| High on Hope
Mount Hope - 13,933'
Hopeful Couloir (moderate snow)
7 1/2 miles RT
4413' vertical RT
Climbed with: Shanahan96, Ben White, Erica White
You can't miss it. Well anyone who has driven from Leadville to Buena Vista along US24, or crossed Independence Pass can't miss it anyway. It practically stares you down from behind Twin Lakes beckoning you to climb. Colorado's 64th highest peak, Mount Hope. For years I have driven by, and every time I find myself staring at the couloir that splits the northeast face, "Hopeful" its called. And for years I have been hopeful that I would find it in perfect condition when I finally got the opportunity to climb.
That day finally came, as Jamie (Shanahan96) joined two of my Baker partners and I for a spring ascent. We met in Buena Vista the night before for Prime Ribs at Quincy's; a necessary loading of energy for the stiff climb that awaited us in the morning. Setting up a quick camp at a pullout off of Clear Creek Road we slept fast, for it was a 4am wake up call to make sure we could get in the couloir early enough to avoid the snow getting too soft on us.
The climb starts at the Sheep Gulch Trailhead for the Hope Pass spur of the Colorado Trail. The first part of this climb wakes you up in a hurry, as it climbs sharply through the forest with no flat spots until you are over 1000' up. Actually this was quite nice, it sure beats the 3 miles flat approaches that the Colorado Trail sometimes offers. We were definitely making progress. Finally near tree line the trail starts to relent a little and Hope Pass makes its first appearance. This is a great spot to turn around, especially in the early morning, to see the alpenglow grace the summits of Belford, Browns and Huron.
Here is a view of Browns with a piece of Huron behind:
Up to this point any snow we had to cross was very minimal and firm. Maybe 6 or 7 steps at the most and we were across. The biggest obstacle so far was the stream that decided to follow the trail. In the dark with leaves floating on top of the pooled sections it was easy to posthole in a puddle. Above the trees, however, we were finally starting to get to some snow. Mostly in the form of snowfields that crossed the trail, they were firm and required careful steps as we crossed them on their side. The trail would break the snow often, and it was easy to tell where to go, up of course. All the way to Hope Pass, where the views were rewarding and so was the snack break.
Jamie taking Hope Pass while Belford and friends watches:
At this point you are required to drop about 200-300' from the pass to bypass a rocky ridge that prevents easy passage to the base of the couloir. Finally some sun to warm us up, and a snowfield to make short work of the descent. As we rounded the corner of this rocky fin we were presented with an inspiring view of Hopeful Couloir and the next leg of our climb.
Hopeful from near Hope Pass:
At the base of the couloir was a nice area of melted out talus that was perfect for gearing up: crampons, gaitors, helmets and ice axes. It was now time to start climbing, and my excitement was hard to contain. I love snow climbs, and with another party hot on our tails was anxious to get in the couloir first so not to be below them.
Looking up the couloir from its base:
I guess my excitement level was a little too high, as I looked back and realized I was putting a little too much distance between me and my partners. Unfortunately 35-40 degree snow is not a good place to stand and rest, but up ahead that rock looks pretty good. It was a good midway break anyway, as I needed a quick drink of water, and 35-40 degree slopes aren't good places to take your pack off and do that either. I peered over the rock and saw that Jamie was catching up with two of the other climbing party's members on his heels. It was starting to get warm, and a rock broke from the cliffs above to my left. "ROCK" I yelled as everyone stopped to follow its progress. It smashed into bits from a large rock it struck and harmlessly disintegrated without incident.
Jamie and Co. from my break spot:
We let the other party pass while enjoying our restful perch, and soon they were taking a right at a fork above us. We waited for them to get ahead to avoid any more rockfall, and started on our way. When we got to the fork, the first thing we thought was "why did they go that way?" First there was the cornice, and second there was the chossy looking class 3 exit that avoided it. Straight up seemed the best best, no cornice and a nice steep snow finish - just the way I like it. A few harmless small rocks were kicked loose from the other party and we were reminded why we don't like being below others. Glad we took the main couloir, we pressed on.
Climber from other party ascends the right fork:
Looking up at the elegant steep finish to the main Couloir:
Soon we were putting the vertical behind us as we neared the top, and the crux pitch. Here the steepness was at least 45 degrees, possibly as much as 47 or 48. To our right was a small cornice, but right above us an elegant edge that deposited us to a 13,700' flat spot below the summit. As we neared the top a few other climbers, who we later found out were ShaneB and TurboCat, were nearing us on the East Ridge route.
Jamie finishes the couloir:
We summited with 5 other people from 2 other climbing parties, a total of 7 of us were on the summit at once with Ben and Erica still ascending the couloir. I have a knack for always making their first climb of the year steep and strenuous, they are going to stop accepting my offers... 20 minutes later Jamie and I were the only ones left as Ben and Erica started to make their way over the final steps of the ridge to join us. In total 9 people summited Hope on Saturday, which has got to be some kind of record for that peak. 13ers are becoming the new 14ers.
Summit view towards Twin Lakes:
Summit view towards LaPlata and points southwest:
We took some pictures, had some food and started our descent. There were a few fun glissades to be had along the way and soon we were on the trail once more. A perfect place to have lunch before the long steep descent that awaited us. At least we had a few glissades to save the knees!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):