photo- The Hopeful couloir on Mt. Hope. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
Members of Group: Sam Jordan, Jessica Halasz, Annie Geminder, Zach Taylor
Ascent route: East Slopes from Sheep Gulch trailhead
Descent route: Hopeful couloir, climbed back over Hope pass, and returned to Sheep Gulch trailhead
Mt. Hope is a centennial peak in Colorado's Sawatch range. It sits two ridges to the east of La Plata Peak and is most easily accessed by the Sheep Gulch trailhead just a bit past the Rockdale trailhead off Chaffee county 390. This is the same road with trailheads that access the 14ers Belford, Oxford, Missouri, and Huron. My friend Joel had recently ridden the couloir and reported it was in good condition.
Since finishing climbing all the 14ers a few years ago, I have been spending a lot of time climbing and riding on the centennials (Colorado's 100 highest peaks) in addition to snowboarding 14ers that I have not ridden yet. To the date of this writing, I have snowboarded off the summits of 40 of the 100 highest peaks in Colorado. I might even eventually finish the list. We shall see.
I had made plans with Sam, Jess, and Annie to ski something on 4/25 and we ended up settling on Hope. Annie and Jess had never been on a snow climb before and this looked like a good route to ease them into it. I knew they were both great skiers and I had been riding backcountry with Annie all winter so I was comfortable with everyone being able to handle the route. We had recent beta on the route, none of us had climbed it before, and it was a fairly easy but fun climb/descent for a couloir so it was an easy choice.
Annie got off work at 7:00pm on 4/24 so we left Denver then and made the drive up to the trailhead that night. Sam and Jess were coming from Crested Butte so we met them at the trailhead. We went to bed at midnight and arose at 3:30am on 4/25 for the climb. In the early morning dark Annie asked me if we should stake down the tent. I knew we should but felt lazy and it was not windy so I said I thought it would probably be fine. We would later regret this decision...
We began hiking up the Sheep Gulch trail toward Mt. Hope. There was no snow initially so we hiked with everything on our back for about an hour before reaching skinnable snow. I had not seen Sam in a few months so we caught up a bit on the hike in talking about work, skiing, and school. As we got to treeline we ran into some steeper snow slopes and Annie and Jess got their first experience snow climbing.
photo-Jessica Salasz and Annie Geminder climbing snow above Sheep Gulch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
We made our way up to the base of the east slopes and enjoyed some scenic high country skinning at sunrise.
photo- A look out over the Sawatch from high in Sheep Gulch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Sam Jordan high skinning above Sheep Gulch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- (from left to right) Zach Taylor, Annie Geminder, and Jessica Salasz skinning towards Mt. Hope. photo by Sam Jordan, 2014
Annie and Jess had never used a mountaineering axe before so we found a slick 30 degree slope on the east side of Mt. Hope to practice. I talked about the four different ways to self arrest (backwards head first, backwards feet first, etc) and talked a bit about using an axe as an anchor as well. The girls practiced a bit and then we climbed up a gully that put us on the east ridge of Hope.
photo- Zach Taylor teaching self arrest skills to Annie Geminder and Jessica Salasz. photo by Sam Jordan, 2014.
photo- Zach Taylor, Jessica Salsz, and Annie Geminder climbing up the east slopes of Mt. Hope.
We gained the ridge and continued to make our way towards the summit. It was warm initially and I was a bit worried about things softening too quickly but it began to get a bit cloudy and windy and things stopped thawing out. We arrived on the summit and enjoyed some great views of the Colorado High Country.
photo-Sam Jordan climbing up the south slopes of Mt. Hope. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Zach Taylor, Annie Geminder, and Jessica Salasz hiking up the east ridge of Hope. photo by Sam Jordan, 2014.
photo-Sam Jordan, Jessica Salasz, and Annie Geminder hiking up the east ridge of Mt. Hope. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Zach Taylor and Annie Geminder on the summit of Mt. Hope. photo by Sam Jordan, 2014.
La Plata peak's south side. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
After a few minutes of hanging out on the summit we decided to ski down to the top of the couloir and see if it had started to soften. The couloir descends to the north off the east ridge of Hope several hundred feet below the summit. There is a cornice above most of the couloir but you can sneak by on the skier's right side of the couloir or you can huck the cornice depending on what you want out of your run (I hucked).
We realized that it was noon and the snow was not showing any sign of softening so we dropped in one at a time. The snow was hard and in the low 40s in pitch at the top and then 35 degrees and powdery though the middle and lower couloir before spilling out into the valley on the northside of Hope. Over all better snow conditions than I initially thought. Sam dropped in first. Jess followed, then Annie, and I brought up the rear.
photo- Sam Jordan getting ready to drop into the Hopeful couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Sam Jordan skiing the Hopeful couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo-Jessica Salasz dropping into the Hope couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Sam Jordan looking down the Hope couloir. photo by Sam Jordan, 2014.
photo- Jessica Salasz skiing the Hopeful couloir, 2014.
photo- Annie Geminder getting ready to drop into the Hopeful couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Annie Geminder skiing into the Hopeful couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Annie Geminder skiing down the Hopeful couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Zach Taylor riding the Hopeful couloir. photo by Annie Geminder, 2014.
As we skied out of the couloir we traversed east to the base of Hope pass on the north side of the pass. From there we climbed back up to the pass and skied/rode off the other side back into Sheep Gulch.
photo- Annie Geminder (left) and Jessica Salasz (right) hanging out on Hope pass after a ski of the Hope couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- The view from Hope pass. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
We finally found some good corn down in the bowls below Hope pass. We rode down to a bit below treeline until snow was discontinuous and then we shouldered board/skis and hiked back out to the trailhead and our cars. When we got back to camp we discovered that Annie's tent had been blown into the lake. The main casualties were her tent and my phone. A lesson learned= Do NOT be lazy about staking tents. Ever!
Hope made for a nice descent. The Hope couloir was a lot of fun and not real steep. It was a great introduction to couloir skiing for Annie and Jess.
photo- Annie Geminder (background, left) and Jessica Salasz (foreground, right) hiking out Sheep Gulch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Sam Jordan hiking out Sheep Gulch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Our tent blown into the Beaver Pond. photo by Sam Jordan, 2014.