Intro/StatsMt Hope (13933')
Quail Mtn (13461')
Via Hopeful Couloir/Sheep Gulch
8 miles RT, 5400' gain
Participants: Dave Hale, Matt Hale, Dave "Hoot" Gibson, Sarah Thompson, Dominic Meiser, Kevin Baker, Shep, & Kiefer
June 6, 2009
I have been neglecting to do some of my remaining centennials of late and the Hopeful Couloir has been on my short list of snow climbs for a couple years. Dave, Hoot, and I have been trying to link up on this for quite some time. Dave and Hoot had to bail last year due to unfavorable conditions, so they were up for another shot. Dave, Hoot, Matt, and the dogs decided to make a backpack out of it by approaching from the north via Willis Gulch while Sarah, Dominic, and I would take the short but steep approach from the south via Sheep Gulch.
As has been the theme much of this spring in CO, it started raining as I approached the trailhead Fri evening. I held out hope that we wouldn't have to bail on the climb. The mountains had seen a fair amount of snow during the week, but the fronts seemed to have missed the Sawatch.
The Hopeful Couloir: And This Is Supposed to Be June?
It rained a bit during the night, but cleared up in time for our 3:30am start time! Would Mr. Bluebird break out of his slump? Temps were quite warm, but it wouldn't stay that way for long. We ascended the steep but very efficient Hope Pass trail which was mostly clear of snow on south aspects other than a few patches near treeline. We made good time up the trail to the pass and crested it around 5:30. The wind began to pickup as we climbed and as we crested Hope Pass the funnel effect of the winds blasted us, but it was short lived. Spindrift in June? I've had some calmer winter days!
Life was good again as we descended the north side of the pass and traversed on tundra and low angle snow to the apron of the northeast facing Hopeful Couloir.
Traversing to the couloir:
Eagle eye Sarah spotted a tent on the far end of the unnamed lake where Dave, Hoot, and Matt were camped. We took a break out of the wind in the talus for a bit and then made our way over to the couloir, waiting for Hoot to get his gear in order! ;)
Dave met us first and said that it was a long night in a tarp and rain, snow, and graupel pounded them. Hoot had to hike up in the rain, so we were glad to avoid that with a day hike. Matt left camp a bit later and took the dogs up the northeast ridge route. Overnite there was only a light dusting of snow, and we were confident that the snow was firm enough for a safe climb.
The apron of the couloir is well under 30 degrees, so we just used our poles for the first portion up to a rock band on the left. A huge flake of rock had recently broken off one of the cliff bands to climber's left and had caused a small avalanche. It was clear that this had happened within the last few days.
Dominic next to the rockfall:
I was hoping to get by with my liner gloves, but the wind forced us to break out the winter gloves in June! We took a break to let Dave and Hoot catch up so we could take advantage of their trail breaking services. We postholed a bit down low, but were able to take advantage of a line up an old runnel for firm snow for kicking steps.
This is a pretty mellow snow climb for the most part as the slope angle never exceeds the low 40's until the top. We could see that the cornice on the top was pretty small and could be avoided to the left, so we went for the direct finish. We took turns leading and enjoying the scenery. The couloir was nicely sheltered from the wind and it heated up quite a bit as we climbed, but we could see spindrift pounding the top of the couloir.
Sarah about halfway up:
Nice view over to Quail:
Hoot did a great job of kicking steps on the upper portion as the slope angle maxed out at 47 degrees.
As we crested the top of the couloir, we were greeted by the banshees again.
Great shot from Hoot of me on the finish:
We topped out just a bit east of the true summit and were glad to see Matt and the dogs waiting for us as we topped out at 8:30. The summit was in a bit of a wind shadow for a couple minutes, but as soon as we got settled down we were pounded by a stiff gale, enough to knock you around. Dave lost his hat and almost saw it blow down to Twin Lakes, but Dominic saved the day. It was nice to meet Kiefer, who was a real trooper at such a young age.
Quail and Descent
Our summit stay was brief due to the high winds and we headed down the east ridge. Some of us opted for a glissade partway down the east face. The snow was so soft that you couldn't go very far without being stopped by the snow piling up between your legs.
We contoured back to the ridge and took a nice break out of the wind before departing at the saddle where the winds were blowing hard enough to blow Kiefer sideways when he jumped up!
Descending Hope's east ridge:
Dominic and Sarah obliged me with yet another repeat 13er for them and we headed up Quail. It's only about 800 feet above the pass, but we had to endure a major beatdown from the wind. We followed the trail for a bit, then tried to escape the wind by getting on the leeward side of the ridge. The maelstrom finally let up as we crested the false summit, but storm clouds were approaching. We tagged the summit cairn at 10:37am and did an immediate about face and headed down.
Nearing the summit of Quail:
We were happy to hookup with the Hope Pass trail just below the saddle and it began to snow a bit. We made great time as the trail quickly descends and the storm never really materialized as it cleared up when we arrived back at 12:15. We were happy to find success on a snow climb after such a wet spring!