| Foray into the James Peak Wilderness
Party: Jason solo
James Peak (13,294) - Gilpin County highpoint, Class 2
Kingston Peak (12,133), Class 1
Fox Mountain (10,921), Class 3
Elevation Gain: ~ 3,600 ft
Mileage: ~ 9 miles
Finish: 12:30 PM
I had been to St. Mary's glacier a couple times in the last few years but never had the opportunity to hike above the mid-point of the glacier so this hike accomplished a couple goals, including bagging another county highpoint. Once I hit the Jamaica Flats the wind picked up and remained strong throughout my time on the mountain. I would guess that there was a steady wind of 25 mph with occasional wind in the 30-40 mph range. With temps in the 30-40's it did make it rather brisk, particularly in the early morning. I did have a rather unusual experience in that once I hit the summit block of James Peak there was very little wind. After being on top for a few minutes I noticed a fairly loud sound which turned out to be the wind buffeting the western face of the peak – as I got close to the west face the wind was much stronger, to the point that it was extremely uncomfortable. Ascent time from the St. Mary's TH to James Peak summit was 2 hours.
I never found a trail on my ascent to James Peak so I took a more direct route up over the ridge, encountering 2 false summits on the way. I was toying with the idea of hitting Mt. Bancroft but I did away with that idea due to the wind and terrain between the peaks. I took the cairned trail on the way down however I got tired of the extremely meandering nature of the trail. I then decided to make a straight beeline over to Kingston Peak. This was a great choice as it led me over 3-4 snow fields, where I got the chance to do some glissading.
Route finding was not as big a deal as is mentioned in some trip reports found online – there is a large rock outcropping located in the Flats that is a great reference point. When there is plenty of snow on the ground I'm sure that marker flags would be a good idea.
The snow was too soft on the glacier on my descent to do any glissading, which was a bummer. I wrapped the day by scrambling on Fox Mountain, which is located to the east of St. Mary's lake. This is a rocky tower that offers technical climbing on the NE face. Even with the wind this was a banner day for hiking in November.
Lower portion of glacier above lake (taken from Fox Mtn)
Ice chunks in St. Mary's lake (taken from Fox Mtn)
Upper glacier, looking south
James Peak (right) and Mt. Bancroft
NE face of James Peak
View north from James Peak summit (Longs Peak in distance)
View south of Mt. Bancroft (Grays & Torreys Peak in distance)
View SW of Parry Peak
View SE of Stewart Lake and Loch Lamond
Mt. Bancroft with Parry Peak in background, Ice Lake at base
James Peak from Kingston Peak summit
Fox Mtn silhouetted with Mt. Evans massif in the distance
Ptarmigans looking for safety in the small amount of white
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):