Peak(s):  Hope A, Mt  -  13,933 feet
Sayres BM  -  13,738 feet
La Plata Peak  -  14,336 feet
Date Posted:  06/22/2015
Modified:  06/29/2015
Date Climbed:   06/08/2015
Author:  SnowAlien
 Sawatch Classics   

Mt. Hope

May 27, 2015
Trailhead: Sheep gulch
Ascent: East ridge, Descent: Hopeful couloir
Mileage: 8 miles
Vertical: 4,700 ft
Time: 8.5 hours
Max speed: 21 mph
Partner: Sam

It's my 4th day of skiing in a row and I am tired and cranky. It's snowing lightly at 6am and visibility is almost non-existent. Sam is setting a grueling pace which I can't match today. Still, I am happy to have a partner and have a shot at skiing Hope. Despite cold and wind, we are making decent progress towards Hope pass from Sheep Gulch TH. Once we reach the pass, it gets even colder and windier, and I put all my layers on. Where is spring?

Quail mountain, another possible objective today

We skin almost to the top of the ridge, but are finally forced to throw skis on the packs for the last hundred feet. It's a short walk from the ridge to the summit. After a brief stay on the summit, it was time for the task we've been anticipating - Hopeful couloir ski descent.

Centennial #97

Sam is off the summit ridge

The entrance certainly looks intimidating to both of us. I volunteer to drop in first. Snow conditions appear to be perfect - powder.

Peeking into the couloir

Dropping in

Intimidating first turns

Sam drops in

After initial intimidating jump turn or two, we know we got it, and it's time to enjoy the ride


Sam in the couloir

Lower in the couloir we have our first encounter of the avy debris, and have to carefully pick our line

Lower in the couloir - Natalie

Lower in the couloir

Looking up

We are both thrilled to have skied down such a demanding line, which I won't mind to ski again. We are a bit bummed that the lower part of the couloir wasn't perfect corn, but we notice some other lines off the ridge that still hold smooth snow. We decide to forgo Quail and go for the 2nd lap instead. Just a couple hundred feet higher up the ridge the reality sets in. We both feel tired and also anticipate the snow conditions to be warming up, despite only sporadic sun today. With that in mind, we stop at the closest line and transition back to skiing.

Sam off the ridge

Skiing 2nd lap - Natalie

Snow feels much heavier and wetter than before. It's getting harder to make turns. After bonus 500 ft vert, we are satisfied with our efforts and head back up the pass. We are glad we didn't ski Quail today, as the south aspect off the pass deteriorates quickly. It's survival skiing in saturated wet spring snow at it's best. Thankfully, we are soon back to the dry ground, near 11k. Skis go back on the pack and I am already anticipating switching into trailrunners for the first time this spring that I stashed halfway up the trail. Overall, a very satisfying day of skiing a Sawatch classic with a solid partner.

Sam on the hike out

Sayers BM and La Plata

June 8, 2015
Sayers BM routes: ascent - Grand Central, descent - X Rated
La Plata routes: SW ridge ascent (from Sayers BM), North face Main couloir descent
Mileage: 14 miles
Vertical: ~6,500 ft
Time: 14+ hours
Max speed: 23 mph
Partner: Jeremy

Cloudless night. Temperature gauge reads 31 F at the car. The possibility of the Deep Freeze after what seems like couple of weeks of no freeze is looking real. Jeremy and I start hiking by 3.15am with skis/board on our packs. We soon run into a couple hikers who are going for La Plata and we play leap frog for the next few miles of the standard route.

Crossing iced over logs in the dark

Supportive willows of the La Plata gulch. Lackawanna in the background

Last time I was here, Hugh and I were able to skin up the drainage directly from the treeline. This time, we were forced to take La Plata NW ridge trail a bit longer, but eventually we found a good spot to drop ~200 ft and re-join the La Plata gulch. Amazingly, the willows were supportable, so we kept booting.

Catching the alpenglow on Sayers. It's amazing

I couldn't help myself but take a gazillion photos of Sayers

As we were getting closer, Sayers is revealing it's true colors - an impressively avied face. Today, all avy debris is frozen in place.

Nevertheless, I keep asking myself - what are we going to ski here?

I keep hoping that maybe it's just the apron of Grand Central that is looking like this and we may find better real estate above

Frozen avy debris makes for perfect staircase though and we make our way up.

Grand Central, aka "grundle central"

As we round the corner, the view is still the same. Grand Central looks unskiable from top to bottom. The heavily corniced East ridge has avalanched during the warm temperature week, with multiple slab and point release avys cascading down the couloir, wiping it out.

Upper part of Grundle Central

Crown of a slab avy that cascaded down the couloir

Approaching the top of the ridge via Grand Central

Only the top 300-400 ft of the couloir is grundle-free, but it doesn't give us enough length of the line to ski

We momentarily forget our troubles as we arrive on the narrow summit around 9am. The views on a clear day are spectacular.


Natalie. La Plata in the foreground

Grizzly A

Three Apostles and Huron

We take a look at the conditions of the X Rated. The left side of it looks nice and clean. We both agree that this looks like the best option for us to get down. After sliding off the summit, I drop first into the couloir.

It's exhilarating and committing, but the first turn on Mt. Hope felt steeper, so I have a point of reference

First turn goes well and I find my rhythm

Jeremy off the top


Half way down the couloir.

X Rated

Our main goal is to keep finding the clean real estate, which is not always possible.

Halfway down the couloir, the main branch looks heavily runnelled and rocky, which doesn't give us enough options. We exit left, and find the snow still hard and icy. We exit right.

At least there are options and we make the best of it

It is absolutely thrilling to ski in such a grand setting


Down on the apron we have nothing but the narrow strip of snow to work with. It's just enough!

It feels satisfying to ski a demanding line like this with limited options. We are absolutely thrilled. I could only imagine what it feels like when it's in perfect conditions, although all the cornices are giving me a serious pause. We evaluate our options. It's only 10am and we are feeling pretty good. We are also less than excited about the long flat deproach back to the TH through the willows. Snow still feels cold. Should we go for La Plata? Jeremy hasn't been there yet. I skied La Plata in perfect conditions last May and don't mind going back and possibly skiing another line on the North face. Jeremy is on board and we transition for a 2,300 ft slog up the SW ridge.

Approaching the summit of La Plata.

Halfway up La Plata, Jeremy is hurting, as he is low on food and water. I don't catch it until we get to La Plata, and it takes us longer than expected to get to the summit. Jeremy is nauseous, but I convince him to eat and drink a bit. He seems to be feeling a little better and we get ready for the descent.

La Plata summit ~1pm. Jeremy arrives a little later, and I scope the lines while I wait

Dropping into the couloir on the North face

Jeremy is dropping in

Skiing North face couloir. We encounter more debris, but by now we are used to it, and it's soft.

Since we are late, we are taking less photos and try to get down faster, even though skiing feels sloppier on tired legs.

Snow is still holding up, but just barely

I hug the right side of the couloir as it feels cooler due to Western aspect component. The left side feels mushy to me, but Jeremy doesn't seem to mind it on a splitboard

Jeremy in the lower section of the couloir

I take one last shot of the upper section before booking it down to the apron

The apron is soft an mushy past 2pm, but even then nothing releases. Deep freeze the night before did wonders to the snowpack.

Our line down the North face

La Plata's North face

All is left is a long tiring deproach from La Plata basin on soft snow back into La Plata gulch. We are both hurting by now and are ready to be done.

Rough exit through soft snow

Eventually, we found ourselves on the dry ground, well, except for the raging creeks.

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

 Comments or Questions

Another nice one.
06/23/2015 09:02
I always enjoy your TR’s, Natalie. But it usually takes me a couple days to get through all the fine pictures. And, they always make me wish I knew how to ski!


Impressive, Natalie!
06/23/2015 09:49
4 ski days in a row – jeesh! Some great skis here...congratulations. Hope looked amazing. You guys hit it in its prime! Wish I could join you this weekend!

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