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St. Mary’s Glacier Snowshoe, St. Mary’s/Alice CO Snowshoed 3/29/14

3 Apr
Looking back Over St. Mary's Lake

Looking back Over St. Mary’s Lake

Starting Elevation: 10,423 Ft

Highest Elevation: 11, 023 Ft

Trail Length: To the base of the glacier and back it is 2 miles round trip

Trail Uses: Snowshoe, skis, snowboards, cross country skis

Degree of Difficulty: To the glacier easy to moderate

Bathroom: Yes – there is a well used port -o-potty in the parking lot

Fees:  $5 a day.

Pets: Yes

Looking towards the Glacier over the frozen Lake

Looking towards the Glacier over the frozen Lake

Same view In July 2013

Same view In July 2013

2 weeks ago we won an all expense paid trip to Estes Park… I am so excited and will tell you all about as soon as we get to experience it!  Because of that, I decided that a break from Rocky Mountain National Park was due this past weekend.  I thought it might be fun to try a more advanced snowshoe since the weather was supposed to be pretty awesome on Saturday and St. Mary’s glacier was the one I wanted to do.  To be honest snowshoeing to the Glacier isn’t advanced but going up the glacier to James peak is.  We had no desire to summit James Peak we just wanted to go to the base and back to enjoy the amazing views on what was supposed to be a perfect day. I had great expectations for the day….

Then I got a crown on Thursday and that 3rd shot hit a nerve, it was almost comical at how quickly my whole left side of my face swelled up, I could see my cheek like it wasn’t my cheek.   What wasn’t so great was the pounding headache I had on Friday that forced me into bed all day.  Saturday morning it was kinda ghosting around so we went ahead and stuck to our plan.

The drive was lovely, no traffic jams on I 70, dry roads and breathtakingly blue skies.  When we got to the parking lot around 7:30, we were super excited and then we open the door ….well I tried to open the car door…. the wind was BAD.

Starting out

Starting out

Not easily deterred, we suited up and headed up.  It was a super beautiful every where we looked and what a huge contrast from the summer when it was different beauty:

Same area in Summer

Same area in Summer

But when the wind hit, we just sort of stopped and stood and waited until it finished up.  We were still optimistic we could make the journey we originally planned.

As the Glacier and its surrounding peaks came into view our optimism died, the snow blowing off and around it never stopped or slowed.  We saw snow funnels on the slopes… tall ones.  I had never seen one of those before.  But deep down there was still HOPE and we had not yet put on our snowshoes so we took a bunch of pictures at St. Marys Lake and headed to the glacier.

me at the lake

We got over to the trees to put on our snowshoes and that is when I discovered you put a bizarre amount of pressure on your jaw when putting snowshoes on while wearing a backpack … My headache went back to raging once they were on.

Heading towards the glacier

We headed up the glacier not once, not twice but 3 times.  Each time we would get in the middle of the winds and try to go a little further and then just get freaked out and turn around.  Again if I had more Avalanche training I might have approached it differently but we could not see anything in the windy snow and we could not even look at the mountain ridges to see what the cornices looked like or see what was coming at us from in front or even where we had just come from.

getting close to the wind tunnel

getting close to the wind tunnel

As close to the heaviest wind I could get with my camera

As close to the heaviest wind I could get with my camera

Looking Back the way we came in the wind tunnel

Looking Back the way we came in the wind tunnel

We were out of our comfort zone on a beautiful Bluebird sky but windy day.   My head was pounding worse with each attempt and after the 3rd one, I called it.  We headed back down and home where I crawled into bed after taking some Alieve.

Me Giving up

Me Giving up

I felt so lazy later when I was  feeling better, so Sunday we hit North Table Mountain ( Hike Details here) to get extra mileage and climb in for the weekend.  The day was beautiful but I forgot my camera!

Directions: Take I70 west and exit at Fall River Road ( Exit #238), turn right on to Fall River Road take it up 10 miles past the town of Alice. Look for the Glacier Hike sign on your left; 100 yards past the sign is a public parking lot. $5 to park.

Windswept

Windswept

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James Peak (2nd time’s the charm!) Via St. Mary’s Glacier, Alice CO hiked 8/31/13

4 Sep

1

James Peak has been haunting me since we had to turn around with the summit in view because of lightning.  I had figured doing a 14er over a long weekend would make more sense but I struggled a little bit at 12,550Ft last weekend so I decided to put it off one more week and worked this repeater/failed summit attempt into our schedule.

2

Here are the details of the first time we hiked James Peak.

We got a very early start ( 6:30AM) and so pretty much had the trail to ourselves.  It was a perfect morning, cool with a slight breeze to keep me from sweating too much and almost no clouds in the sky.  I just missed sunrise itself but the sky was coming alive with sun while it set the mountains on fire.  It was awesome.

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The shocking part for me was seeing how dramatically different the Glacier itself was, like a third of the size it was just 2 months ago.  We ended up walking up most of the way on the glacier rubble  and only had to do a short stretch on the remaining snow.  Here are a couple of  pictures

2 months ago the snow came up to where I was standing taking this picture

2 months ago the snow came up to where I was standing taking this picture

No more glacier here just rubble and some running water from what is melting above

No more glacier here just rubble and some running water from what is melting above

The other amazing part of nature here was how vast all the flowers were throughout the glacier rubble given that 2 months ago it was all under snow and now these were so robust!

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This bush was covered in butterflies and bumble bees....also growing in Glacier Rubble

This bush was covered in butterflies and bumble bees….also growing in Glacier Rubble

The glacier wasn’t the only part of the hike alive with flowers, the flats had these beauties everywhere and they stretched up to the summit climb.

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I will admit I was not feeling so hot almost the whole climb up the glacier and once on the flats, I was pretty certain I was going to be sick.  I slowed it down and tried to drink as much water as I could and as we moved along the flats I started to feel better, until we hit the summit climb.  I can tell how bad I was feeling in that I completely flaked taking any pictures of it but we did keep going and little by little I started to get it under control.

We made it past our turnaround point from the last attempt with the skies looking beautiful and the wind stopping almost completely.   There are some steep parts through the switchbacks up but really it wasn’t too bad and before we knew it we had crested the ridge to the summit.

me on the summit

me on the summit

The Summit views looking North

The Summit views looking North

Summit facing East and a little North

Summit facing East and a little North

At the top we had it mostly to ourselves and one other couple, who were a wealth of hiking information.  Before I knew it, we had been talking to them for almost an hour!  We quickly got some pictures and then headed down as the summit started to get more crowded.  On the way down we saw this gentleman come up with his Lamas or alpacas, who were clearly very well-loved, I think he was a continental divide trail through hiker.  How cool to through hike with these companions!

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This hike was amazing, getting to the summit and see for miles was the best part of my week!  I also had great views of Grays and Torrey’s, which I think will be our next 14ers, we had amazing views of them throughout the hike.

The flats Grays n torreys

As always, I hope if you find yourself out this way, you can check out the hike it is worth every step up!  Now for some of our favorite pictures of the day.

to show how quickly things change weather wise...one the way to James peak beautiful blue skys

to show how quickly things change weather wise…on the way to James peak beautiful blue sky

Looking back on our way down from the same view point

Looking back on our way down from the same view-point we got to the car as it started to down pour

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James Peak Via St. Mary’s Glacier, Alice CO 6/29/13

7 Jul
James Peak

James Peak

The Glacier Hike> Jamaica Flats> James Peak:

Starting Elevation: 10,423 Ft

Highest Elevation: 13,294 Ft (2900 total elevation gain)

Trail Length: 8 miles ( It varies as you cross the Flats and start the summit) It took us 4 hours total.

Trail Uses: Hiker

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult due to elevation

Bathroom: Port-o-potty at the parking lots

Fees:  $5 to park per day ( 2 lots near the trailhead – No parking allowed on the roads around it)

St. Marys Lake from the Glacier

St. Marys Lake from the Glacier

To start out our vacation week in the mountains, I wanted to do a trail on the way to our condo and this one was supposed to be beautiful.   It would take us over 13,000 ft, had decent mileage and was supposed to get us around 2900 feet in total elevation gain.   Plus we would get to climb on the Glacier, which was something I have always wanted to do.

Parking lot

We actually started from the parking lot down the road back to the trailhead, although if you have to park in the other lot you will have to walk up the road to the trail.

walking to the trailhead

walking to the trailhead

We tried for an early start but with the extra packing for our week in Breckenridge we didn’t get to the parking lot until almost 7:30am.  Normally that wouldn’t be all that big of a deal but there was supposed to be a storm rolling in sometime between 11-2 so it cut down on how long we could take to get to the summit.

Trailhead

Trailhead

The trail itself starts out as an old 4×4 Jeep Road with a ton of rocks and a nice incline up to St. Mary’s Lake and the glacier.  In just 3/4 of a mile we got to the lake and the Glacier,  it took just 30 minutes.

To the left is the lake and the trail to the right goes up the glacier to James peak.

To the left is the lake and the trail to the right goes up the glacier to James peak.

We did stop for a few minutes and took pictures of how beautiful everything looked.  At this point we were hoping that the rain would hit more around 2 then 11 and the sky was supporting our hopes.

St. Marys Lake and GlacierOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From here we went back to the trail split, crossed over the stream and headed up the north side of the Glacier.

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We kept moving up and made it to the glacier part of the climb pretty quickly, then we slowed down.  Hiking up the glacier took longer then I thought it would, we were on it as long as it took us to get to the lake itself I had no idea it was so big.

As we reached the top of the Glacier

As we reached the top of the Glacier

After the climb up the glacier we reached the Jamaica Flats with James Peak directly in front of us.

James Peak

James Peak

The trail takes the flats on the left over an old jeep road.

The traverse to the peak

The view while we were on Flats

The view while we were on Flats

view before the summit climb

We started our summit climb looking at all the clouds starting to show up around the peak and all the peaks around us.  We moved as fast as we could while approaching 13,000Ft in altitude and so you know fast wasn’t really all that fast.  When we passed a few hikers coming down they said the clouds were all around on the other side as well and looking ominous not to make too many stops if we wanted to reach the summit before the storm hit.  It started raining on and off, then as we were maybe a quarter of a mile away from the summit we saw lightning just over the edge of the top.  That was a hike killer for us.  We turned right around and headed down, here is the picture I took just before we turned around:

View when we turned around

James Peak will always be there so no reason to risk getting hit by lightning when we can hit it again later.  Of course as we started to head down the storm got worse and then surprisingly better.  When we got back on to the flats, it was beautifully blue over James Peak which made us regret turning around.

James Peak as we were heading down.

James Peak as we were heading down.

The best part of this hike was the actually the beauty of the storms hitting all around us.

Storm over Grays & Torreys

Storm over Grays & Torreys

Storm over Mt.Evans

Storm over Mt.Evans

Overall it wasn’t too super tough just high up, on the way up we were pretty much alone and then on the way down the trail was super busy.  At the Glacier, it was insanely packed with lots of people partying at the lake before the 4th of July holiday week.  We did love the hike, it was beautiful and challenging!  We can’t wait to get back there and actually make it to the summit, we will leave much earlier next time though!   A few of our favorite pictures after the directions.

Directions:  Take I70 west and exit at Fall River Road ( Exit #238), turn right on to Fall River Road take it up 10 miles past the town of Alice.  Look for the Glacier Hike sign on your left; 100 yards past the sign is a public parking lot.  $5 to park.

Us on the way down

Us on the way down

The Lakes on the way up James

The Lakes on the way up James

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