Peak(s):  Quail Mountain  -  13,461 feet
Mt. Hope A  -  13,933 feet
Date Posted:  07/19/2019
Date Climbed:   07/06/2019
Author:  nyker
 Hope Springs Eternal   

Mount Hope A - East Ridge from Sheep Gulch
Quail Mountain - West Ridge from Hope Pass

After being lucky to hike up Silverheels earlier in the week, we felt much better with the extra two days at altitude. It’s amazing the difference that a couple of days can make on energy levels and with a bit more acclimatization under our belt, we HOPE’d we’d be able summit today.

Not to be confused with the ‘other’ 13er bearing the name Hope in the San Juans , Mount Hope (A) is a quite a bit more rugged than the gentle hike up Silverheels and brought back fond memories of the Sawatch talus that graces many a 14er. (I say this because I was confused at first when the mountain I wanted to climb seemed to have lost 900 ft of height and was a lot further drive than I thought!) I think this mountain climbs harder than most Class 1, Class 2/2+ 14ers, arguably harder than some others.

The Climb

After starting out from Sheep Gulch, the initial couple of miles of the route passes through a nice forest and gains elevation fast and then just goes UP shortly after leaving from the trailhead, you won't see a lot if any of elevation loss on this approach.
There were a couple of stretches on the hike in that had been impacted/covered by winter avalanches along the way but nothing too bad that couldn’t be surmounted with a little effort.

Speaking of avalanches, on the drive the day before, we passed this slide along R82 which was HUGE and had taken out a good swath of forest. I can’t imagine the force this had but is testimony to the sheer power of Mother Nature. There are dozens of slides like this around the roads we passed on the weekend.


After waiting out some bad weather the day before, today was clear to start though was forecast to get more overcast and have an increasing chance of precipitation after noontime.

As the basin opened up, you’re greeted with phenomenal views both ways, but particularly of the Sawatch range to the south if you turn around while hiking up. This idyllic view alone would have been worth the hike and had I stopped right here and ended the hike, I think I could have been ok with that.
We were watching those clouds all day...

Rocky Mountain High

We continued on, the occasional marmot or pika making distant chirping sounds in the rocks and forest edge. With the exception of 3-4 short patches of snow, the route was dry up until Hope Pass. The snow that lingers is soft and easy to pass over.

One of the sections where you’ll cross over some snow. Hope Pass is up ahead to the center-right of the image


Emerging from the forest nearing timberline, the still nice trail switches back up the hill, Hope, to the left is not visible from here, I believe the mountain in view is the south side of Quail Mountain

I could imagine Colorado Grizzlies once roaming here...

Looking back with a trail segment with the Sawatch peaks rising in the distance

As we hiked higher, John Denver songs reverberated in my head

This approach trail passes through some beautiful terrain and really makes you feel alive, especially after spending all day behind a desk for weeks, it is almost unbelievable many folks have a view like this nearly in their backyard!

Alpine eye candy


Moving across the slope as we climb up, taking in the view to south


The solid trail approaching Hope Pass, enjoy it while it lasts.


From just west of Hope Pass, seeing the remaining terrain to cover ahead of us

Once you get to Hope Pass, the trail that led you to here keeps going but in the same direction down the pass to the other side to the north. Don’t follow this trail. Leave the trail now at the saddle/Pass turning west and now make your way up the (now trail-less) series of bumps, ridges, talus fields and false summits for the remainder of the climb. Some of this will test your patience.


Along the route on a higher point on the ridge showing the typical terrain you’ll be navigating over.


The talus and field of jumbled rocks that awaits...


Further in, talus getting closer, the grassy sections will provide a nice stable reprieve from the rickety talus, though the slope steepens as you move higher.


Hope Pass and the couple of sections on which you’ll be making your way up the mountain shortly thereafter make a good rest stops and good place to assess the weather before you continue as the route from here is more committing and time consuming than the nice trail you hiked up thus far. You don’t want to find yourself forced to hurry down that rock filled slope in the event of thunderstorms and lightning.

Standing in the field of talus, looking down and back towards the trail. You can see the last part of the trail towards the left side of the photo. You can see the trail in the distance which is near where it ends at least for the climb up Mount Hope.


A view of the route up Mount Hope from Higher up on Mount Quail (taken later). Plenty of snow around, though most of the ridge proper is dry.


Much of the route from here on in will be on loose rock and talus interspersed with some grassy sections. Much of the talus will expectedly be loose, though lower down some of the granite slabs are larger, flatter and more stable which make for quicker, more secure movement. Higher up, not so much, and you’ll need to test your handholds and where you place your feet.


From the first bump on the ridge, we started out left of the ridgeline, and moved back and forth from the left side to more along the ridge higher up.

The typical terrain moving alongside the ridge. Direction of the summit ridge is up towards the right here. Around here begins the ascent of the rock pile crux of the route.

Getting loose

Below is a view along the ridge of Hope looking down at the terrain/route to the right and back towards Quail Mountain in the distance. Note the widespread clouds which initially started to grow darker and become lower and more voluminous, sparking a concern of weather moving in. After waiting a bit, the cloud cover didn’t really increase nor get much darker then cleared up later on, or more importantly never started thundering while we were on the mountain(s).


One thing we realized on this climb is that we need to get brighter jackets!

As Bill mentions in his route description, you can ascend up one of the gulleys towards the left. We tried this for a bit, but it seemed pretty washed out, loose and slippery, so we intermittently went back to moving on the more (relatively) solid rock to the right of these gulleys.

Looking south/southwest deep into the Sawatch and the remaining snow on Hope’s southwest flank.


Getting closer to the top of the rockpile. Powerful sky.


In some spots, it made more sense to climb the rock and large boulders than slip-sliding on the steep, loose scree and unstable talus. Some of the sections were pretty steep and mild Class 3 but were easier to move up on versus the loose gravel and scree.


Mid-rockpile has some decent size boulders and slabs to navigate over. Hiker Model Nicole :-)


One of the steeper sections of rock to go up to the right of the gulley but just to the left of the ridge proper fairly close to topping out on that section, before the snow. Nicole is on top for scale.


Nearing the top of the “rock pile” crux, there was some snow remaining on the route that had to be gone through/over. Stay to climbers left here, far away from the weak edges of the snow.


Closer shot of the same area


The North side was steep and not a place to slip should one feel compelled to climb on the ridge literally or on the snow in that direction. Would make a good extreme ski I imagine and probably a decent steep snow ascent earlier in the year when firm snow would last longer into the day to safely climb up.

Cool lines


To move over the snow, the safer passage was climbing up on the ridge then bearing to climbers left (south) to follow a less exposed section of snow up to gain the ridge that eventually would lead to the summit on easier terrain

The upper section that cross near the southwestern slope. Moving up to the right you'll have some steep rock to climb up after the snow. There is still rock to surmount going straight but the angle is a bit easier though you'll have more snow to contend with. If you're comfortable on snow, this was not really an issue, but you don't want to slip here, particularly the more "left" you go. Straight up was the better option today.


Below are two shots of the view from standing on the snowfield looking southwest towards the corniced southwest ridge which as of today seemed that it could still be a good snow climb if you started early when the snow was firm, though it would receive sun early and most of the morning putting that plan in jeopardy .

You can see a climber making their way up the snow in the photos. I am not sure if they ever made it to the summit or not.

We saw three other climbers on the peak today, that was one of them. Two others we met on the summit.


It’s shots like these with the alpine backdrop, the snow, the shadows, the elevation differential and sheer “wild-ness” that make me love photography, being able to save this view in such an image and savor later.
If the climber below is you, thank you for allowing me to add such great scale to this image.


The shots above show the slope where the snowfield that you must cross, connects to where a slip would be bad. So if there is snow here, take care to kick good steps in this short, but steep section to the rock on the other side of it. An axe wasn’t needed since the snow was soft and the section was fairly straightforward if you went slow and focused. Postholing was a strong possibility here but could in part be avoided by kicking sort of double steps in to make a better step/platform.

Top out

A view from the top of the rockpile looking down the route you just came up. Quail Mountain is towards the right. A long drop down to the left. Stay right on the return…


Topping out to now easier terrain


This pretty much ends the difficulties below. Once on top of this section, there is an easy walk to the summit, with one minor false summit (if you could even call it that) enroute to the true summit.

Standing on top with two climbers on the false summit

Grassy knoll

On the summit, Great views to the south and west!


Sea of Mountains




As the skies seemed to be getting darker, we hurried down as best as we safely could given the tricky terrain which made it hard to move that quickly.

Quail Mountain

At this point, we planned to just head back down back to the trailhead. Upon reaching close to Hope Pass/saddle, the skies started to clear and Quail Mountain again seemed doable.

There is somewhat of a trail to start out leading right up from Hope Saddle. Then another half dozen trails/erosion paths appear.

The below shot shows the route from on the ridge higher up on Hope Mountain

13er from a 13er

There appeared to be a few faint trails threading their way up Quail. I just basically stayed in the middle of these along the backbone of the mountain, I figured straight up would make the most sense.

Another shot below taken from one of the last switchbacks before reaching the Pass before the ascent up Quail. You can see the lower portion of the mountain here.


Closer view of virtually the whole route, including the false summits up Quail.


The terrain as I reached what I thought was the top but was only false summit number one.

While roughly another 1,000 vertical to hike up from the Pass, the terrain here was easy compared to Hope.


On top of that, realizing there is more…onward I go…hints of blue sky start appearing, another false summit...


Almost there, alas another false summit


Nice view of Hope Pass and Mount Hope East Ridge from here…note clearing skies, woohoo!


Some snow appears on the dip between false summits


On the other side of the snow, which turned out to be pretty extensive, soft and waist deep in spots. Care was needed not to sink deeply on every step.

Beautiful view looking west though!


Another cool perspective of same view showing the snow that needs to be gotten through


Another bump appears, is this another false summit, another cruel joke from the Mountain Spirits??

No, it’s the true summit!

There were some old dilapidated cabins on top.

Does anyone know the story of these cabins?


And, of course fantastic landscape opened up once on top. I almost wanted to run to the distant peaks.

Quail Mountain and Mount Hope (A) were fantastic, filled with some rugged terrain and made for a wonderful outing with wonderful views.

If you’re in the area, I’d suggest getting yourself over to this trailhead, cross your fingers for good weather and fitness and try your luck on these peaks.

Hope Springs Eternal

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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