Peak(s):  James Pk  -  13,294 feet
Bancroft, Mt  -  13,250 feet
Date Posted:  06/03/2011
Modified:  11/04/2011
Date Climbed:   06/03/2011
Author:  BobbyFinn
 James Peak and Mt. Bancroft Combo  

James Peak - 13,294 feet
Mount Bancroft - 13,250 feet
Front Range
June 3, 2011

Trailhead: Saint Mary's Glacier
Route: To James Peak, Saint Mary's Glacier to the peak.
To Mt. Bancroft, the ridge between James Peak and Mt. Bancroft
Distance: About 10 miles
Who: Bob
Start: 5:45 am
Summit of James Peak: 8:15 am
Summit of Mt. Bancroft: 10:25 am
Car: 1:30 pm
Special gear: Ice axe, micro spikes, crampons

My parents are in town, so what better excuse to get a day off of work than:
"Hey boss, my parents are in town. May I have the day off?"
"Sure, Bob. It's good that you spend time with your family."

So then I went hiking and left my parents to fend for themselves. They're grown ups. They were fine.

I tried taking my sister from Washington D.C. up James Peak in April. She had spent a week in Colorado Springs at some rocket scientist seminar - no, really - and she claimed to be 100% acclimated. Yeah, ok. We got to the top of the Saint Mary's Glacier when she called it. To be fair, it was windy and snowy and we never actually saw James Peak through the snow and clouds... I coaxed her up Point 11,716 and I recorded it as an ascent, but I really wanted to hike James peak in the snow.

Things were different since April. For one, the lower trail is about 1/2 melted out.
Lower trail

It was a bit snowier in April.

Also, I had blue skies all day.
First look at the glacier

And when I got to the top of the glacier this time, I could actually see the goal.
Today's itinerary

It was an easy hike up the glacier in the morning. The overnight low temps did an excellent job of freezing the snow. I was able to just use my boots to get to the top. Microspikes would have been good to increase traction on some places where the snow was very hard and on the icy spots above the glacier where the melt-water had frozen.

Past that rock outcropping on the way to James Peak, the route is very clear.
James Peak

Just below the summit of James Peak, on the way to Mt. Bancroft, my route appears. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are in the background.
Ridge to Mt. Bancroft

I used microspikes and carried my axe to descend off James Peak because the snow was hard and fairly steep. Crampons were not necessary. I did glissade a couple of segments and this was fine, if a little painful...

I made my way from the summit of James Peak over to a spot a little below the high point of the ridge coming off of James Peak toward Mt. Bancroft. I had looked (but not very hard) for a description of this ridge and I didn't find anything. I started to wonder if maybe I was the first to do this route.
A cairn

I guess not...

There were some cairns on the way to the ridge. I guess they were there to make sure hikers find their way to the ridge. Because it's not clear? The steep drop offs on either side should keep you on course...
The easy to find ridge.

The route over the ridge is pretty straightforward, at least this day.
The ridge

However, I did have to make one pretty steep down climb.
The downclimb

Well, it was a partial down climb and then a glissade. The snow was starting to soften at this point. I was glad to have my crampons for this down climb. It was pretty steep near the top.

Here's a view looking back toward James Peak. My footsteps are visible to the right of the rock tower.
Looking back toward James Peak

The ridge was class 2+. There was some very light scrambling that seemed harder than it was because I left my crampons on for the rock work. Here's a pic looking back at the ridge. It was a pretty fun traverse.
Looking back at the ridge.

The snow ended on the upclimb to Mt. Bancroft and the going was easy.
Grassy slope

The rest of the route came into view on top of the grassy slope.
The rest of the way up Mt. Bancroft with Parry Peak behind it.

Mt. Bancroft's Summit

I was checking out routes on the way down. I did not want to go back the way I ascended so I started heading down the southeast face of Mt. Bancroft. The topo shows a couple of possibilities to get back to Saint Mary's Glacier, one to go low below Loch Lomond. And this was my initial plan.
Initial plan.

However, as I got lower, I realized that the high route looked better. This route goes over the head wall southeast of Reynolds Lake and Steuart Lake.
Here's a shot of the high road.
The high road with Kingston Peak in the back right.

Getting down to the head wall was interesting. I started walking down, then I glissaded when the snow got steep enough. At the start of the glissade, I realized I wasn't able to see the whole slope (though I had previously checked it for cornices or avy activity from the route to James Peak). I slid down a bit, hoping to see the rest of the slope. Nope. Plus the snow was getting pretty wet (as were my pants). So I decided to bail on the glissade and hike toward the south (toward the south ridge route for Mt. Bancroft). I was sinking in to ankle or mid-calf on this traverse. This didn't make me feel all that great. I did get to a spot where the slope angle mellowed and I could see the whole slope and the run-out and I finished my descent with speed and style.
You can see a bit of the traverse and my glissade.

The high road was pretty straight-forward except for a dam with a overflow creek flowing between me and the dam.

Luckily, the snow was firm and I was able to rock-hop to the dam and then walk across.

Here's the route from the head wall back to the plateau leading from Saint Mary's Glacier to James Peak. There was actually a trail through part of this and up to the plateau.
Back to the plateau.

I experienced some firm snow on the plateau, but it was mostly soft all the way back to my snowshoe cache.

The snow below the cache, the upper part of the glacier, was firmer. I never used my snowshoes, but they definitely would have come in handy once I got back up onto the plateau.
Approximate route

This was a very enjoyable hike. Too bad KatieFinn had to work.

You should definitely bring snow shoes if you're going to be out here in warmer temps.

Here are some shots of the couloirs leading from the Steuart Lake area up toward James Peak and Mt. Bancroft:
Up to James Peak

Up to James Peak

Up to James Peak

Up to Mt. Bancroft

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

 Comments or Questions
Michael York

06/03/2011 23:36
sweet report, great details and pics, congrats on the double sumimt!


Ditching the rents
06/03/2011 23:48
”So then I went hiking and left my parents to fend for themselves. They're grown ups. They were fine.” I laughed when I read that. Sweet report and great pictures.... been meaning to head back to James and this was just the motivation that we needed.


Great report
06/06/2011 13:54
thanks for the info too; super useful!


I laughed as well
06/07/2011 23:17
Bob, I like your style of dealing with the parents. My parents would probably just sit on my couch regardless of what I did - if they ever bothered to get up off their own couch to visit.


06/07/2011 23:32
Dave - My parents drove to Denver, had lunch, went to the Botanic Gardens and 16th Street Mall. They've been here before and they're mobile so they can do their thing. The highlight of the weekend was getting my mom to the summit of Mt. Evans.

Michael, Lupin, and a94buff - Thanks for your feedback!


06/12/2011 16:19
This report was tremendously helpful; I did bancroft/parry yesterday and I can't tell you how handy this beta was in prep. my TR forthcoming! You can see your tracks on the ridge traverse and the glissade in my photos.


06/13/2011 04:56
I'm very glad it was helpful and I'm looking forward to your TR!


06/13/2011 15:53
TR posted

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.