Peak(s):  Hope A, Mt  -  13,933 feet
Quail Mtn  -  13,461 feet
Date Posted:  07/16/2019
Date Climbed:   06/15/2019
Author:  supranihilest
 Getting Hopeful on Mount Hope  

Table of Contents

Mount Hope, Hopeful Couloir
Quail Mountain, West Ridge

With this year's incredible amount of snow it seemed like a good opportunity to chase after classic snow climbs. Due to said incredible amount of snow it took the snowpack a while to settle and be ideal for climbing. What better peak to test it out on than the aptly named Mount Hope? Hope's northeast face holds the Hopeful couloir, a wonderful moderate snow climb with an option for a steep snow finish. A couple of weeks ago three friends and I attempted the couloir and got to it in poor conditions - we weren't sure if we were an hour too late, or several weeks too early, but it was a complete mess of avalanche debris on top of knee deep slush when we hit the bottom at about 9am. We turned around within a few feet knowing the conditions were obviously not going to improve. I wasn't deterred though, I had to give it another shot.

On Friday, June 14, I packed my bag for an overnight and early morning attack. This meant carrying more than I wanted, including my least favorite piece of gear - a bear canister - but with longer summer adventures coming I had to start somewhere. I drove down to the Sheep Gulch trailhead from Boulder that afternoon, chatted with the lady in charge of maintaining the Sheep Gulch-to-Hope Pass section of trail for a few minutes, then headed up to treeline with my overstuffed pack, boots strapped to the side and snowshoes strapped beneath the brain. Since I'd come up this way a few weeks prior the trail went quickly, and there was significantly less snow this time around as well, making things quite nice. There was still some avalanche debris on the trail, but that was expected from the other trip.

Mother Nature, you scary. This was taken at 10,000-something feet, far below its origin in the basin far above.
A second avalanche across the trail, still below treeline.
Pure carnage. There was a more dense stand of trees here at one point. This avalanche came down one of Quail Mountain's gullies, high and to the
right, and was hundreds of feet wide and of an unknown (but long) length. Hope Pass is directly ahead with Hope's east ridge making the left skyline.

It only took me an hour and 20 minutes to reach treeline, where I had a difficult time finding a flat spot for my tent. I was able to locate an isolated section of the trail bounded by snow drifts and set my tent up directly on the trail, since it was the only flat thing around. Poor form, I agree, but it was late in the day (approximately 8pm), getting dark, and raining, plus 99% of the trail at this point was covered anyway so I figured it was probably no big deal. I planned to tear camp down before leaving super early in the morning as well, so I wasn't likely to be blocking anyone that might come through.

Yeah, right on the trail, and still not a great spot. Don't worry, I was up at 4:30 to tear
down camp.

I prepped and wolfed down my freeze dried curry, packed up all the smellables in my bear canister, and was in my sleeping bag at 10:30pm.

After a restless night's sleep my alarm went off at 4:30. On any regular day I'd go back to bed. On a climbing day? I'm wired. It's time to get up. I knew I had to be at the bottom of the couloir early, to get it while (or if) it's still frozen or solid, before it gets too much sun and warmth and starts softening up. Last time 9am was far too late, so I budgeted three hours to pack up camp and get to the couloir. That'd put me right at 7:30, which I hoped would be enough time to climb the full length of the couloir. There were escape options to the ridge if I needed them but that's no fun, right? All in all it took me just a hair over an hour to pack and eat. The snow was frozen perfectly so I put my snowshoes on for the added traction, knowing I'd be traversing and climbing snow most of the way to the couloir. It was a beautiful morning full of Hope.

Hope is a beacon.
Looking southwest, with Missouri Mountain on the left and Huron Peak on the right.

I still had two hours left of my budget but it only took 55 minutes to ascend the pass, drop down into Little Willis Gulch, and make my way to the base. The snow on the way was perfect, and the view of the couloir from just below the pass was stirring.


Another 10 minutes at the base delayering, swapping snowshoes for crampons, and putting on sunscreen and I was ready to launch. The bottom third to half was a huge pile of avalanche debris that I skirted on climber's left, since climbing up all the chunder would be really irritating and slow, like climbing through a field of suncups or penitentes.

There are numerous escapes to the right off climber's right, but the main couloir curves left between the rock bands.

Since Hopeful gets an early hit of sun and stays in the sun most of the day it's paramount to arrive early and move fast. The snow was just starting to soften up as I began to climb, just a thin layer of moist snow on top of a denser, semi-frozen layer below. I wasn't worried about wet avalanches yet, but I didn't dilly dally either. Just a couple hundred feet up the couloir narrowed enough that I was forced into the debris field.

Taken part way up the couloir, this shows the kind of snow I had to climb most of the way. You can see alternating runnels full of debris and smoother,
more even paths. They cross frequently but I attempted to stay where it was a little more consistent. The debris were icy and brittle and climbed poorly.
A large cornice guarded the cliffs up and climber's right. It didn't look particularly dangerous but I still wanted to get past it in case it was clinging to
life up there.

As I crept higher so too did the angle of the couloir. Near the first rock band the messy, broken snow gave way to noticeably smoother snow, and I could follow longer sections of easier climbing, even if it was steeper. The snow continued to get softer and I started eyeing up the escapes to climber's left.

One of numerous side couloirs that I could have used to escape to the east ridge if conditions got too sloppy.


Most of the climbing in Hopeful is easy. The angle might be rated as moderate, but any competent snow climber won't have any trouble with her. Despite the softening snow I took my time enjoying the solitude. I hadn't seen anyone since I left the trailhead, and I was happy for that fact. What better way to celebrate a classic climb than to have the entire thing to yourself?



Nearing the top the angle of the couloir kicks back ever slightly more, and she opens up to the sky, widening from a choke near mid-way.



Like many couloirs the top out is the steepest part. I didn't have a cornice to deal with here, but a short section of very steep-to-vertical snow that required care and three points of contact to climb safely.

Hopeful in its entirety.

Atop the couloir I had a short, easy hike to the summit of Hope. The couloir was tons of fun but it's unfortunate that it barely misses the summit. Still a classic, enjoyable climb to be sure, and it would make an excellent first snow climb for an aspiring alpinist. The peak, being in the heart of the Sawatch, was surrounded by a sea of other peaks, a mere drop in the bucket.

14er La Plata Peak on the left with Ellingwood Ridge crossing nearly to the right edge of the photo.
13ers Mount Ervin (left foreground), Mount Blaurock (center, behind Ervin), numerous other 13ers in view.
14er Huron Peak on the right with the Three Apostles left background.
14ers Mount Oxford (far left), Mount Belford (slight left of center), and Missouri Mountain (right mid-ground, with the numerous couloirs)

I lounged and gathered energy for the descent to Hope Pass and subsequent ascent of Quail Mountain. The heat in the confines of the couloir had drained me and drinking in the energy from the surrounding scenery would help me get up the next peak and back home.

Down the east ridge back to Hope Pass I went, until I had to make the choice to descend the ridge itself or go down the southeast face, which was still completely covered in snow. Someone else had glissaded down the southeast face but it was a tad too steep for my taste, so I plunge stepped down it instead before traversing over to Hope Pass. Along the way I scoped the route up Quail Mountain, which looked dry and easy.

I title this The Glissade: Buttocks Rendered in Snow
Quail Mountain's west ridge. Dry and easy peasy.

There was enough snow that I didn't bother getting on the talus below the ridge, quickly making it over to Hope Pass where I dumped my snowshoes, crampons, and axe. Coming down Quail's west ridge was a lone hiker, the only person I saw since I left the trailhead the night before. I asked him what conditions were like and he said there was one short snowfield on the summit ridge that couldn't really be avoided and didn't require traction, and aside from that the route was dry. I thanked him for the beta and began slogging up the slope on scree and dirt. The trail was braided and sometimes difficult to follow but overall the vertical gain went quickly.

Typical terrain on Quail's west ridge.

It didn't take me long to arrive at the summit ridge, where the angle relented and the snowfield mentioned by the other hiker came into view.

Exposed to the right but flat and broad enough not to give a moment's pause.

I quickly crossed the snowfield and arrived on the summit of Quail Mountain, which to my surprise had two ruined cabins on it!

Can you imagine carrying that much timber up that far above treeline? Mountaineering is all about masochism but this just seems excessive.

I couldn't see the entirety of Hope or Hope's east ridge from Quail's summit so I didn't linger, immediately turning back and descending back to the pass, stopping just long enough to get a picture of the ridge and Hopeful couloir.

Hopeful is the line that shoots up and left to just left of the summit.

The descent of about 500 feet back to Hope Pass flew by and I began descending into Sheep Gulch after picking up my gear. A couple of quick glissades on sloppy wet snow put me a few minutes hike from the remainder of my stashed gear. I didn't waste any time packing up and getting a move on. The remaining hike down through the avalanche debris to the trail went smoothly; the week before I got separated from my friends, who were on skis, and ended up having to backtrack to avoid a steep, snow covered slope above a jumble of boulders that I didn't want to down climb into. A family with several small children were the only others I saw on the trail as I made my way back to the car, whereupon I packed up my stuff and went to my favorite pizza place, Leadville's own High Mountain Pies. Half a pizza and part of a brownie tided me over for the drive back to Boulder.


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Total distance: 9.26 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,132 feet
Total time: Approximately 24 hours with overnight
Peaks: Two ranked 13ers

  • Mount Hope, 13,933'
  • Quail Mountain, 13,461'


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Sheep Gulch Trailhead Camp at treeline 1:19:19 1:19:19 Overnight
Camp at treeline Hopeful Couloir Base 0:55:28 0:55:28¹ 11:24
Hopeful Couloir Base Mount Hope 1:15:25 2:22:16 2:43
Mount Hope Hope Pass 0:35:30 3:00:30 0:00
Hope Pass Quail Mountain 0:46:01 3:46:30 9:43
Quail Mountain Camp at treeline 0:49:15 4:45:28 8:44
Camp at treeline Sheep Gulch Trailhead 0:39:49 5:34:02 Trip End

¹Cumulative reset after overnight
Garmin Connect activity link, approach
Garmin Connect activity link, Hopeful Couloir + Quail Mountain

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

 Comments or Questions

Nice work
07/16/2019 20:45
Just came back from there last week. I was thinking that this mountain might be better in snow, looks a pretty cool day.
I'll show you some updated shots with less snow shortly! I think I have the identical photo to your #20 fast forward a few weeks.


07/17/2019 14:11
Did you go up Hopeful or another route?


East Ridge
07/18/2019 21:43
Didn't think there'd be enough snow for a couloir climb there , but there might have been!


07/18/2019 22:39
There might have been, even as recently as this weekend. I climbed Refrigerator and Grizzly couloirs on Ice Mountain and Grizzly Peak, respectively, this weekend, and Hopeful looked like it might still be in from SH 82 near Twin Lakes.

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