Tuesday, September 13, 2011

James Peak and Runnin' for Fun

Getting back into some good, hard runs as my schedule allows. Managed a quick jaunt into the James Peak Wilderness on Sunday.

Running has been going well lately, when I've scraped together the time to fit it in. Work/family schedules have been crazy lately, so I've been plunged into the world of inconsistency. A biz trip last week to Mexico City (and 14+-hour work days) threw a big wrench into things.

I haven't been sweating much the inconsistency, especially since I don't have any races on the calendar yet. Still, I'm hoping to pick things up later this week and return to some facsimile of a running routine. Fingers crossed for less schedule craziness.

Recent running highlights included a trip to Mt. Falcon with JY and SY for a v1 circuit (14.3 miles; 2:16, 2,830 feet o' elevation gain), and an alpine sojourn on Sunday up James Peak (9 miles; 2:36; 3,048 feet o' elevation gain).

My namesake peak, James Peak, is an easy, close-in 13'er (13,294 feet) with access from St. Mary's Glacier.  (Alright, the peak is actually named for a Edwin James, a botanist who was on an 1820 Rocky Mountain expedition.) If you go, there's parking in a couple of private lots below St. Mary's Glacier. I met the guy that owns the lots. He seemed like a nice guy, but he takes his parking rules seriously.  Pay the $5 to park in his private lots so you don't get towed or have the sheriff show up with his ticket-writing book.

I was up early and running by about 7 a.m. There were a few campers stirring at St. Mary's Lake at the base of the glacier, but other than that, I had the place to myself. In fact, I didn't see anyone the entire day until within half a mile of the glacier on my return.

The ascent is pretty easy, with some steep stuff up through the trees and a lot of gentle running through the tundra flats before entering the wilderness area and beginning the ascent of James' long southeastern slope.

Heading up toward James Peak, about a quarter mile from wilderness boundary.
Looking south toward, I think, Grays and Torreys Peaks (right) 
Mt. Bancroft (left) and James Peak (right)
I love these signs. James Peak to the left.
The James Peak Wilderness and James Peak Roadless Area were created in 2002 and encompasses 17,015 acres. The entire area only has about 20 miles of trails. It borders the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the north and the Vazquez Wilderness and Vazquez Roadless Area to the west. The Continental Divide Trail runs through it. This place should serve as a good reminder to all of us that things like new wilderness areas and new trails don't happen by accident.  It takes years of commitment and the support of people like you and me to protect and expand our public lands. Plans for the James Peak Wilderness had been around for years before then-Rep. Mark Udall got it passed in 2002.

Take the time to make your voice heard on public lands issues you care about, whether that's night access issues in OSMP in Boulder, or new wilderness areas near the Front Range.  Speaking of new wilderness areas, check out the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal and let your reps in Washington, D.C. know you think it's worthwhile.

Looking down on Ohman (?) Lake with Mt. Bancroft looming above.
Ice Lake
View from the summit of James Peak toward Winter Park.
Chillin' summit style.
Looking back up-trail toward James Peak
Year round jibbing on St. Mary's Glacier
St. Mary's Lake
Fall was definitely in the air on this run. The wind was coming hard from the west, and I was pretty damn chilled anytime I stopped. Thank goodness for the 2-3 wind shelters at the summit.

I thought about descending to the north from the summit and dropping down to James Peak Lake and climbing back up to the tundra flats for the return to St. Mary's Glacier, but between the wind, the chill and the fact my allotted time was quickly dwindling, I opted to retrace my steps back to the truck.

A wonderful morning in the high country.


  1. Very cool! Glad to see you're getting some good running in.

  2. The post, pics, and progress are all inspiring. Best wishes!

  3. Nice run! And thanks for the Hidden Gems heads-up. I'll definitely check that out.

  4. Awesome morning Jim, glad to see the running is going well.
    Rick Merriman