Great Spring Day on James Peak and St. Mary's Glacier

Page Type
Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Mar 23, 2007
Hiking, Mountaineering, Skiing
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Great Spring Day on James Peak and St. Mary's Glacier
Created On: Mar 27, 2007
Last Edited On: Mar 27, 2007


The goal for our trip was the summit of James Peak with a ski/board descent. Eric was tele-skiing and skinning and I was snowboarding and boot-packing.

Starting Out

Eric and I left Boulder at 445am and after a stop for coffee and breakfast, we arrived at the St. Mary’s Glacier parking lot at 6am. Fall River Road is snow free with a few wet spots.

We decided to carry our ice axes and crampons in case of any steep ice or hard pack snow. After packing our bags, we hit the trail at 630am and quickly made our way to the base of the glacier. The sunrise on the glacier and cliffs was spectacular.
Sunrise on St. Mary s GlacierSunrise on St. Mary's Glacier

Cliffy face above St. Mary s GlacierCliffs east of St. Mary's Glacier

The snow on the glacier was consolidated and hard and the hiking was pretty easy. The sky was clear with a few clouds and the weather was looking great.

Hiking up St Mary s GlacierMoving up the glacier

Top of glacier to James Peak proper

At the top of the glacier, we had our first view of James Peak and the rest of the climb. I was beginning to feel the weight of carrying my board and boots and gear.

Hiking the flats towards James PeakJames Peak from the top of St Mary's Glacier.

The flat area stretching from the top of St. Mary’s to the base of James Peak was larger than I expected. We walked/skied on patches of snow to a rock-outcropping a few hundred yards from the glacier and had a quick snack and drink.

The views of the surrounding peaks in all directions (Mt. Bancroft, Grays and Torreys) were amazing. Some small clouds were forming to the south, so we decided to make the break a quick one and keep moving.

Mt Bancroft from East Slopes of James PeakMt. Bancroft

To the Summit

Once we reached the base of James Peak, we climbed northwest up steepening snow slopes to around 12,800 feet. We could see the rest of the climb from this point and several ski lines from the summit.

Eric was fine on his skis but I was starting to punch through the snow as the suncrust began to melt. We gained the southeast ridge to get off the snow as the wind began to pick up and the temperature was dropping.

 Upper slopes on the east face of James PeakUpper slopes on James Peak

We left our skis and board at about 13,100 so we didn’t have to regain any elevation after skiing down. We made the summit at 11am with a strong wind blowing from the west. After a few photos and signing the register, we headed back to our gear to start the second part of the trip – the skiing and boarding. Since we carried our axes this whole way, we chose to use them and glissade for a few hundred feet.

Final 100 feet on East Slopes of James PeakEric boot-packing the final 100 feet.

Mandatory summit shot on James PeakSummit shot.

Ski/Board Descent

The wind stopped and the temperature was warmer only a hundred feet from the summit. The snow was wind-blown hard-pack with about half an inch of powder on top. The skiing was good and after snapping a few more photos, we rounded the ridge to see the long flats back to the glacier. The snow was continuous, but not in a straight line, so we chose to straight line the bottom 100 feet of the run to try and get as far out onto the flats as possible. Being on a snowboard, I didn’t have any help from poles, so I stopped a couple hundred feet out. Eric was able to pick around the dry spots and pole all the way back to the glacier. I had to carry my board about 200 yards to reach a slope with enough angle to let me get moving. I chose to butt-board a few hundred feet, then strapped in a rode to meet Eric. The snow on the glacier had softened up nicely to a couple inches of great spring corn. The last 600 feet down the glacier was the best skiing all day and the two people watching were surely jealous. We walked across the bridge and put the skis/board back on for the last few hundred feet back to the car. Car to car time was 5h10m. There are lots of great lines to ski and the steeper stuff will most likely be consolidated and safe in the next few weeks if the weather stays warm.
Eric making a nice tele turn on James PeakEric making a nice tele turn.

Snowboarding upper slopes on James PeakSnowboarding.


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Viewing: 1-7 of 7 - Mar 27, 2007 7:39 pm - Voted 8/10

Great Report

Thanks for the GREAT report on James. I am going up on Sunday with a CMC group and this report provides as much good beta as one could want. excellent shots too!



smason505 - Mar 27, 2007 9:03 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Report

Thank you. Have a great day up there - lots of great views in all directions. Snow conditions have probably changed since friday with all of the new snow in the Front Range, but hopefully the pictures gave you a good idea of the coverage. - Mar 28, 2007 3:27 pm - Voted 8/10

Re: Great Report

Probably a decent amount of new snow. Too bad I don't ski.

Out of curiosity...What camera were you shooting with?



smason505 - Apr 2, 2007 11:37 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Report

The camera used was a Cyber-shot® DSC-T10 Digital Camera. We used a mix of the pre-set shooting styles, including the snow setting, and also manually set the f-stop a few times to get better exposure. - Apr 2, 2007 2:34 pm - Voted 8/10


We went up there yesterday. It was a beautiful day if you didn't account for the wind. Forecast was for 35-40 sustained with gusts to 70...and I think we got all that. We made it about half way up the glacier. The snow was blowing down the glacier in such quantity and speed it actually made you dizzy to look up. The trip leader took a vote and decided to bale. :-)

We will try again in better weather.

Thanks for the info on the shots. I like them quite a bit.



smason505 - Apr 4, 2007 1:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: REALLY Windy

I think we really lucked out on the weather when we climbed James. There was no wind until a few hundred feet below the summit and mostly blue skies. However, on the summit, the wind was howling well above 30mph sustained.

We tried James Peak in October of 2006 and ended up turning around where you turned around. The visibility was zero and the snow was sticking to my goggles. Good luck on the next trip.


maverick - Apr 24, 2007 12:52 am - Hasn't voted


TR man... Those are some nice shots. The first couple are NatGeoworthy

Viewing: 1-7 of 7

Great Spring Day on James Peak and St. Mary's Glacier

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