(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.
As it turns out, rainy mornings create fabulous sunrises!
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.
The clouds were hanging low in the sky, but high enough to view some of the peaks. Looking towards Mount Eva and Bancroft.
View south towards the peaks near Guanella Pass.
The summit of James Peak remained elusive, hiding under a cloud.
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.
The Jamaica Flats were long – looking back, eastward.
Ascending the south slopes and ridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We then descended further to the scenic James Peak Lake.
There are some good ski options above 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?
One last look at James Peak, still shrouded in clouds.
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.
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!