Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hope Pass

Distance: 11 miles round trip (starting from Perry Peak Campground)
Elevation: 9,300 ft - 12,600 ft
Elevation Gain: 3,181 ft
Date Hiked: 19 August 2011
Dogs: Off leash

The majestic view from Hope Pass (12,600 ft)
A hike to Hope Pass near Twin Lakes is a long and arduous journey to one of the most majestic views in Colorado.  I cheated on this hike, truth be told, because I stayed over several nights below the pass, assisting the Hopeless Aid Station and working the Leadville 100 Ultra Marathon.  As you hike this trail just remember there are folks who run up, over, down the other side and back up as part of a much longer and harder journey.  Makes you feel a little substandard doesn't it?
Starting out at the Perry Peak Campground

Passing a nice Beaver pond with lodge
Looking down into Lake Creek
For the past several years, the normal trailhead for Hope Pass has been closed because the bridge over Lake Creek was washed away.  The new bridge is sitting in the sands near Twin Lakes so perhaps someday soon they'll get it in place.

Junction between Upper Twin Lake (left) and the Willis drainages (right)
Initial segment in Lodgepoles and rocks
Heading into the Aspens
 We had a train of fully loaded llamas, carrying tents, food, oxygen etc up to the aid station, so we had to start our journey at the Perry Peak campground.  This route cuts through a short 0.5 mile swampy section of trail before joining the real route and makes my description longer than published.   The first real milestone is the trail junction between the Willis drainages and a trail back to Upper Twin Lake at 0.68 miles.

Looking down into the Aspens
Crossing the bridge at 1.7 miles
Willis Creek
From this point,  the route travels across a broad slope filled with young Aspens.  The trail is narrow, steep and rocky and over the 20 years that folks have been using llamas to gear up the aid station, more than one has tumbled off the side.  For people though, the trail is perfectly fine unless of course you are as wide a fully loaded llama, in which case you should consider a different form of exercise.

Heading up the steep segment to the left of the creek.  The candy cane tape on the shrub marks the route for the runners.
Junction between the Little and Big Willis routes
Past the switchbacks, the trail begins to level out
After a continuous uphill slog, the route intersects, at 1.36 miles, a small drainage ditch, probably used in mining.  This short flat segment is a nice break, for both llamas and humans.  At this point we had climbed 528 ft.

Passing a relatively intact cabin
The grave in llama rest meadow
Before breaking out of treeline, the route gets wetter, weaving back and forth across the creek and through willows.
At 1.7 miles, we reached the bridge over Little Willis Creek and transitioned into a damp, primeval-feeling mixed Spruce/Fir biome.  Another trail, Interlaken comes in from the left to join the route just past the bridge.  This is where the runners come in as well.

Finally breaking out of the trees
Mt. Hope
The cook and medical tents.  More will go up the next day.
After watering the llamas, we turned right and headed straight up the hill in another unrelentless climb.  At 2.2 miles is the split between the Little and Big Willis drainages.  Hope Pass is to the left up the Little Willis drainage.  At 2.6 miles begins a series of 4 lengthly switchbacks.  At the top of this segment, the trail flattens out appreciably.  I could practically hear the llamas give a sigh of relief.

Sunrise on Mt. Hope the next day.  Llamas graze in the meadow.
Starting up the final pitch to Hope Pass
From this point on the trail angles slightly upwards through a series of open meadows.  We stopped at one at 3.4 miles to let the llamas rest some more.  I don't think their wranglers were too upset about this either.  There is a large avalanche chute on the left of the is meadow and an interesting grave on the right.  Finally, at 4.8 miles we reached the tents of the aid station at roughly 12,000 ft.  Fade to black...

A series of switchbacks head up the slope
Mt. Hope
The next morning, we continued our route to the Pass.  The aid station is located right at treeline on the broad slope overlooking Little Willis Lake.  Mt. Hope, one of the highest 13ers in the state dominates the view.  It was a quick 0.75 miles and 600 feet elevation gain to the pass itself.  While steep, the views down the valley are stunning, so there are plenty of excuses to stop, breath, and admire the scenery.

Looking back down on Little Willis Lake and Leadville in the distance
Further up on the pass
From the pass at 12,600 ft,  the hiker gazes deep into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.  The number of towering 14ers makes this view majestic indeed.  From left to right is Mt. Oxford (14,153 ft), Mt. Belford (14,197 ft), Missouri Mountain (14,067 ft), and Huron Peak (14,003 ft).  Mt. Hope is to the right and Mt. Quail to the left on the pass itself. 
The pass itself
Heading up the slope of Mt. Quail
I decided to try and climb Mt. Quail, the 13er to the left of the pass.  There was no trail, so I left my pack below and just took my camera and started bushwhacking up the slope.  It was slow going with my camera dangling below my chest as I used both hands and feet to pull myself upwards.  I did intersect with a trail and followed that for a bit until it ran into a area of loose gravel and tallus.  At this point, I knew getting down was going to be a butt slide, so I decided not to go any further.  If I do this again next year, I'll have a better idea of the route.

Looking down on the pass from a couple of hundred feet up Mt. Quail
Looking into the Collegiates from the slope of Mt. Quail
My turn around point on Quail.  The summit is up that ridge and to the right.
A journey to Hope Pass is a treat to a little visited area of the state.  While a leg buster, you can at least feel grateful that you are not running 100 miles and are only hiking 11.  The view of Mt. Hope along makes this journey worth it in my book.  Being there really made me feel like I was in the mountains.

6 comments:

Linda said...

Wow, oxygen and llamas are things you don't find on Scottish mountains. Why the llamas - are they better suited to the altitude than horses/mules?

mtnrunner2 said...

Great pictures. Always wondered what that trail looks like, and how those high aid stations get supplied.

I think I'll have to get up there some and see for myself.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Fant said...

I am sorry for the other comment, I realized I did not give you a way to contact me.
I am planning to have pack trials up there during the week before the Leadville 100 this year. I am a cerifier for PLTA (pack llama trial assoc.)
The PLTA would love to put a link or even place your write up on their website. Thank you.

sylvia murphy said...

John,

You still did not give me a way to contact you. I need an email address.

Sylvia

John Fant said...

Sorry, how google was handling it, I thought mu email was showing.
johnfant711@gmail.com
Thanks