Peak: Mount Hope Route Taken: Ascent via Hopeful Couloir, Descent via Southeast Ridge Times: Leave trailhead 2:20 am, Hope pass 4:15 a.m, Bottom of couloir 4:45 a.m, Begin snow climb 5:30 am, top of couloir 7:10 am, summit 8 am. Begin descent 9:15 a.m, start cussing at partner convincing me to descend SE Ridge 10:30 a.m, back to trailhead by 11:20 am Distance: 6.8 miles RT Elevation gained: 4466'
First Trip Report...so be kind
The amount of good snow climbs I was getting in this season was quite a bit less than I had originally planned, but life happens. When a buddy of mine said he had a rare weekend available and he mentioned a snow climb, I was in. We discussed our options, and having seen the Hopeful couloir from Quail a couple weeks earlier, I figured it would still be in good shape, and we should give it a go.
We car camped a little farther east of the Sheep's Gulch trailhead along Rd 390. Set our alarms for 1:20 a.m. to allow plenty of time to cook up some food, and coffee and finish any packing and rearranging of gear. After the buzzer went off, we packed up and drove the half mile or so back down to the trailhead. It had rained off and on throughout the night, but the stars were completely visible at 2:00 a.m. and it was very warm. I was a little nervous that it was so warm at 2:00 a.m. at 10,000 feet, and was hoping the snow in the couloir would still in good condition.
Other than shedding a few layers, we kept a steady pace up the trail towards the Hope pass. It took us roughly 2 hours to get to the pass, making our arrival around 4:00 a.m. We could see in the early morning twilight that there was still a solid line of snow in the couloir itself. The apron had thinned quite a bit since I saw it a couple weeks before, but all signs were pointing to go. Just to the south side of the Hope pass, as you descend down the trail towards the Willis Gulch trailhead, was a good sized snowfield. We did some stomping around and it was solid snow, not too mushy, not too frozen....excellent!
From the pass we descended the trail to the north 0.2 miles and then did a western traverse over towards the lower portion of the couloir. It took us half an hour to skirt some snowfields and do some talus hopping over to our objective. The lower part of the couloir starts around 12,600 ft. A few hundred feet up you have options, the gully to the climber's left looked a little shallower, and is the route to take if the cornice at the top of the main couloir is threatening. From our judgement, the cornice was not an issue and we would proceed taking the "normal route" which offered the most snow climbing.
Looking up at the 2 options we had early on. The main couloir (climbers right) is sometimes threatened by a large cornice at the top. We determined it was a non issue for our climb.
Early morning view of 2 couloirs
Another picture of the 2 couloirs. We chose the main couloir on the climbers right.
Another shot of the two options
Soon after we had made our decision and started gearing up. We were treated to an awesome sunrise.
Sunrise with the Twin Lakes to the northeast of us.
Awesome sunrise looking NE over twin lakes
Crampons were on, axe in hand. Time to start the fun stuff. This was the first time I used a pole in my non-axe hand and it was very nice. I didnt rely on it for any kind of belaying, but it was good to have the off hand able to give another point of contact with the snow.
Right as we entered the snow, the top was bathing in the alpenglow.
Hopeful bathing in the alpenglow
Beginning the snow climb
Looking up the Hopeful couloir from 12,600
The snow was in spectacular condition. The angles were mellow for the most part, and allowed me to test different cramponing techniques in a relatively safe environment.
Looking up the couloir again.
There is a rock rib about halfway up the couloir. Right as you are nearing this rib you can tell this is a spot that collect a lot of rockfall from the north face. I only witnessed 1 softball sized rock that came down the chute during our climb.
From the midway point of the snow climb, looking down off the rock rib.
Looking down about halfway up the climb
Looking up the remaining route from that same midway point.
Looking up from halfway
A little farther up the angles began to steepen, but the snow was still in awesome condition. It was solely front-pointing and "American" technique for me, which I feel very comfortable with.
Looking up at the exit, normally a cornice guards it
Looking back down
Close up view of the area that is normally corniced. I ended up taking the route to the left of the rock rib in this picture
Close up view of the what remained of the cornice
Around 7:00 a.m. the snow climbing was over. We took some more pictures, changed out our axes and crampons for poles and had a quick snack.
Brian nearing the top of the couloir
Loki and Brian making their way over
We started hiking our way up to the summit at 7:30. At this point the wind had picked up quite a bit and cooled things off a lot. It took about 20 minutes or so to get to the top. We ducked in behind the summit wind break and had another snack and waited for the wind to die down, and the clouds to blow out.
Dharma, Denali and Loki on the summit of Hope
Pooches on the summit
We talked over our options on the descent route. The east ridge was the most obvious choice and the one I had planned on taking, but Brian was pretty confident he knew where we needed to descend on the Southeast ridge route. It was decided that we would give it a shot, and we began our way down.
Peering down the Southeast ridge route
Looking down the nice grassy slopes of the Southeast ridge route. It is very deceiving. It starts nice and mellow with a lovely grass slopes that gradually become very steep. The route finding then becomes an issue because you cliff out on the entire ridge except for a rather small and somewhat hard to find gully, which is steep, loose, and just all-around suck. Overall this route was not that fun, and don't really suggest to anyone unless you just want something completely different that involves a little route finding.
Relaxing on the slopes
Brian and the dogs relaxing on the slopes
We noticed we were heading down the wrong gully and were going to cliff out. We upclimbed 100 feet or so and then traversed a little more to the north until we found the gully we needed to take.
Traversing back over to the correct gully
Traversing over to another gully after our first cliffed out
Once we left the gentle ridge, it was steep and steeper down a grass gully and then down a drainage gully that was full of loose rock, scree, and dirt. Ulimately led to some talus hopping, and then we were finally down the trail proper around 10:00 a.m. From there it was a good hike on a good trail back to the car.
Looking back up to the ridge and the grassy slopes we descended
Looking up the gully
Looking down at the normal route up to Hope pass
The normal route up from sheep gulch below us
The crap gully
The gully we slid down to meet back up with the trail
The line we took off the ridge.
The line we took off the ridge
We finally reached the trailhead at 11:20 a.m. and were pretty exhausted. The overall mileage and elevation on paper didnt seem that much, but we were beat when we retreated back to our camp spot. We just had a little packing to do, gave the dogs something to eat and drink and then headed out. A quick bite at the Chuckwagon BBQ (the chuck wagon that is parked in the parking lot of the hardware store) really hit the spot, and then we were headed back home.
Overall this is a great snow climb and we had a great day in the Sawatch!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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