Ascent of James Peak on 2018-07-27

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, July 27, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:James Peak
    Elevation:13294 ft / 4052 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was a surprisingly pleasant climb with a lot of variety. You will have jeep trail and foot trail hiking, glacier travel, level tundra hiking and boulder hopping; not to mention the large alpine lake you hike beside early in the climb. Unfortunately, there is a parking fee, but it is a modest $5.00 and porta-potties are provided with paper. I did not have the correct change, but checks were accepted. The parking area is huge, so I doubt there would ever be a problem finding a spot, especially for early morning climbers. Most people using the parking area are families hiking to St. Marys Lake or St. Marys Glacier and not climbing James Peak. The actual trailhead for these two attractions or for James Peak is located 900 feet north of the parking area at 39.82516 N 105.64466 W. Here you follow a series of jeep roads to St. Marys Lake with narrow St. Marys Glacier just beyond. The bottom section of the glacier is too steep to climb without crampons and an ice axe, since it would deposit you into boulders or the lake if you slip, but a short distance higher the grade is not as steep and I was able to easily climb to the top of the glacier using numerous suncups, although I did have ski poles for balance. The glacier was a far more pleasant way to climb than bouldering up the rocks beside the glacier. At the top of St.Marys Glacier you will soon top out on a very broad alpine plateau. There is a trail located toward the south that goes to the left of a rock pinnacle visible in the distance. After crossing the plateau the climb gets more serious again, but it follows a well established trail all the way to the summit. The highest point seemed to be at a ring of rocks around a depression, which provides good protection on a windy day. There is a small rock shelter 100 feet west of here where there is an unusual summit register. It was a red wooden box with a brass label that read, "U.S. $2 Bill National Park Collection." The box was actually in good condition for being out in the elements, so it probably hasn't been there very long. I reached the summit in 3.5 hours after covering 4.2 miles. My descent only took 2.5 hours. St. Marys Lake and Glacier areas were now alive with a lot of activity from all the visitors. There was even one person skiing on the glacier. I was one of only 4 individuals who climbed James Peak, so you will probably lose most of the tourist once you reach the top of St. Marys Glacier.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles

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