Peak(s):  James Pk  -  13,294 feet
Date Posted:  06/09/2008
Date Climbed:   06/07/2008
Author:  Ridge runner

 Shooting Star Couloir, Various Descents  

Shooting Star Couloir – James Peak (13,294')

Approximately 7.5 miles, 7.5 hours, 3000' gain.

Group: jamienellis, chicago transplant, maverick manley, Brian, slynn4_13run

Jamie, Prakash, Mike and myself all met near Saint Mary's Glacier Friday night to camp. There was another group not too far from us that kept us up all night, but that's what you start to get when it's camping season. Brian from Fort Collins drove down early Saturday morning and met us at the trailhead. Mike and Prakash brought skis while Brian had his split board. Jamie and myself decided to sport the snowshoes.

We started up the trail towards Saint Mary's Glacier around 5am. My Jeep thermometer read 32 degrees, so we were hoping there was a good freeze overnight up higher. Once we reached the glacier, Mike and Prakash put on their skis and started skinning up.

The sun waking the mountains with Mike in the distance.

Brian and James Peak.

Before you get to the base of Shooting Star, you must traverse a couple snow slopes. They were not very steep, but the snow was packed and slick. Once past this part there is about a 200 foot descent onto the shelf where you will be at the base of the couloirs.

Brian and Stephanie looking right at Super Star. (photo by Mike)

The descent down onto the shelf. (photo by Mike)

Putting our crampons on. (photo by Prakash)

We started ascending around 8am, and already the sun was softening the snow. Shooting Star and Super Star start out the same. Taking a left at the cliffs will direct you up Shooting Star, while staying right will take you to Super Star. Mike did an awesome job leading us up. The snow was very wet and following in others' steps it was practically like walking up stairs. The slope maxes out at 60 degrees near the top, but perhaps because the snow was so easy to step into, it never felt that steep to us. The great thing about Shooting Star is it takes you right up to the summit.

Mike leading us up the apron of the couloir. (photo by Brian)

Looking down the couloir. (photo by Mike)

Occassional exposure on our left. (photo by Prakash)

Prakash, Stephanie, and Jamie approaching the top. (photo by Mike)

Brian nearing the top. (photo by Prakash)

Jamie topping out. (photo by Prakash)

We reached the summit around 9:30. Nothing but blue skies. Up here we met the group that was planning to ski down Super Star.

Yeah baby.

Getting ready for my descent. This is not for the faint of heart.

Jamie and myself boot-stepped our way down the standard route, while Prakash skied down it.

Mike's Descent Down Shooting Star.

Here is Mike's account of skiing Shooting Star:

"It was definitely the steepest backcountry line I have skied. The new snow from a few days prior was sloughing a bit, but the "old" snow underneath was well consolidated. The upper part of the couloir was narrow and I had to make jump turns until the bend, where it widened up a little bit. There I was able to make some good turns on what was the left side of the runnel when we were climbing up. The snow here "stuck" better and did not slough. At the apron the slopes really opened up and I was able to carve some really good turns. Here surprisingly the snow did not slough when I skied. It took about 15 minutes to ski the whole couloir, a lot faster going down than up!"

Mike getting ready for his descent.

Dropping in. (photo by Brian)

(photo by Brian)

Brian's Descent Down Starlight.

And here is Brian's account of Starlight:

"The snow was very, very sticky and heavy. Soft, but did not sluff. Made it hard to link turns as it gripped the board so well."

Brian making some turns. (photo by Mike)

Brian's descent line. (photo by Mike)

Mike and Brian waited down at the base of the couloirs to make sure the group skiing Super Star made it out alright. Congratulations to all you guys for a successful ski descent!

The hike out was pretty uneventful for the most part. Prakash, Jamie, and myself were back down to the parking lot by 12:30, and Mike and Brian were down by 1:30. It was a great day to get out and I enjoyed climbing with everyone!


 Comments or Questions

Right on!
02/05/2011 00:22
Absolutely love the ”Dav” shot with the snowshoes! Looks like a great day all around.


06/10/2008 16:41
what a cool peak, so close to Denver, I keep telling my friend this is worth a shot for a quick day trip, maybe this TR will be the deciding factor. Phenomenal sunrise shot Stephanie.


Sick Lines
06/10/2008 17:26
Those are some sick descent lines Brian and Mike took. I‘m jealous and wish I had time to hit those this season.

Chicago Transplant

06/10/2008 17:56
Thanks for posting Stephanie! It was a great day to be out for sure. That was a really fun ski too, it was the ”gift that kept giving” as when we hiked back out of the basin we got a few more hundred feet of skiing and then we got to finish with ”dessert” on St Mary‘s above the lake


Nice report...
11/30/2010 17:28
The chicken$h!t slopes were pretty gnarr too . Navigating through the throngs of people is enough to give one a seizure. St. Mary's made for some fine skiing later in the day. Thanks for posting Steph.


06/10/2008 20:01
our snowshoe descent was pretty sick as well. Too bad you guys weren‘t able to see our line.
I‘m glad I didn‘t run into ‘horse with no ass‘ along with the throngs of tourists.


Great line!
06/10/2008 20:19
Awesome TR and great pictures!
Wish I skied that 5 weeks ago when I had the chance.

James got tagged hard on Saturday from all angles.

Ridge runner

Thanks everyone
02/01/2011 00:24
Keith - I felt the snowshoes deserved a little respect after how much I abuse them.
Brian - Hit it up if you have a half-day free, definitely worth it. Short approach and a whole bag full of couloirs to choose from.
Eric - What are you doing on the computer? Shouldn‘t you be out running an easy 30 miler up a mountain or something?
Jamie - I‘m kind of glad no one saw our line down, if you know what I mean.
Prakash - You owe me a beer.
Mike and NPG - Congrats again for making a great run down those couloirs. Once again I‘m humbled by you skiers.


10/22/2008 10:35
I‘ve seen these couloirs in Coopers new book and over at SP but wow! Your pictures REALLY makes these look delicious. 8)
Mike said he had a really good time this day and from looking at the weather, I think all of you did!
Good report and stellar pics!

Ridge runner

Thanks Kiefer!
02/01/2011 00:24
It was such a blue-bird day and we couldn‘t have asked for more. I‘m really starting to enjoy these snow climbs, I just wish I was a good enough skier to do those lines. Hope you‘re able to get out and enjoy the couloirs as well!

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