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 Peak(s):  Hope A, Mt  -  13,933 feet
Ervin Pk  -  13,531 feet
Blaurock, Mt  -  13,616 feet
 Post Date:  12/04/2012
 Date Climbed:   12/01/2012
 Posted By:  geojed
 Additional Members:   VBALGAL, metalmountain, Dchild10

 Big Willis Style All In It!     

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Gettin' Jiggy Wit It in the Sawatch!

Peak: Mount Hope A - 13,933' (R#64), Ervin Peak - 13,531’ (R#233), Mount Blaurock – 13,616’ (R#186)

TH/Route: Willis Gulch TH - Via Mount Hope North Ridge and Ridge Traverse to Ervin and Blaurock.
Distance: ~14.5mi
Elev Gain: 6000'
Time: 13:30 (6:00am - 7:30pm)
Technical Gear: Brain (Microspikes and ice axe brought but not needed)
Travelers: Jed (geojed), Valerie (VBALGAL), Ryan (Dchild10), James (metalmountain)
Special Thanks: Jeff Kunkle & Otina (bergsteigen) – for the incredibly helpful beta/pics on the ridge from Mount Hope to PT13642


A year ago I was looking to climb the centennial Mount Hope but ended up doing the North Ridge Traverse on Huron Peak with Ryan (Dchild10). Fast forward a year and Hope was back on my mind as I’ve progressed through the Centennials. But, what’s the fun in just bagging one peak when there are others nearby that you can add on? Looking at the topo maps the ridge from Hope to Ervin and Blaurock looked doable. But what looks good on topo often may not “go”, this is especially true on ridgelines where contour lines really smooth out towers/cliffs and other irregularities that can stop your progress very quickly. I knew that Ervin-Blaurock would be possible due to the TR’s where people combined the two. The difficult and unknown section was near PT13642 between Hope and Ervin. I had inspected this section of ridge as much as possible using satellite views and scrounging around for photos from nearby peaks that would show the difficult section near PT13642. I posted on the forum a couple of months ago looking to see if anyone had done this ridge and didn’t get any responses. So, I decided to try for it anyways and posted this trip on the forum. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Kunkle came through BIG with a post saying that this ridge “goes” and provided a description of the ridge and pictures from when he did the traverse to Ervin from Hope in 2006. Thanks again Jeff!

I PM’d several people I had climbed with before and Ryan (Dchild10) and Valerie (VBALGAL) signed up. James (metalmountain) had posted on the forum about doing the “Tour de Massive” so I PM’d him to see if he wanted to join us and he signed on. We met at the Willis Gulch TH at 6AM. It was a seriously balmy 40F outside! I am a very exothermic person and just standing there by the cars I was already getting too warm and starting to sweat.

We started off across the bridge and immediately took a wrong turn on the other side. We turned left instead of right. Piper14er in his TR for Rinker Peak said that after the bridge to “go right for a little ways and then turn left.” We went about 100ft down the wrong trail when we realized our mistake and turned around. After going between the beaver ponds the trail begins to ascend up the side of the valley towards a ditch. 10mins after starting up the hill we had to stop to “de-layer” as it was so warm. I remarked that I would’ve been warm in shorts and a t-shirt! We made quick work of the climb up into Willis Gulch and took the trail for Little Willis Gulch where the trail split. There was only 6” or so of snow on the ground now and the trail was a nice moderate grade. As we got to treeline we got an incredible view of Centennial Mount Hope, our first objective of the day.
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Fantastic view of Centennial Mount Hope A, "Hopeful Couloir" not quite "in" yet I'd say!

Here we left the trail and crossed the meadow to the grassy slopes of Hope’s North Ridge, where we followed a use trail that switch-backed up the ridge before we split left to angle up towards Mount Hope.
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Route up to Mount Hope North Ridge shown in red

We took a short break once atop the ridge. Up until then, the north ridge of Hope had blocked the 30-40mph SW wind that had been forecast. To avoid that cross-wind we stayed below the ridge crest and followed the gentle talus/tundra ridge up towards Hope’s lofty summit.
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Ryan and Mount Hope North Ridge

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Looking down towards Twin Lakes and Mosquito Range

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James (metalmountain) trucking up the tundra

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La Plata (L) and Rinker Peak (R)

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Mount Hope final talus slopes

I arrived at the summit around 10AM and began building up the wind shelter that was on the summit to block the wind better and so we could all get out of the cold wind. 20-30min later Ryan, James and Valerie summited and we all huddled in the wind shelter, snacking and enjoying the incredible views that surrounded us.
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View south towards Missouri, Huron, Ice Mtn, North Apostle

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Looking West towards Blaurock and La Plata

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Looking North at Rinker and Elbert: Hey! I think I can see Brian T. on Casco updating his 13er list and FB status in real time!

After 15-20min of hanging out on the summit we were starting to get cold. While there, Valerie told us that she was going to go climb Quail Mtn instead of Ervin/Blaurock. So Ryan, James and I headed down Hope’s SW ridge towards the crux of the day, PT13642.
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Hope's SW ridge: PT13642, Ervin Peak, Blaurock

The terrain along Hope’s SW ridge was really unique and very interesting. It wasn’t your typical ridge. There were rocky bumps and pinnacles jutting up all over the place. Image
Looking back up Hope's SW fascinating SW ridge

As we got closer to PT13642, the spectacular couloirs on its east face came into view.
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Check out those couloirs on PT13642

From here we could spot the ramp that would lead us up to the first tower of PT13642.
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Route up first tower on PT13642.

Unfortunately, since the ramp was in the shade I couldn’t get a good photo of it. But it is a steep pile of blocks that don’t seem to be attached to anything. The rock was seriously fractured and blasted into boulders and flakes that were all resting on each other and somehow didn’t just slough off and fall into the basin. It almost looks like some giant piled these blocks there to make a sort of staircase to the top. Every handhold and foothold needed to be tested thoroughly. This wasn’t even the toughest part either.
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Ryan and James getting ready to climb the ramp to the first tower of 13642

The toughest part was the traverse from the first tower to the main summit of PT13642. I have drawn the approximate route in red on the picture below. From the first tower we descended down to our right until we come to a 1ft wide serrated knife edge of the very fractured rock. On the RIGHT side of this knife edge I spotted a 2ft wide walkway of fractured rock that was about 8ft below the knife edge. We followed this walkway ~30’ until it ended/cliffed out and then Ryan and I climbed back up to a break in the knife edge. From here I tested out a ledge along the right side of the knife edge that didn’t go so I came back to the cross-over. I spotted a 2ft wide talus ramp on the LEFT side of the knife edge that descended 20’ to its end where I would have to make a “snowy” step to another 2ft wide ramp that takes you back up to the ridge past the knife edge. The exposure here was quite significant as a slip/fall would take you on a quick trip down the 800’ couloirs on PT13642’s east face. I carefully and slowly headed down the ramp and tested the rocks beneath the snow on the “snowy” step and they were solid. So I headed up the other ramp back up to the ridge past the knife edge. PHEW! Ryan wasn’t sure what to do and once James had come behind Ryan to where James would climb up for the cross-over of the knife edge a 400lb boulder that James put his foot on moved on him. This really spooked him and Ryan and they decided to descend a scree gully and bypass/traverse below PT13642. From where I was, the ridge widened and the difficulties lessened and it was a quick scramble to the summit of PT13642.
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Gnarly traverse between towers on PT13642 shown in RED.

I continued down the SW ridge of PT13642 to the saddle with Ervin Peak and over an intermediate bump before heading up Ervin. While I was heading up Ervin I was very glad & relieved to see that Ryan and James had successfully traversed the scree gully and made it to PT13642’s SW ridge.
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PT13642's SW ridge

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Ervin Peak

I signed the register on Ervin’s summit, ate my yummy sandwich and munched on Doritos and yogurt covered raisins.
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Blaurock and rugged East Face of La Plata.

Ervin’s west ridge was an interesting route finding puzzle. The first tower had a nice ledge on the south side leading around it and the second tower is normally bypassed on the north side but with snow on the talus I decided to just climb over it.
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Tower on Ervin W ridge. Ledge halfway up on right side gets you past.

I then either traversed on the south side below the subsequent bumps or just climbed over them until it finally relented and I descended down to the Ervin-Blaurock saddle. As I headed towards Blaurock’s East Ridge I saw that Ryan had summited Ervin Peak. I was hoping he would continue towards Blaurock and I could meet him on my descent but he later told me that he knew he wouldn’t be able to catch up to me so he descended back towards James, who had seriously “bonked” and was making slow progress towards Ervin. They ended up descending down into the Big Willis Basin where I met them later below Willis Lake.
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Final climb to Blaurock's summit

I continued along Blaurock’s East Ridge that undulated up and down reminding me of Harvard’s East Ridge with how many bumps there are.
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Ridge to Rinker Peak. Not gonna happen today! Not enough sunlight left in the day.

I finally made it to Blaurock’s summit around 3:45pm and enjoyed the incredible view surrounding me.
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Mount Hope from Blaurock. Check out those cool rock glaciers! One of them even acts as the dam for Willis Lake.

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Blaurock's bumpy East Ridge

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Rinker, Twin Lakes, Mount Hope

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La Plata's impressive East Face

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Huron, Ice Mtn and West Apostle. What a beautiful basin!

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Self pic with last summit of the day.

I headed back down along the bumpy East Ridge, traversing across the steep talus to avoid the elevation gain/loss of the bumps. From the Ervin-Blaurock saddle I descended down snow covered tundra and talus into the head of the basin. At one point I about broke my Tibia when I accidently stepped into a snow covered hole in the steep talus. Luckily it just scratched my shin up a bit.
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Light is fading fast near old mine in Big Willis Gulch

I made it to an old mine with a trail that heads back down the valley. Ryan and James were still slogging along a trough across the numerous rock glaciers on the east side of the basin below Mount Hope’s slopes. Ryan and I both had cell phone reception and texted back and forth as to where to meet along the trail. We all finally got back together around 5:30 as the last light of the sun disappeared. By light of headlamp we headed down the seemingly endless trail and arrived back at the TH at 7:30pm exhausted from the day’s adventure.

Dinner at the Pizza Hut in Leadville warmed us up and we made it back to the T-Rex lot by 10:30pm.

What a day! Interesting challenges, incredible scenery, and great company; I couldn’t have asked for better. Thanks for coming Ryan, James and Valerie!


My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions (9)
metalmountain


That was..     2012-12-04 11:23:02
the longest walk through a boulder field EVER haha. Thanks for the invite Jed,it was awesome to see a part of Sawatch most people don't get to experience. Also, that rock Ryan kicked down may still be rolling down that gully.


Brian Thomas


updating your 13er checklist in real time     2012-12-04 11:59:26
Due to some, err... route finding ”issues”, we summited Casco long after when you topped out on Hope at 10am. The wind was a lot better than was forecast for Saturday, a beautiful day in the glorious Sawatch!


I Man


Very cool!     2012-12-04 12:42:43
Nice TR and photos Jed. Looks like a great day.

Congrats to all (except James, that guy sucks )


Wyoming Bob


And now I know who left the tracks . . .     2012-12-04 12:58:17
Picked up Rinker on Sunday and followed your tracks right most of the way . . . and you did the Willis icefall in the dark, nice.


dehrlich101


Damn it.. Got that song stuck in my head now.     2012-12-04 15:59:37
Wonder if there was actually a big Willis they named the basin after? That part of the swatch is very cool, I enjoyed Huron and La Plata quite a bit. Great report, definitely adding this to the to do list.


FireOnTheMountain


nice     2012-12-04 20:34:47
May have to check out those cooleys on 642 now....

Solid work fellas. No big surprise from you Jed


USAKeller


Nice job everyone!     2012-12-05 05:34:02
And great photos Jed!


geojed


Thanks     2012-12-05 12:24:49
James - And to think I was complaining about having to hike through the snow that had drifted into the old mining trail! You guys definitely took the ”tough” route down the basin.

Brian - The wind wasn't too bad and the temps were downright balmy for December!

Matt - Seriously, that James guy is a piece of work!

Bob - I'm glad our tracks helped you out...after you finally ended up on the correct trail that is. That icefall was something huh? James battled his way through the trees/willows on the left while Ryan and I climbed over the deadfall along the creek to our right.

Dehrlich - Glad you liked it. It's a fantastic circuit.

Abe - I was thinking the same with WRT to those cooleys on 642. Pretty sweet looking and they're steep ones too!

Caroline - Thanks! It turned out to be an awesome day in the hills.


tdawg012


Good work     2012-12-05 16:54:43
Congrats getting past pt 13642 safely. Sketchy stuff! Good pictures and report, someday I'll add my version



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