Peak(s):  James Pk  -  13,294 feet
Date Posted:  06/03/2008
Date Climbed:   05/31/2008
Author:  NPG
 Sky Pilot Couloir - James Peak (ski descent)   

I headed back to James Peak this past Saturday for another attempt at skiing down one of the couloirs off the summit. My first attempt was in the first weekend in May of this year, but recent heavy snowfall made it a very risky endeavor which forced us to ski down the glacier. With great spring conditions around and decent snow coverage, this trip proved more successful. I was joined by friends JC and Bernardo (who posts here as BurnHard and did this Long's Peak ski descent TR some six weeks ago).

We met up in Golden around 430 AM and were soon on our way. JC's Jeep was well-equipped for four-wheeling, and we were able to cut a couple hundred feet off the RT which ended up being roughly 7 miles.

I was able to hike up to within 500-600 feet of the summit while JC and Bernardo preferred to start skinning up as soon as we reach the bottom of the glacier. Our ascent was rather leisurely as we enjoyed spectacular views with perfect weather: no wind, no clouds, warm, and just a slight breeze. You really couldn't ask for a better day to be out in the mountains ... especially this particular area which allows you to see as far south as Pike's Peak and as far north as Parkview Mountain (not to mention views of the entire RMNP and Gore Range to the west).

We summited some time around 930 AM. Again, it's a very straightforward and easy hike/skin that requires no switchbacks along the way. We opted to hike along the ridge versus skinning up the gut of the glacier.

The approach:

JC looking large:

The climb up with me in the foreground and Bernardo trailing behind:

Super Star Couloir looking pretty good for this time of the year:

We had plans to ski Super Star as well, but time and warm temperatures would not permit us this day. We hope to be back very soon to make a stronger attempt at it.

JC along the ridge creeping close to the summit:

Bernardo and myself above the entrance to Shooting Star Couloir:

The entrance to Shooting Star is below. We should have skied this line, but at the time, none of us knew what it was and if it cliffed out. We were fully prepared in case we had to hike back out, but decided to ski something we knew was continuous the whole way down.

And now we make our way inside Sky Pilot.

Here's JC getting a grip of the steepness:

Bernardo makes his way down:

I do my best to mimic him:

JC and I pause for a brief moment before making our next move:

About 200-250 feet below the entrance is a narrow choke that's maybe 6 to 8 feet wide that would drop you off a 100-plus foot cliff. The slope directly above is about 45-48 degrees, so we made sure to take it easy as to not fall and prevent us from returning back to the car alive which is usually a good thing. As you can see by the video below, the snow was sloughing pretty easily and the first 4" of the snowpack was rather soft; it certainly made for great skiing.

Above the choke, we traversed hard left and made a few more turns before yet another traverse across some high rocks. As soon as we made it across, we opened it up a bit in the apron. JC played it smart and traversed far skier's left to avoid the debris while Bernardo and I went directly below.

JC in the second part of our descent after the first traverse across:

A look back:

Now with the names of the couloirs:

At the basin, we met up with Andy Leach and a few climbers. After chatting a bit, we made our way out and were mighty thankful for the bootpack they had set for us:

The video courtesy of Andy:

Click here to view the video.

(the youtubevideo function here isn't working properly)

Hope you enjoyed.

 Comments or Questions

03/04/2012 18:31
When I climbed James peak we looked at and wanted to climb those couloirs but we took the standard route! Good job! Great TR and pics!

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