James Peak Climb 27/4/2018

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 39.85199°N / 105.69011°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Apr 27, 2018
Activities Activities: Mountaineering, Ice Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring

Trip Report

I started up the trailhead at 9 am. The previous day had turned the slush on the trail to ice, but it was relatively easy to hike without crampons or snowshoes. A short while after I arrived at Saint Mary's Lake. The lake was still frozen over, however the ice was very thin and I would advise that anyone stay off of it. I hiked around the lake to the base of a couloir on the adjacent mountain face. I slipped on my crampons, grabbed my ice axes, and began my snow/ice climb up the couloir at around 9:30. The snow had started to soften to an icy slush that made the ascent a bit more challenging and slippery. I should have started much earlier before the snow had softened. After slipping my way up the couloir, I climbed atop the prominent granite cliff and above a small chute of water ice. A little ways back I anchored in 3 snow pickets, clipped sewn runners to the top holes, and equalized the anchors with a carabener at the center point. I then tossed down a rope and repelled about 50 feet down the ice chute. I made a small temporary anchor at the bottom by cramming an ice screw into the softening snow. Using an ascender I began to ice climb back up the wall. Im very glad I had decided to wear a helmet that day. On the most technical part, I heard a crack and looked up to see a roughly 30 pound block of ice tumbling down directly towards me. I braced, and it smacked me directly in the helmet, then landed on my backpack pulling me off the wall. I was left spinning and hanging from the rope. however, I quickly recovered, climbed the rest of the wall. 

I topped out around 11:15 and hiked the ridge on the left of Saint Mary's glacier. I used the rocky bump above the glacier as a pit stop to take off my crampons, and helmet. Unfortunately my helmet is now out of commision. The snow all the way accross to the base of the South East Ridge was a hard windswept crust. It was almost as hard as a sidewalk, and it was nice to hike accross. I met up with a ski mountaineer who was skinning up. The snow all the way up to the summit was a hard powder snow. If you're looking to skin up and ski down, there is a complete line of snow all the way to the summit. However, if you stick to the south east ridge there are patches of grass and rocks. 

While on the South East Ridge I checked the cornices for an upcoming climb up Shooting Star on the East face. I discovered that Super Star, Shooting Star, and Starlight are too corniced to climb. Their cornices hang over about 5 or 6 feet. However, Sky Pilot and Star Bright are not corniced.

I arrived on the summit at 1:42 pm with completely clear skies. Unusually for James Peak there was very little wind and it was around 50 degrees on the summit. After taking some pictures I began the descent. It was steep enough for me to glisade down about 100 feet directly off the south side of the summit, but that was it. On the descent the snow had softened up to slush, and my boots sank several inches into the snow making everything that much more arduous. I would recommend getting off the summit before noon. I reached the trailhead at about 4:30. It was a perfect summit day.

On the Summit
Below The Summit
Ice Wall
The ice wall I climbed and got hit by a block of ice


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