Shooting Star Couloir

19 Jun 2007 - by Joshua Deuto

I hit the trail at 4:15a. My goal was to be at the base of the couloir by 7a. The trail is big and easy to follow to the base of the glacier. Given that it was a weekday, there weren't any other folks out this early.

The weather was 45F, slight breeze, no clouds.

The glacier was in excellent condition, much snow, well consolidated. An ice axe is useful for the steepest part (just in case).

Jamaica Flats was relatively snow free, and the view of the NE face of James Peak was stunning in the morning light. As you head across the flats, trend north of the giant east slopes of James Peak. This is approx 1 mile from the top of St. Mary's Glacier. Once you get to the rim of the little basin below the NE face, make a ascending contour to the south (climbers left). The view of the NE face from here is awe inspiring. There is a small ridge that juts out to the north from the East ridge of James. I traversed towards this ridge via a snow field, then descended scree directly to the base of the NE face. The route is obvious and looming from this vantage point.

The climb is a straight forward steep snow climb. I choose to go directly to the cornice, as described in Roach's book. The cornice was large and present, but the snow conditions were excellent. Crampons were mandatory. Once I got to the cornice, I was able to traverse to the left of the cornice up 30 feet of rocky ledges to the top of the route - Most descriptions of this route indicate a 5.4 section to the right of the cornice - I felt the climbing to left was low fifth class and secure. A rope might be helpful, as there is some exposure here. Once you surmount this last challange, it is an easy walk to the summit.

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