Peak(s):  James Pk  -  13,294 feet
Date Posted:  03/11/2010
Date Climbed:   03/06/2010
Author:  bergsteigen
 James Peak - Out of the storm and into the sun   

James Peak

Skis: me
Splitboard: Brian (covfrrider)
Snowshoes: KeithK
Trailhead: St Mary's Glacier
Vertical Ski: ~2,900'
Overall Mileage: ~8
Elevation Gain: ~2,900'

Into the Wind:

Driving up I-70 we could see the howling cloud hanging over the James Peak Wilderness area. We hoped that wasn't a sign of terrible weather to come. Snow was falling on our approach to the trailhead, so we knew that there couldn't be many people yet at the parking lot: no tracks on the road.

Hoping for the best, we get our gear ready and start hiking up the trail to the glacier. With all the foot traffic and rocks, we decide to boot up and put on our skis later.

Photo Credit: Keith

Approaching the glacier, we get our first view of the snowy weather conditions of the morning. Strapping on our skis, the skinning begins. The snow wasn't so bad at first, nor was the wind, but we knew that would change as soon as we topped over the glacier. So before we did, we geared up with 'clavas and goggles.
Approaching St Mary's Glacier

Photo credit: Keith

Going up the glacier, Fox Mtn in background

Nearing the top of the glacier

Photo Credit: Keith

The storm over James Peak - yuck!

Preparing to brave the storm

Once above the glacier, there was quite the nasty ground blizzard that wanted to force us backwards. One group did turn around, not liking all the snow that was hitting their faces. My R1 hoodie and goggles did a great job of covering me up, only my nose was exposed. With the howling storm, actually viewing our destination was tricky, as we know only the general direction we needed to go.

Ground blizzard - in the face

Photo Credit: Kieth

It seemed as soon as we got across the flat section, and started gaining elevation up the peak, the wind started to die down. Less snow was hitting us, and we could start to see better. We went up the gentle snow slope, until deciding to make it up to the ridge, where a beautiful view awaited us.

The blizzard is subsiding, but not the elevation is gaining

Photo Credit: Keith
Mt Bancroft, with Greys & Torreys in background



Once on the ridge, we could finally get a good view of where the peak was, and how far away. This is unfortunately where Keith and Brian made it to, ~12,900'. Brian had to leave the parking lot below at 3:30, and wasn't feeling up to the last couple hundred feet. Keith could have easily made the summit, but would not have been able to get down as quickly as I could on my skis (less than an hour I've been told 8) ). So we parted ways. Brian snowboarded down, as I sprinted to the summit in 30 minutes.
James Peak, so close...

James Peak, but so far away

The summit area was a wonderland of ice rime formations, a testament to how windy the peak usually is. Thankfully a snowshoer made it to the summit shortly after me, so I could get a decent summit shot.

Some nice snow formations

Thankfully someone else on the summit with me...

Indian Peaks

Bancroft, Parry... etc

A very rimey summit

Once I had done all my summit rituals, I quickly ripped of the skins and started on the ski descent. I knew I was probably an hour behind the brothers, so I wanted to make up some time and catch them on the flats before the glacier. This was made somewhat easier, as I was the only one with a camera around, so I could only take some shots of my tracks and skis. Once down to 12,900' I picked up Brian's snowboard tracks, and worked on the new Olympic Sport - synchronized skiing.

This was one of the best peaks for a ski descent that I have done so far. Mostly continuous snow, a few steeper sections, but mostly mellow slopes all the way down to the flats.

About to drop in

Dav shot

Summit ski

Synchronized Skiing?
Synchro ski/boarding



Some pics from Keith, of Brian's snowboard down:

Once down off the peak, and onto the flats, I began to skate ski. I tried to find the most snow-continuous path across. I was mostly successful... It would be nice to go back after a spring snow event, and have a more continuous snow field, but it was adequate.

Looking back at the flats and James Peak

Mt Bancroft

I caught up with Keith and Brian just above the glacier, where Brian was converting his splitboard back into a snowboard for the descent down the glacier.

Photo Credit: Keith

Photo Credit: Keith

All smiles now

Keith making some turns!

Brian about to rip the glacier

Kieth playing ski/snowboard photographer:

St Mary's Glacier

There's the snowshoer! (And yeah - I powder-8 Brian's turns)

My Full Photo Album

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions

03/11/2010 21:40
Very nice. I was there in spring a couple years ago and I‘ll probably be back this year. FYI it‘s about 15 minutes top to bottom with good snow.


Snowshoes are dumb.
03/11/2010 23:50
I could have easily glissaded that thing from the summit to the lake with better snow conditions...


nice TR
03/12/2010 02:01
I agree its an enjoyable, relatively stress free ski descent.

Did anyone get a decent look at any of the East Face couloirs? Shooting Star in particular. I‘d have to be smoking a lot of crack to give Superstar even a thought this season, so I‘m more concerned with the others. Thanks for the help.


Ground Blizzards...
03/12/2010 04:29
sound on par with my experiences with that area. Nice pictures, that pic of Bancroft is tantalizing!

Brian - You crack me up man


03/13/2010 01:48
James Peak is an old friend. When I was a kid we used to ski up from East Portal, have lunch at the Carl Pfiffner Hut near Heart Lake, and occasionally we would then climb and ski the north side of James. Good times!


Great photos and TR
11/30/2010 17:28
I've skied this peak a few times in the fall and it always seems to lend me a great day out, looks like you guys got some decent snow up there too. Some wild looking lines off the east side no? Thanks for posting...


Great Job
02/05/2011 00:22
Looks like my son and I should have followed you guys to the top, unfortunately I sissed out. Great job and awesome pictures. Bryson and I are going to try to summit James agian on April 3rd.

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