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Routes in James Peak

First Star Couloir Mod. Snow PG13
Shooting Star T
Sky Pilot T
Starlight T
Superstar Couloir T 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
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Elevation: 13,294 ft
GPS: 39.852, -105.689 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 13,034 total · 60/month
Shared By: Ben Mottinger on Dec 31, 2000
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac
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James Peak (13,294') lies in an interesting location in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. From its summit, you can easily see Winter Park, Gray's and Torrey's, Evans and Bierstadt, and to the east, Boulder County. There are several easy routes to the summit that are popular with hikers, but there are also several high quality technical routes on the east face. The approach is not too long, and the east side basin does not see too much traffic (at least in the early season).

The technical routes are best done from May-July as they are snow and ice climbs up the fantastic couloirs on James Peak's east face. Super Star couloir is mostly steep snow, but some 5.4 scrambling is required to bypass a cornice at the top. Another couloir, Shooting Star is a classic; a steep snow/ice climb that ends almost right on the summit. Several other couloirs of varying difficulty ascend the eastern portion of the peak.

See Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Indian Peaks" for more info.

Getting There

There are at least four approaches to this peak. The most popular is the St. Mary's Glacier trailhead off of I-70. Personally, I like to avoid I-70 if at all possible, so I took the eastern approach via the Upper Mammoth Gulch Trailhead.

From Boulder, head west up the canyon to Nederland, turn south on 119 to Rollinsville (4.9 mi.), then head west on a dirt road 5 mi. to Tolland. After you pass through the "town" of Tolland (don't blink), look for a rough road heading uphill to the left. If you've gone over the railroad tracks, turn around.

Follow this road (Mammoth Gulch Road), which is identified by signs as "176" or "353" about 2 mi. You'll see a junction here for "Mammoth Basin," which is the road to Lower Mammoth Gulch. Continue on uphill, eventually pulling out of the trees to a view of the mountains. The road will come to a "Y" junction at the top of a hill, now in trees again. Depending on the time of year, you'll be able to continue west on this narrow road for another 3 miles as it loops around the north of Kingston Peak. When I did this (May 27) snow blocked the road at this junction, which is around 10,200 feet (according to my vintage 1946 Piper J-3 aircraft altimeter that's now mounted in my truck ;-) Gerry Roach notes in his book that snow blocked this road around 11,000 feet. in mid-June.

Hike or drive (4WD) the 3 miles on an old two-track road up a ridge, then circling around Kingston Peak. If you're hiking, look for a trail sign on the NW side of Kingston Peak that drops sharply into the basin below James Peak's east face. It is about 1 more mile into the basin from here, but the ascent back out is arduous since the trail is very steep.

Depending (once again) on snow conditions, you'll need gaiters, but snoeshoes are not necessary and may cause more trouble since the snow is in patches with scree in between. Locate a nice campsite about a 100m uphill and to the south from the lake and to the west of an old mining cabin.

The lake is at 11,200 feet just 2100 feet below the summit. Enjoy yourself in this awesome alpine setting!

If you park at the St. Mary's Glacier area, expect to pay $3 in a self-pay parking area that has been purchased by a private citizen. Parking along the road is marked as illegal.

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Classic Climbing Routes at James Peak

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
Shooting Star
Trad, Alpine
Sky Pilot
Trad, Alpine
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Superstar Couloir
Trad, Alpine
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Shooting Star
Trad, Alpine
Sky Pilot
Trad, Alpine
Superstar Couloir
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad, Alpine
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I climbed one of the couloirs back in June of 2000. I'm not sure which one. The snow was soft enough to kick step. I found that out after realizing that I forgot my crampons. However, I would certainly recommend using them. I don't know if a rope would do much good very late in the season. But if the steeper routes are well frozen, some protection may or may not be useful. Feb 15, 2002
Our small group ascended the "Sky Pilot" route on James on 6/10/02. It was very hot and the snow varied from reasonably firm to mushy in places. Most of the route was in good shape. There are quite a few stones in the snow: a helmet is recommended. The 4th class section described in Roach's guide was easy to pass on snow, but its melting fast. Another member of our group ascended the "Starlight" route further north and found good step kicking. We had hoped to do "Shooting Star", but it was melted out. A party of two climbed "Super Star", which appeared to have good snow and a big cornice. This is a really beautiful valley with some good spring ski/board descent possibilities on the east/north aspects for the hard core. We approached from St. Mary's - about 2 hours. Jun 10, 2002
Leo Paik
Westminster, Colorado
Leo Paik   Westminster, Colorado  
Contrary to some bad info given to me (not from, the James Peak basin is in fine shape for climbs up the couloirs. There is minimal evidence of avalanche. There is evidence of some rockfall, and, as usual, rockfall will occur on an infrequent basis. Today, some was created by humans and by marmots. There is virtually no snow on the plateau above St. Mary's snowfield. There are relatively small cornices. Conditions are fairly similar to 1998, pre-drought.

AC, Sorry but I think you must have the wrong couloir for Shooting Star. 2 of my friends did it today (6/22/3) and found it full of snow! 2 folks skied the entire thing today. You have to go to pretty close to the split off to Superstar to find Shooting Star. It is hidden until you are just below it or in it. Jun 22, 2003
Leo Paik
Westminster, Colorado
Leo Paik   Westminster, Colorado  
Beware of skiers, some folks skied Shooting Star couloir today (6/22/3). One on teles. Lots of whooping.

Jun 22, 2003

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