TR: James Peak – Starlight Couloir Ski (11 June 2015)

(Last Updated On: June 30, 2015)

It was 12:15 am when we pulled into Joe’s driveway. We’d driven nearly 5 hours from Crested Butte to attempt the North Face of Longs Peak, and we were to leave in about 45 minutes.

I said to Frank, “Well, I guess I might as well start getting ready.” It seemed pointless to sleep for 20 minutes…

But it was warm. Too warm. And as we left, we didn’t really have good feelings about the success of the day. A wall of rain clouds sealed the deal. And our group of 5 made the decision that no one wants to make after traveling so far and hiking for hours through the night. We turned around, taking the cards that Mother Nature dealt for us which were at odds with the forecast, and in turn deciding to be old mountaineers rather than bold mountaineers.

But, hey, at least we enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunrises we’d ever seen.
Sunrise on Longs Peak.

As it turns out, rainy mornings create fabulous sunrises!
Sunrise seen from Longs Peak.

The forecast for the remaining couple of days that we were to be visiting the Front Range didn’t look promising. But, I was determined to try to get something done. A peak with lots of options was needed. And, after discussing it with Scott, we decided that James Peak was the best choice for the next day.

The alarm went off at 2 am and I was in a haze after a short sleep that night and no sleep the night before. Must-get-up-and-go-skiing. I was on auto-pilot.

We began our hike from from the St. Mary’s trailhead at 4:30 am. Another alpine start and another amazing sunrise started our day.
Sunrise over the Front Range.

Brittany Konsella skinning in the morning on her way to backcountry ski on James Peak.

The clouds were hanging low in the sky, but high enough to view some of the peaks. Looking towards Mount Eva and Bancroft.
View toward Mounts Eva and Bancroft on the way to James Peak.

View south towards the peaks near Guanella Pass.
View south from James Peak climb.

The summit of James Peak remained elusive, hiding under a cloud.
James Peak

Our plan was to hopefully ski couloirs on the east or northeast face of James Peak, descending toward James Peak Lake. Here, we are scoping our options for the way out. Echo Lake across the way.
Echo Lake seen from the climb on James Peak.

The Jamaica Flats were long – looking back, eastward.
Jamaica Flats on the James Peak climb.

Ascending the south slopes and ridge.
Scott Edlin skinning the southeast ridge to backcountry ski on James Peak.

We scoped out a few different couloir options and to be honest, we didn’t exactly know which one was which all the time, given the poor visibility.
Backcountry skiing couloirs on James Peak.

Backcountry skiing couloirs on James Peak.

Although it did not freeze overnight, we were still feeling pretty decent about the snow as it was transitioning to a summer snowpack. As long as it didn’t rain, we felt that we were good to go…..

This was our summit view 🙂 Scott.
Scott Edlin on the summit of James Peak, backcountry skiing.

We ended up waiting for a window and dropping into Starlight Couloir. However, in the pictures, you can see the “window” still was foggy. Scott.
Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Scott Edlin backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Me.
Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing Starlight Couloir on James Peak.

We waited at the bottom of the eastern cirque, hoping that the clouds would lift to reveal the majesty of James Peak. But, this was the best that we saw.
James Peak east face.

We then descended further to the scenic James Peak Lake.
Skiing to James Peak Lake.

There are some good ski options above James Peak Lake.
Views from James Peak Lake.

We ascended roughly 600′ up a snowfield to reach the Jamaica Flats. Along the way, we kept seeing these little critters squirming around in the snow. Anyone know what king of bug this is?
Bug in snow.

One last look at James Peak, still shrouded in clouds.
Backcountry skiing on James Peak.

And we enjoyed our last turns down St. Mary’s Glacier, where I have many fond memories of skiing in summer during my college days.
Scott Edlin descending St. Mary's glacier.

We descended all the way to the scenic St. Mary’s Lake.
St. Mary's Lake

And walked the road back to the car, which is a lot shorter than I remember it being as a summer-skiing college kid!

After yesterday’s shut-down, it was nice to claim this one as a victory. Thanks for joining me on another challenging weather day, Scott!

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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Summary
James Peak - Starlight Couloir Ski (11 June 2015)
Article Name
James Peak - Starlight Couloir Ski (11 June 2015)
Description
Brittany & Scott toughed out some adverse conditions to enjoy a nice ski on Starlight Couloir on James Peak. This peak harbors a wealth of lines for backcountry skiers!
Author

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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