Taking the High Road: Hope & 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!

14 thoughts on “Taking the High Road: Hope & Quail from Willis Gulch

  1. Darrin

    The Sawatch has never looked so good, great photos Dillon. Maybe we should get out soon so you can show me how to work a camera like that.

    1. Dillon

      Darrin – Thanks man! I’ve always liked the Collegiates, the camera does help though :). You’ve been to Alaska. Are you still allowed to hang with me? haha – HTB round 2 soon!

  2. DKYarian

    Love it man. You’ve been an absolute trooper all season with the sh*tkickers. Glad to see summer is finally opening up out there – amazing how quick the snow is melting. I’ve with you tho on avoiding snow. After four pretty involved snow climbs in three weeks, I got to a “ready for summer” mode in a hurry. Really looking to some fine scrambles and Centennial shenanigans in the next few months buddy!

    1. Dillon

      Zambarinorino! Definitely melting fast. Thanks for the comment. Summer has been a long time coming! Loved that Notch TR man. You’re a beast!

  3. Ben

    I agree with Darrin man, absolutely awesome shots in this one! All alone in the Sawatch, I like those kinds of days. And nice to see you’re getting into the Centennials, I need some company on some of these!

    1. Dillon

      Goats! Cent company…. check. Summer… check. PBananabread… check. #gaperselfies…. check. Mosquitos… sonofa! Summer ’14 is shaping up nicely buddy!

  4. Brandon Chalk

    What a sweet read, Mr. Sarnelli, and even better pictures! Such an awesome solo day out and to make a loop out of it – heck yeah, buddy! Well done, my man.

    1. Dillon

      Brando – thanks man! I learn from the best. It really was a fine day and yours looked the same. Pretty sweet spot tucked away back there and coming from Willis made it even better! Hopefully seeya soon boss!

  5. Floyd

    Excellent photos Dillon, Hopeful looks like an incredible climb – clown shoes or not, that’s a hard line to pass up. The Sawatch north of Cottonwood Pass is very underrated, north or 82 – even more so. Looking forward to next time!

    1. Dillon

      Scot – Thanks! My camera really does all the work. I just hit a button! It is a great spot, agreed. Let me know when that next time is. Until then, enjoy the summer and hang those snowshoes in the closet for a loooong time 🙂

  6. Brian

    That B/W cover shot is sick! Transports me there with a vivid imagination. I’ve always wondered what Hope is like from that approach. Sheep makes sense from a skier’s standpoint – Willis makes sense from just about any other standpoint. Nice work Sarnelli!

    1. Dillon

      MILLER! Agreed. Coming from the north was pretty sweet from a hiker standpoint. Longer approach, a little more gradual, some great views, but the best part might be that you can enjoy the post climb beer next to Lake Creek, amigo!

  7. J Blyth

    Looks like a solid day in the hills! Really diggin’ your photograph…you’ve got a few framers in there. You must be pumped to put the snow zapatos away…

    1. Dillon

      JB – thanks man! solid for sure. Hope you’re enjoying your time in the PNW! Looking forward to hearing about it!

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