Peak(s):  James Peak  -  13,294 feet
Date Posted:  06/23/2016
Date Climbed:   06/21/2016
Author:  ronbco
 Gentle James   

I have a couple small things to contribute about the SE route (Colorado Divide Trail) in this report.

A general comment about this trail is that it would be a good test for general endurance for a 14er, as it is 5 miles and 3k vert. But otherwise it is not representative of 14ers in that it is not steep, has no exposure and not even boulder fields. But it makes for a lovely, open, gentle hike above tree line with some great views of high mountain lakes.

In my obsession to climb all the peaks I can see from Longmont/Berthoud, I started focusing on James this year. I wanted a modest climb with a nice place to car camp. A week or so ago it seemed like it might be still deep and soft snow from any approach. I called the forest service offices for info on the roads. They were very nice and helpful. I settled on the road following Fall River which leaves the main road to St Mary's. On the map I had it is called Rainbow Road and it ends at Fall River reservoir or Chinns Lake.
We found the trail head just before the river crossing where the road switches back at 1.5 miles.
There are couple nice camp spots there. The nicer one is tucked in the trees on the north side of the road.
Surprisingly we lost the trail immediately after the sign, right at the camp site I mentioned! We just bushwhacked up the slope until we ran into it again. Upon our return we looked again and found the faint trail as a hard right (east) at the camp site.

The next thing to point out is when we reached tree line we decided to leave the trail to head toward the edge of the wall on the north side of the lakes. We wanted to stash some beer and our unneeded snow shoes for pickup on the other trail that would take us down to Loch Lamond. So we crossed a patch of willows that was marshy. It was more of a pain than it looked like it would be. I had hoped we would see the trail we would be taking down to the lake. But did not find it. I'd recommend staying on the CDT trail around the willows before heading over to the south-west side of this broad SE ridge for great looks at the higher lakes, including Ice Lake.

The rest of the ascent was uneventful. But I was surprised that you can't see the summit until about 13k. I used the snow field on the south side of the last 300 ft of the summit as a test of using micro spikes on a field that would be too steep otherwise. This is a great slope for training (thus says one who is not skilled on snowfields).

On top be sure to walk over to the North east part of the round summit to get the awesome view looking over the north wall.

On the way down we took off toward the south edge of the ridge to hunt for the trail that would take us safely down to Loch Lamond. We found it at the level of the krumholtz but it is faint and would be easy to miss or lose especially with snow patches, but it does keep one out of the willows. It drops you down on the lower end of the reservoir.
After enjoying the lake we returned down a road and then found the trail that drops down to the lower road (Rainbow Rd?) where we camped. Once again we somehow lost the trail right above the road but refound our car just 50 yards up the road.

One final note on James Peak; read the Wiki page and follow the link to learn of the impressive man who it is named after.

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