glacier – there’s been a ton more melting since then, and the snow that is still there was plenty firm even at 1PM on the way back. I postholed only a handful of times all day; thankfully the back half of last week was cold at night. I’d brought my snowshoes just in case, but I could tell once I reached Battleship rock that I wouldn’t need them, and just stashed them in a bush to pick up later.
The glacier is in great shape, nice and crusty in the morning (microspiked up) and nice and soft in the afternoon (just walked straight down the glacier, no spikes).
There’s still a ton of snow on James and there were several skiers skinning up when I was headed up the ridge towards the Bancroft traverse.
I can see how this traverse is a fun 3+ scramble in good weather. Currently, the snowpack on the east side of the ridge makes it pretty straightforward IMO. A glissade down the first little pitch – 40 or 50 ft. – you can see my tracks to the left of BobbyFinn’s.
My tracks on the left; BobbyFinn’s from last week on the right
Then just a walk along the rocks, using the snow to avoid most of the tricky sections. There’s one tower that seems hard to get around (I think it might have been the last one); be patient and explore the cracks from the west side – one of them has an easy exit.
Looking back over the tricky part of the Bancroft ridge traverse
I was pretty gassed headed up towards Bancroft. Stopped for an energy drink and then kept going. Clouds started consolidating overhead just to the east – had a couple hours where I was wondering which way things were going to go for the day. Luckily the wind kept things just to the East and South of Bancroft (Evans looked like it was getting pounded).
I’m not sure if the trail just follows the ridgeline up to Bancroft’s summit or not but I wasn’t in the mood to find out if the snow there was going to eat my legs up to the knees or not, so I swung around to the north side and just picked my way up the blocky rocks to the summit. Stopped for a picture and then kept moving on to Parry.
final bit of Mt Bancroft route – I skipped the snow and went around the right side up the blocky ridge
Ridge over to Parry Peak
The traverse over to Parry is pretty free of snow all the way up to the last 40 feet. There’s a pretty good cornice there so I stayed just South of that, used microspikes and kept my ax in my hand just in case – had no desire to slide off this mortal coil so close to my second summit of the day.
Final pitch up to Parry Peak – that last bit of snow at the top is about 40ft and fairly steep – spikes/ax recommended
Hung out up there for about 30 minutes behind the shelter (the wind was pretty miserable most of the day up there) then started back. I will stop here to say that the amount of snow visible in the ranges around there is staggering. The Gore looks like late March in a great snow year, not mid June. I climbed Grays/Torrey via Horseshoe basin last year on June 18th and remember how the snow was basically gone (from a ‘need to be concerned with it for hiking’ standpoint) – looking over to Gray’s/Torreys on this day it almost seems impossible to believe.
Headed back over to Bancroft. Based on BobbyFinn’s recon, planned to glissade down the east face to Lake Caroline and then again down to Stewart Lake to reascend the meadow. That’s pretty much what I did; the glissade down to Lake Caroline is a serious kick in the ass. Let me say, in no uncertain terms, DO NOT ever attempt something like this w/o an ice axe and knowing how to self arrest. There’s a good patch of rocks right in the middle of this face and I went from totally under control to uncomfortably fast and headed right for the rocks in the blink of an eye. I self arrested before anything bad happened but as many people on this board now, its real easy to think you can control your direction and speed while sliding down a slope but the reality is it’s not always the case.
Glissade tracks – note mine stop at the rockpile in the middle before continuing on – thank god for ice axes!
Back to the glissade, about ½ way down the slope (1000 vert feet total, so I was about 500 ft down) I couldn’t quite tell if I wanted to go all the way to the lake or not. Eventually I had to get there to get around it to the next pitch but I could tell I could do it by moving over to solid land and skirting it to the South. It looked like the previous party that went to the lake had postholed pretty bad so I opted for the land route (as did BobbyFinn).
Taken from the rock pile in the middle of Bancroft east face glissade – I went a little further down then followed BobbyFinn’s tracks out and around
As I was making my way past the lake, 4 BC skier/boarders started coming down the east face, making some sweet turns.
BC fun on Bancroft East Face
Bancroft East Face – skiers visible near top left of major snow field
The next pitch down to the 3 lakes (including Stewart) was super steep and so I downclimbed on the rocks next to it for a while then just traversed it on foot (you can see my tracks in the photo). There was some old wet slab debris there as well.
My traverse across this pitch visible from left to right – taken from Lake Stewart
Stopped for a little break next to Stewart to switch to shortsleeves, eat a snack and generally just enjoy being out of the wind and having this incredible area to myself.
Followed the trail back up to the plateau, started to dread what I expected would be major postholing but was delighted to find the snow was still pretty firm – only sinking in a couple inches with the very rare calf deep posthole. Glad to have gaiters on though, it is WET up there right now. Picked up my snowshoes and headed down the glacier.
Afternoon conditions in the meadow - looking East
A few additional snaps:
Morning fog on Mt Evans
Skiers skinning up James
Longs seen from Bancroft
Grays and Torreys seen from Parry Peak
Indian Peaks and RMNP from Parry Peak
Gore range from Parry Peak
James East Ridge - from Lake Stewart