| James Peak and Mt. Bancroft Combo
Trailhead: Saint Mary's Glacier
Route: To James Peak, Saint Mary's Glacier to the peak.
To Mt. Bancroft, the ridge between James Peak and Mt. Bancroft
Distance: About 10 miles
Start: 5:45 am
Summit of James Peak: 8:15 am
Summit of Mt. Bancroft: 10:25 am
Car: 1:30 pm
Special gear: Ice axe, micro spikes, crampons
My parents are in town, so what better excuse to get a day off of work than:
"Hey boss, my parents are in town. May I have the day off?"
"Sure, Bob. It's good that you spend time with your family."
So then I went hiking and left my parents to fend for themselves. They're grown ups. They were fine.
I tried taking my sister from Washington D.C. up James Peak in April. She had spent a week in Colorado Springs at some rocket scientist seminar - no, really - and she claimed to be 100% acclimated. Yeah, ok. We got to the top of the Saint Mary's Glacier when she called it. To be fair, it was windy and snowy and we never actually saw James Peak through the snow and clouds... I coaxed her up Point 11,716 and I recorded it as an ascent, but I really wanted to hike James peak in the snow.
Things were different since April. For one, the lower trail is about 1/2 melted out.
It was a bit snowier in April.
Also, I had blue skies all day.
First look at the glacier
And when I got to the top of the glacier this time, I could actually see the goal.
It was an easy hike up the glacier in the morning. The overnight low temps did an excellent job of freezing the snow. I was able to just use my boots to get to the top. Microspikes would have been good to increase traction on some places where the snow was very hard and on the icy spots above the glacier where the melt-water had frozen.
Past that rock outcropping on the way to James Peak, the route is very clear.
Just below the summit of James Peak, on the way to Mt. Bancroft, my route appears. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak are in the background.
Ridge to Mt. Bancroft
I used microspikes and carried my axe to descend off James Peak because the snow was hard and fairly steep. Crampons were not necessary. I did glissade a couple of segments and this was fine, if a little painful...
I made my way from the summit of James Peak over to a spot a little below the high point of the ridge coming off of James Peak toward Mt. Bancroft. I had looked (but not very hard) for a description of this ridge and I didn't find anything. I started to wonder if maybe I was the first to do this route.
I guess not...
There were some cairns on the way to the ridge. I guess they were there to make sure hikers find their way to the ridge. Because it's not clear? The steep drop offs on either side should keep you on course...
The easy to find ridge.
The route over the ridge is pretty straightforward, at least this day.
However, I did have to make one pretty steep down climb.
Well, it was a partial down climb and then a glissade. The snow was starting to soften at this point. I was glad to have my crampons for this down climb. It was pretty steep near the top.
Here's a view looking back toward James Peak. My footsteps are visible to the right of the rock tower.
Looking back toward James Peak
The ridge was class 2+. There was some very light scrambling that seemed harder than it was because I left my crampons on for the rock work. Here's a pic looking back at the ridge. It was a pretty fun traverse.
Looking back at the ridge.
The snow ended on the upclimb to Mt. Bancroft and the going was easy.
The rest of the route came into view on top of the grassy slope.
The rest of the way up Mt. Bancroft with Parry Peak behind it.
Mt. Bancroft's Summit
I was checking out routes on the way down. I did not want to go back the way I ascended so I started heading down the southeast face of Mt. Bancroft. The topo shows a couple of possibilities to get back to Saint Mary's Glacier, one to go low below Loch Lomond. And this was my initial plan.
However, as I got lower, I realized that the high route looked better. This route goes over the head wall southeast of Reynolds Lake and Steuart Lake.
Here's a shot of the high road.
The high road with Kingston Peak in the back right.
Getting down to the head wall was interesting. I started walking down, then I glissaded when the snow got steep enough. At the start of the glissade, I realized I wasn't able to see the whole slope (though I had previously checked it for cornices or avy activity from the route to James Peak). I slid down a bit, hoping to see the rest of the slope. Nope. Plus the snow was getting pretty wet (as were my pants). So I decided to bail on the glissade and hike toward the south (toward the south ridge route for Mt. Bancroft). I was sinking in to ankle or mid-calf on this traverse. This didn't make me feel all that great. I did get to a spot where the slope angle mellowed and I could see the whole slope and the run-out and I finished my descent with speed and style.
You can see a bit of the traverse and my glissade.
The high road was pretty straight-forward except for a dam with a overflow creek flowing between me and the dam.
Luckily, the snow was firm and I was able to rock-hop to the dam and then walk across.
Here's the route from the head wall back to the plateau leading from Saint Mary's Glacier to James Peak. There was actually a trail through part of this and up to the plateau.
Back to the plateau.
I experienced some firm snow on the plateau, but it was mostly soft all the way back to my snowshoe cache.
The snow below the cache, the upper part of the glacier, was firmer. I never used my snowshoes, but they definitely would have come in handy once I got back up onto the plateau.
This was a very enjoyable hike. Too bad KatieFinn had to work.
You should definitely bring snow shoes if you're going to be out here in warmer temps.
Here are some shots of the couloirs leading from the Steuart Lake area up toward James Peak and Mt. Bancroft:
Up to James Peak
Up to James Peak
Up to James Peak
Up to Mt. Bancroft
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):