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.
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 Glacier
Cliffs 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.
Moving 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.
James 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.
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 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.
Eric boot-packing the final 100 feet.
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.