Trip Report: Backcountry Splitboarding James Peak SE Face (Lite) – May 6, 2017

Injuries have plagued Emerson for the past several weeks after an unintentional off-trail mountain bike barrel roll. He’s been heartily recovering from stitches, multiple nasty cuts, and a sprained wrist with lots of RICE (the IC being ice cream). So when he agreed to go on a backcountry tour, I was ecstatic! With his injury in mind, we decided on James Peak for it’s relatively short approach and easy route-finding.
In the time since our last mountain jaunt, we had become rusty with the whole getting up early thing. And so we found ourselves arriving at the St. Mary’s parking lot at 8:45am to typical St. Mary’s weekend crowds. Once parked, the weather cajoled us to strip into short sleeves and lather sun screen on ourselves (Pigdog included) before setting off at 9 with our boards on our packs.
The 0.6 mile trail to the lake was mostly dirt, rocks, and people. It remained pretty crowded until about halfway up the glacier. In hindsight, according to what my quads and shoulders are telling me as I write this (the day after), I should have skinned up the glacier instead of boot packing the entire thing on already mashed potato snow, but oh well.
The top of glacier is about 1.35 miles and 1100ft from the parking lot. A plain of moss and views of James Peak in the distance greeted us. The next 1.35 miles across these plains are brutally uneventful and you are sure to realize that you’ve underestimated how far James Peak is at some point. Regardless, it’s still a nice respite with little elevation gain.
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As we headed up James Peak itself, the weather was 70 and sunny. The mashed potato snow was quickly turning super cheesy, meaning it was sticking to everything and would unapologetically clog arteries. With the sloppy snow conditions and some building clouds in view, Emerson and I decided to transition under the first rocky knob (~12,700) on the SE face.
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We got a good number of turns down the face before post holing a short stretch back across the mossy plains. Objectively, it was only moderately fun skiing but the presence and enthusiasm of Pigdog following us brought next-level silly joy to the experience. I hope the videos below (a) convey the effort-demanding snow, and (b) make you a fan of the lovable wonder that is our Pigdog.
Overall, I had a blast on this little adventure despite the unsubtle summer conditions. I imagine more fun awaited us had we appropriately prepared to summit James Peak before 9am and beat the melt. However, I take a day of plowing through cheese snow with my two favorites living things in the world over a flat, snowless day with unearned ice cream. Maybe that’s just me.
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