Peak(s):  Flora, Mt  -  13,146 feet
Eva, Mt  -  13,130 feet
Parry Pk A  -  13,391 feet
Bancroft, Mt  -  13,250 feet
James Pk  -  13,294 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2018
Date Climbed:   09/03/2018
Author:  supranihilest
 Labor Day Weekend 13er Massacre, Part 2: James Peak Wilderness 13er Traverse  

This is Part 2 of a two part trip report! Find Part 1 here!


Long weekend? Big trips! That's a maxim to live by. I had originally planned on going to the San Juan to either (aid) climb "Sunlight Spire" or Pigeon Peak and Turret Peak (and possibly others) but the weather was predicted to be total garbage all weekend, with high probabilities of rain and/or snow across the entire state. Not wanting to drive all the way to Silverton and pay for the train trip to Needleton only to not want to get out of my tent I decided to stay closer to home and just bang out as many new 13ers as I possibly could. With that in mind I managed to do a dozen: Hoosier Ridge, Red Mountain C, Red Peak A, and Mount Silverheels, the only even remotely interesting peak of the group (it's a low bar with these ones); Square Top Mountain A, Argentine Peak, and Mount Wilcox; and a traverse of the James Peak Wilderness, netting Mount Flora, Mount Eva, Parry Peak A, Mount Bancroft, and James Peak. This trip report covers the final, third day and its five 13ers, easily the best group I did this weekend. Off to the James Peak Wilderness!


Day 3, September 3, 2018: James Peak Wilderness 13er Traverse

Today I really slept in. I think I set an alarm for 6am, which meant not leaving the house until something like 7am, and not getting started on the hike until 8 or later. I was probably pushing my luck with the weather predictions, which same as the previous two days, were for rain, snow, and possible thunderstorms. This was made potentially worse by the fact that I'd be above treeline within minutes of leaving the car, stay above it on the Continental Divide all day, and be making a one-way trip with pretty crappy escape options. I could escape west into the forest and back to US40, probably a terrible bushwhack, or east and down to St. Mary's, if I could find it in the vast expanse of open land east of the Divide. Getting a ride back to my car at my starting point of Berthoud Pass from St. Mary's would also be like pulling teeth, and I'd probably have to pay someone to do it. I would have to monitor the weather closely today to make sure I didn't have to exercise any of those options.

Upon arriving at Berthoud Pass I was greeted with uniformly gray skies and the climb up Colorado Mines Peak, which was visible from the parking lot. Overall the slope was steep but I knew it wouldn't be too bad since I'd be following a road to the top.

19061_01
Up, up, and away!

The hike up Colorado Mines Peak was a quick, simple affair due to the road. I stopped just past treeline to take a picture of part of a loop I did the weekend before, the Bard Peak group from Ruby Gulch. I had passed it on the way up to Berthoud Pass but couldn't see any of it until I was much higher.

19061_02
Engelmann Peak on the left with Woods Mountain low in the center. Red Mountain, site of the Henderson molybdenum mine, is hard to distinguish in
the right foreground side of the canyon.

It only took me 40 minutes to do the 1,000 or so feet of vert to where the Mount Flora Trail made its second split off of the road near the summit. There was a trail to Flora down lower, off a switchback, but I figured it would be easier to go higher on the road and cut across tundra if I needed to. I did not go all the way to the summit of Colorado Mines Peak, though it looked like there was some large, interesting radio equipment on the summit.

19061_03
Mount Flora Trail coming off the road. Nobody is visible here but from Berthoud Pass to Mount Flora was very crowded.
19061_04
Flora-Colorado Mines saddle.

The trail up Mount Flora was obvious and kept in great shape. There was a little bit of rock embedded in it but nothing bad. It rained icy crystals and the wind blew a little bit. Another 45 minutes later I stood on the summit of Mount Flora, the first of five 13ers that day. I knew Flora and the next peak, Mount Eva, were the furthest separated of the day, but the Flora-Eva saddle was much bigger than I had anticipated.

19061_05
About 700 feet down and back up, and a couple of miles total to the summit of Eva, which is so far away it's not visible in this photo.

Past the summit of Flora there were a couple of ill-defined trail segments and those eventually disappeared completely in the tundra. A runner passed me and he was the only person I saw until another runner passed me in the opposite direction near the summit of Parry Peak. Those two were the only people I saw after stepping off Flora until I was nearly at Corona Pass Road. The silence and solitude were, as always, amazing.

A steep drop down the saddle, a steep climb up, and a couple of miles of relatively gentle slopes led to the summit of Mount Eva, 13er number two.


19061_06
Mount Eva. There's an old building and radio tower on the summit, just barely visible in this photo.

19061_07
Said building and radio tower. It must've been knocked down in a wind storm. There's junk scattered everywhere, including the thick steel cables used
to guy it down.

From Eva onward the peaks were much closer together.

19061_08
Parry Peak, James Peak, and Mount Bancroft. I'd have to traverse between Parry and Bancroft before going down the deep saddle over to James.

The Parry-Eva saddle was nearly as deep as the Flora-Eva saddle but the two peaks were much closer together, which was nice. These three peaks would take me about as much time as the first two.

19061_09
Up and down, down and up.

Parry Peak came and went without fanfare, and I finally got a look at the goods for the day: the James-Bancroft saddle, where fun scrambling awaited.

19061_10
It didn't look like much from here, but the scrambling would indeed be quite juicy.


19061_11
Bancroft from Parry. By far the easiest and shortest section of the day.

Bancroft likewise came and went in a flash, and I was faced with the final peak of the day, the monarch of the namesake James Peak Wilderness, James Peak.

19061_12
The scrambling is still not super clear from here but once I began the descent to the saddle everything in every direction was steep.

Everything down to the bottom of the saddle was simply steep Class 2 rock, dirt, and grass. It was the steepest of all the saddles and would be a real mess with rain or a light covering of ice or snow, but dry it wasn't too bad as long as I went slow.

19061_13
James Peak and Ice Lake.

As I crept towards the bottom the scrambling became more and more clear, and it began to look pretty wicked. Fun, but possibly more difficult than I anticipated. I hadn't done any research into this route except to know that there was scrambling here. I had no idea what it consisted of. The first views were somewhat intimidating.

19061_14
Gendarme stuck right in the middle off the route.
19061_15
Big, blocky granite.

It looked like I could circumnavigate the gendarme to the left, but on very steep and what appeared to be deathly loose terrain. There was also a Class 3 cleft in the gendarme that I could go through but I wasn't sure where it led or what I would find on the top and backside of the gendarme. Would I be able to down climb it?

19061_16
The Class 3 cleft. The rock was more stable than it looks.

The granite was nice and dry and grippy, and while it wasn't the highest quality it would do just fine with careful climbing and route finding. At the top of the cleft I discovered the gendarme was longer than it was wide, and that I still couldn't really see the route in full.

19061_17
Across the broken terrain and through the notch to the other side.

I climbed through a notch and found myself on the east side of the gendarme. From here a short section of Difficult Class 2 across some grassy ledges led closer to the end of the gendarme.

19061_18
Weaving across the ledges as I made my way up was awesome.

I finally reached the end of the gendarme and was met with the most intimidating view of the entire route. Another tower was directly across from me, and a large, tilted wall was behind and to the left of that. A deep notch separated me from my position and the next tower, and it looked upon first glance to be Class 5 to the top of the tower, with unknown climbing down the backside, over to grass that would take me to the base of the wall. The wall looked easier than the tower, and I was worried I was a bit stuck where I was.

19061_19
A deep, broken notch stood between me and the tower.

I peered carefully over the sides of the back of the gendarme. I didn't feel comfortable climbing the next tower, but I could probably bypass it by switchbacking down Class 3 ledges and slabs, now on the west wide, and across a steep, ridiculously loose gully to the base of the wall.

19061_20
The down climb off the first gendarme, with the gully I went up and the tower I declined to climb up in view.

I carefully picked my way across to the bottom of the wall and found two options: climb left, up the solid but steeper wall, or climb right, up the less steep but probably house-of-cards stacked boulders. I went left, up the wall, weaving together sections of delightful Class 3 and Class 4 scrambling on the best rock of the day.

19061_21
My route took me up the center of the wall to the ridge crest, where the difficulty returned to Class 2. The wall is much larger than it looks.

This short scramble was worth the entire trip. It was pure joy. I'd return for this saddle in a heartbeat, it was that good. If you're comfortable at a Class 4 level, come and do this route - it is fantastic.

A few short minutes of concentration later, I found myself at the union of rock wall and boulder wall. A quick scramble up the boulders to the ridge crest and the scrambling was over. I was sad that it was over. I contemplated scrambling back down and then up again, just so I could experience it all over again, but why do that when I could come back at a later date and do the entire route again?! Talk about rad!

19061_22
Ice Lake and Loch Lomond.

From here all I had to do was scramble up Class 2ish boulders, across a flat plateau below the summit, and up another Class 2 slope to bag the fifth and final peak of the day, undisputedly the best in the area, James Peak. I rested on top for a few minutes (obligatory REST IS A CRUTCH!!@#&1%381#%()@) and took in the views to the south.

19061_23
Gotdang Colorado! Mount Bancroft and Parry peak in the foreground, other miscellaneous peaks in the background. Slightly left of Bancroft, in the far
background, is Grays and Torreys.

I could see the route to the north off of James and it was long, the longest of the day distance-wise. I couldn't see the end of it as it went over a shoulder and down to Corona Pass Road.

19061_24
Down the north slopes, across the ridge, across the shoulder (trail barely visible), and off to the unknown.

I knew people climbed James from the north, from the Rogers Pass Trailhead, but I didn't know the trail would be as good as it was. I had a trail marked on my GPS but I never needed it. For the better part of two hours I walked alone and jammed out to Pink Floyd and Eskmo. The trail took me across a narrow ridge that would have been a pain without the trail, but with it was super cool. Eventually it curved around a corner and I was able to get the final view of James Peak for the day, before it dipped out of sight.

19061_25
Big square James.

I passed a pair of bowhunters about a quarter mile from the road, and upon hitting the road was knocked offensively back into civilization. Dirtbikes and ATVs were everywhere, since this is a popular 4x4 road up to Rollins Pass. I walked a short way down the road before an actual passenger vehicle came down, to which I held up my ultra-official cardboard-and-Sharpie "BERTHOUD PASS" sign and thumbed a ride. It was a packed ride with four people, a dog, and three sets of skis (they had tried to ski the Skyscraper Glacier but found it discontinuous), but they were kind enough to let me hop in and drop me off at the pass before heading back to the city. Thank you guys for the ride!

And thus ends my amazing weekend of 13ers. I don't think I could have had a better Labor Day weekend, honestly, even if I had ended up in the San Juan. While most of the 13ers I climbed were simple, I didn't know how much I could pack in to such a short time, and do it all from my house no less. James Peak in particular is worth returning to. The others not so much, but they were delightful in their own ways. They are mountains after all, and all mountains a full of delight.

Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Total distance: 13.81 miles
Total elevation gain: 4,694 feet
Total time: 6:22:35
Peaks: 5 thirteeners (4 ranked, 1 unranked)

  • Mount Flora, 13,146 feet
  • Mount Eva, 13,130 feet
  • Parry Peak A, 13,391 feet
  • Mount Bancroft, 13,250 feet (unranked)
  • James Peak, 13,294 feet

Splits:

Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Berthoud Pass¹ Colorado Mines Peak² 0:40:53 0:40:53 0:00³
Colorado Mines Peak² Mount Flora 0:45:36 1:26:29 0:00³
Mount Flora Mount Eva 0:57:34 2:24:03 0:00³
Mount Eva Parry Peak 0:34:30 2:58:33 0:00³
Parry Peak Mount Bancroft 0:20:05 3:18:37 0:00³
Mount Bancroft James Peak 1:02:31 4:21:08 18:34†
James Peak Corona Pass Road¹ 1:42:52 6:22:35 n/a

¹This was a one way trip. I hitched a ride from Corona Pass Road back to my car on Berthoud Pass.
²I did not go all the way to the true summit of Colorado Mines Peak. The trail junction to Mount Flora splits off the road prior to the summit.
³Rest is a crutch.
†Crutch.

Garmin Connect activity link

Full Weekend Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Glay G. (Square Top loop only)
Total distance: 42.3 miles
Total elevation gain: 14,503 feet
Peaks: 12 thirteeners (10 ranked, 2 unranked)

  • Red Mountain C, 13,229 feet
  • Red Peak A, 13,215 feet (unranked)
  • Hoosier Ridge, 13,325 feet
  • Mount Silverheels, 13,822 feet
  • Square Top Mountain A, 13,794 feet
  • Argentine Peak, 13,738 feet
  • Mount Wilcox, 13,408 feet
  • Mount Flora, 13,146 feet
  • Mount Eva, 13,130 feet
  • Parry Peak A, 13,391 feet
  • Mount Bancroft, 13,250 feet (unranked)
  • James Peak, 13,294 feet

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25


 Comments or Questions
teamdonkey
I know this is 2 years old, but...
05/27/2020 11:52
this is a great report. Very informative - thank you!!


supranihilest


James Peak
05/27/2020 12:57
@teamdonkey: Thank you and you're welcome! I hope that you use this report and do this route, since it was super fun. I still think about it from time to time myself! After two years maybe it's time to return and see if it's still as good as I remember it being.



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