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Home Forums TR Archive Colorado TR: James Peak, ‘Shooting Star Couloir’

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    Barrows and I took a trip up to James Peak to attempt Shooting Star last week. We hiked in from St. Mary’s glacier and dropped down a pretty nice line into the James Peak Lake area.

    Hiking above St. Mary’s to James Peak

    Barrows dropping into this cool chute that we found to descend to the lake.

    Down on the Mammoth Gulch side, looking back up the way we came.

    We set up camp right near the lake and had plenty of time to chill out and relax, and turn in early. Unfortunately, right as we went to sleep, the infamous “Indian Peaks Winds” started to gain strength, and were relentless all night long. I couldn’t get more than a few hours of sleep, with the tent shaking uncontrollably all night.

    Camping out beneath the peak

    Finally, we awoke at 3 AM and started to cook breakfast. The winds were still strong, and when I got up to chase down a bag of coffee filters, my sleeping pad took off like a sail into the pitch darkness! The pad was never seen again 🙁

    Sun rising up over the Great Plains

    Initial views of the ‘Shooting Star’

    While hiking up towards ‘Shooting Star’, we found that there was very little freeze that night, and we were post-holing into about 6 inches of unconsolidated snow. The conditions on the apron where a little firmer, but then midway up in the couloir we decided to call it because conditions were getting worse again.

    The couloir was very steep. We measured 42 degrees where we stopped, and it was getting steeper. (Other trip reports say the top section pushes 50 degrees.) Needless to say, I’m a little relieved that we turned around. I was totally exhausted from the lack of sleep the previous night, and we still had a 2000′ climb to get back up to St. Mary’s Glacier.

    Looking down at our camp from midway up the couloir

    View of the descent of the couloir

    I took the couloir descent first, and mostly side-slipped through the narrow section. When I got out to the apron, I loosened up and started making some high speed turns. Apparently I took it a bit too extreme and found myself flipping over backwards and sliding out of control. Thankfully, I was riding with my ice axe and self arrested after sliding about 200′. It was definitely a wake up call!

    Once I found a safe spot to chill, I turned the camera on and took a few shots of my partner making the descent. We made it back to camp by 9 AM and packed up for the hike out.

    Watching Barrows make his descent

    Wide shot. The snowboarder is right up in the middle of the apron

    One last look at the whole couloir

    I’m glad I got to make an attempt from the east side of James Peak, as opposed to the summit from the south flanks. Next time, though, I think I will wait until the road opens to the lake, and then make a day trip out of it.


    looks like a sweet trip even though you didnt top out. great pics too!


    I’ve been through there on a climb of Sky Pilot years ago.
    That’s a very steep line!
    I’m glad your tumble had a fortunate outcome.


    Nice pics Adam! I am still determined to ride this line from the top, even it requires a little side slipping, or ice ax self belaying, through the supposed “20-foot, 60-degree section” (according to Indian Peaks guidebook author, Gerry Roach). I think it just will require perfect snow conditions; either late winter settled powder, or corn: not the mix of frozen, breakable crusts, and sketchy pow we experienced.
    BTW, I took a close look at the map, and the Mammoth Gulch approach is that road where we saw the sign atop the ridge-so even with that approach one would still have to climb out of the basin after the descent.
    Maybe the best way to go is to approach from the top, and bring a light bit of rope and rap in to check conditions, then descend the line and climb out to St. Mary’s.


    Sorry it took me a while to move this TR to the right forum Adam.

    Good stuff, loving this pic!


    That is a sweet line. Very nice pictures as always. :disco:


    Nice one Reiner. Thats certainly one of the sick FR targets. Talk to Steepy about a complete descent; I beleive he, Cody K and Craig skied it from the top last May. He would be able to shed some light on the 60 degree segment; my recollection is that they made it sound to be fairly chill; I dont think they climbed it either; dropped in from top; approaching on the ridge; but I could be wrong; Steepy where you at? (oh he’s guiding on Ranier right now so prob not online)

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