Shooting Star Couloir

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 39.85220°N / 105.68940°E
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: II Steep Snow/Ice
Sign the Climber's Log


Some of the extreme slide potential
The view of Shooting Star from  Camp Cheeto

Per Gerry Roach's Colorado's Indian Peaks, Classic Hikes and Climbs, "This is the premier mountaineering route on James Peak. It ascends the narrow couloir near the middle of the east face, which tops out practically on the summit."

By reputation, the couloir is named "Shooting Star" due to the abundance of ice and rock debris that shoot down the couloir once temperatures are warm enough. Needless to say, helmets are 'de rigueur' on this route. Although steep, Shooting star is occasionally skied and qualifies as an "extreme" route due to the possibility that a fall could send a skiier (or climber) off a snow ramp and over several cliff bands of rock!!!

Getting There

Roped up after previous day sloughing

Approaching  the cliff band that splits Shooting and Superstar

Approach via St. Mary's glacier, across Jamaica Flats. Ascend the Southeast Ridge towards James peak. Drop into the James Peak cirque after traveling approximately one third of the distance between Jamaica flats and the James Peak summit. The route into the cirque descends a steep snow slope followed by another steep snow ramp into the basin.

Once at the base of the East Face, Shooting Star and Superstar couloirs split in a direct 'Y' snow formation. Shooting star is the couloir to the left of this formation.

The continuity of the route to the summit is not always obvious. The route sits is a gully between cliff faces and is periodically obscured by the lower cliff band from below. The continuity of the route becomes obvious one you ascend past this lower cliff band.

Note: Too far up the Southeast Ridge will often block a drop into the basin due to steep ridgeline cornices. Attempts to reach the couloir directly from the East edge of the James Peak Basin will result in either a very long slog across the length of the basin to reach the East Face, or a frequently cliffed-out traverse along the south side of the basin.

Route Description

Steeper that it looks from the basin
Its about this steep

Ascend steep snow to the base of the 'Y' formation where Shooting Star and Superstar couloirs meet. Take the obvious left couloir up steep snow to the summit.

This route travels below cliff bands and cornices. It should be climbed only in stable conditions. The gully is such that any loose ice, rocks or snow sloughs from above the route WILL ricochet down the couloir.

Descend from the summit via the Southeast ridge to avoid an "extreme" exit.

Essential Gear

Topping out
Half way up

HELMET. Crampons, ice axe, pickets, harnesses, and a rope will provide additional protection from a fall or slide for most of the route. The upper third of the route offer opportunities for occasional placemenet of small rock nuts, hexes, tricams or friends. Rock walls at the entry to the couloir are either very exposed to rockfall from above cliff bands, or fiendishly free of stable cracks to protect from.



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