Starting Point: Sheep Gulch TH (9,860’)
Peaks Climbed (in order of ascent): Mt. Hope (13,933’), Quail Mountain (13,461’)
Route: Southeast ridge to Hope, east ridge descent to Hope Pass, west slope ascent to Quail and return via Hope Pass Trail
RT Distance: 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 5,000 feet
All hail September, the most glorious of all months in the spectacular state of Colorado! Having lost one precious weekend of this month to a furious late-season monsoon that devastated many parts of the state, I was raring to visit the high ones again. My hope today was to get high on…you guessed it, Mt. Hope. I figured an ascent of Hope’s southeast ridge and a descent via the east ridge would make for a satisfying loop while giving me the opportunity to visit Hope’s nearest neighbor, Quail Mountain, on the return. Still a bit under the weather, I wasn’t sure if I’d be up to the task of summiting Quail but as always I knew I’d cross that saddle when I’d come to it.
The southeast ridge is the steepest summer route to Mt. Hope, gaining over 4,000 feet in a bit over three miles, and Hope Pass trail wastes little time in introducing the ascent.
Steep going from the getgo
The southeast ridge route to Hope requires leaving the excellent Hope Pass trail just below treeline; beyond this point, there is no trail along the southeast ridge to the summit so I wanted to make short work of the initial segment as I was anticipating some level of route founding past the detour. I power hiked along the trail pausing only briefly for pictures…
…and, of course, to enjoy the beautiful colors of the valley behind me to the south.
View to the south
Forty five minutes into the hike I had gained nearly 1800 vertical feet and was at the point where I needed to leave the comfort of the trail.
Point where I left the trail
The trail continues north, snaking its way up to Hope Pass at 12,540’ where it connects to Hope’s east ridge. My goal was to head west and climb a steep, rough slope that would lead to the southeast ridge. As I eyed the false summit I headed northwest not realizing that this would put me at the bottom of an impossible scree gully. I only needed to climb a little over a hundred vertical feet to realize my error, and started contouring west and then southwest to find more stable terrain.
The next thousand vertical feet had to be gained over a mere half mile, so it was critical that I circumvent the loose stuff and find more solid ground to make this ascent.
Rocks and scree
Even so, some climbing over scree was inevitable. As I studied the slope ahead, I decided to aim for the rocky outcroppings to my left to find more secure footholds for the pitch ahead. In retrospect, this was the crux of the southeast ridge route.
Stable rocks make the climbing easier
The rocks made uphill progress considerably easier and I gratefully scrambled over this terrain. The next shot looks down over the last segment but pictures don’t quite capture the steepness.
Surveying the steep pitch
I was now on a grassy slope, only slightly gentler in steepness than the previous pitch but at least I had solid footing.
On terra tundra finally
I was also somewhat relieved that I wouldn’t be descending this route, so I took a moment to enjoy the views of the valley to the southeast from this vantage point, Belford and Oxford towering in the background.
View to the south
Hope’s southeast ridge is broad unlike the narrow, rough east ridge and for this reason I believe this is the easier ascent of the two options even considering the steep initial pitch. The broad grassy expanse allowed me to stay below the ridge crest while making a steady climb toward it.
Southeast slope just below ridge
The next shot looks back over this expanse; sections of the well-defined trail can be seen meandering north toward Hope Pass.
Looking over the last pitch
Hope’s summit was still hidden from sight but now I had a great view of Quail Mountain to the northwest.
My pace had already slowed, every deep breath now threatening to invite a fit of coughing – not an encouraging sensation at nearly 13,000 feet. I knew the slope would relent beyond 13,000’ so I dug deep to cover the remaining ground over this high alpine meadow.
Slogging up the slope
The reward for my perseverance came shortly as I finally reached the gentler upper segment of the southeast ridge and Hope’s false summit came into view.
Ridge to false summit
From the detour at 11,600’ I was still only halfway in distance to the summit and over 900 vertical feet still remained but the false summit gave me a much needed second charge.
The opportunity to hop across boulders was also a welcome change compared to the terrain until then, so I picked a line targeting the highest point I could see and went for it.
Mt. Hope in sight
Two hours and five minutes after I left the trailhead, I was atop Hope’s rounded summit. Bluebird skies and views for miles and miles in all directions were reward enough for the slog!
Huron and the Apostles
La Plata to the west
I spent some twenty minutes on Hope’s summit before starting down the east ridge to the saddle with Quail Mountain.
Hope's rough-looking east ridge
Roach rates the east ridge as Class 2 and it could certainly be kept at that with a bit of route finding and staying just south of the ridge to hiker’s right, but where's the fun in that! I was in no hurry and at that point wasn’t even sure I would attempt Quail, so I decided to stay on the ridge proper and have some fun scrambling.
There are a couple of spots on the ridge between 13,800’ and 13,400’ where the rocky towers allow for some experimentation with climbing. The red line shows the approximate route I took but there are obviously other options depending on one’s inclination.
Below 13,400’, the ridge settles into easier terrain with fragments of a trail emerging in places.
Surveying the ridge traverse
The 1,400 feet jaunt from the summit of Hope to Hope Pass took me a yawning fifty minutes but it energized me in a way that I had not expected. When I got to the saddle and gaped at the 900 feet of vertical left to gain Quail’s summit, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going for it.
Quail towers over Hope Pass
For the next 25 minutes, I did not so much as pause or reach for my camera once as I slogged up the slope, my eyes fixed on the terrain two feet in front of me. This technique only worked because there was at least one decent trail leading all the way to the boulder field below the false summit. Pictures below of the trail up Quail's west slope were taken on my descent.
In fact, so fixated I was that upon reaching the large cairn at the false summit, I assumed I was done and started taking pictures while enjoying the sights and the solitude. Some twenty minutes elapsed and suddenly I had company! Another hiker was bounding up the ridge. We greeted each other and after a bit of chitchat, as we were about to part ways he motioned east to the true summit where he was headed!
That's the true summit!
Realizing my folly and grateful for having crossed paths with this hiker at that point, I quickly joined him en route to the true summit which was adorned with not just a cairn but a summit register with a 13ers.com logo. Now, I was truly done…well...half done.
View from Quail's true summit
The next shot looks back over Quail's false summit, Hope's intimidating east ridge in full glory in the background. A lone hiker can be spotted just before Quail's false summit.
After thirty more minutes of soaking in the summit views, we said our goodbyes and I made my way down to Hope Pass, rejoining the main trail at this airy spot.
Yours Truly at Hope Pass
September had come around as promised, rewarding all seekers of outdoor delights with sun, blue skies and cool weather. Fall colors were not quite in full swing, but the splashes of gold and orange that speckled the valleys and hillsides were still a sight to behold. I, for one, will never know a heaven better than this.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.