Taking the High Road: Hope and Quail from Willis Gulch

The view east along Lake Creek from the Willis Gulch TH.

In the state of Colorado, the word “Spring” can have many meanings. For my neighbors on Eliot Street, it means they can finally come out of their homes, sit on their porches, and wonder where I could possibly be off to next. For the friends I travel these hills with, it’s the season they’ve been waiting for all year, a time to strap on the planks and ski until the snow turns to grundle in mid to late June. For others, it’s straight up couloir season. And believe it or not there are actually people who just like to snowshoe. I’m not sure I fit into any of these categories, but I always do love this time of year. Even more so this year than most, despite some of my recent solo nerd raging snowshoe grumblings! This spring was undoubtedly a snowy adventure, the beer always tasted good, the weather was guaranteed to be inaccurate, and the excellent company in the backcountry made each and every weekend something to look forward to. However, with all that said I may or may not have thrown my snowshoes into oncoming traffic last weekend, which brings us to this latest write-up!

Mount Hope is a Colorado Centennial located among the Collegiate Peaks in the Sawatch Range. At 13,933 ft. it is the 64th highest ranked peak in the state. It is often climbed with Quail Mountain which sits on the adjacent side of Hope Pass to the east at 13,461 ft. Both peaks can be accessed from the south (Sheep Gulch) and north (Willis Gulch). The southern approach is short and steep while the northern approach is a bit longer with about 500 more vert. Many may also choose to climb/ski the Hopeful Couloir this time of year (and it sure did look good on Saturday).

On this day I had a different plan though. A plan that would avoid snow at all costs. I’d call it a modified ridge run, but to some that might insinuate that I have some inkling as to how to run, so let’s just call it “taking the high road”.

Route Overview.

Peaks: Mount Hope A (13,933 ft.), Quail Mountain (13,461 ft.)
Date:  June 7, 2014
Trailhead: Willis Gulch
Route: Hope: NE Ridge (ascent), SE Ridge (partial descent) / Scramble to Hope Pass / Quail: W Ridge (ascent), N Ridge (descent)
Distance: 11 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,800 ft.
Group: Solo

Continental Divide Trail
First glimpse of Mount Hope and its Hopeful Couloir from the Willis Gulch Trail.

It was about here that I began a short bushwack through the trees to Hope’s Northeast ridge.

Hope’s gentle Northeast ridge.
A good shot of Rinker on the other side of Little Willis Gulch to the west.
The views into the southern Sawatch. Summit of Mount Hope – June 7, 2014.

Hope’s East ridge provides direct access to Hope Pass and would be the obvious choice of route over to Quail Mountain from the summit. If I told you that I intentionally planned to come down the Southeast ridge I’d be lying. From the summit of Hope there is a cornice that hides the East ridge and being the only human in the Sawatch Range on this day, I decided to play it safe and not spend time in the snow looking for the eastern exit.

Quail Mountain and Hope Pass as seen from my descent of Hope’s Southeast ridge.
Hope Pass on my partial re-ascent from the south.

The trek up Quail from Hope Pass is short and sweet. It is about 900 ft. and a little over one half mile.

Summit of Quail Mountain – June 7, 2014
Lots of familiar names in the Quail summit register. You gotta love Colorado!
Quail’s north ridge is more like a grassy plain. It is quite a contrast from everything else to the west. The Elk roam freely up here.
The Hopeful Couloir taken from afar on my descent of Quail’s north ridge.
Parting shot.

With about 2 1/2 months to go until my 2 week trek along the John Muir Trail with Brian, Kevin & Sarah, I’m doing my best to get out as often as possible. Benny finally got me to open my 13er book (to a page other than Meeker), and to be honest, I think I may be hooked. This was another solid outing in the backcountry on one of Colorado’s highest peaks and I’m looking forward to many more this summer. Yes, I just said summer. I’m ready too. Until next time…

Thanks for reading!

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