I headed out Mountain Loop Highway for an attempt at Sperry Peak and one last climb before winter. The day would end up turning into a hike to vesper lake. It was excellent to arrive at the trailhead for Vesper peak and be the only one in sight. The actual trail was far more difficult in the dark than I could have imagined.
There are a lot more tree roots in the first section than I’ve ever realized hiking vesper peak during the day. The stream crossings were especially difficult in the dark.
I managed to make it to the basin below Headlee pass by the time the sun was coming up. I felt like I was making good time for the conditions, but noticed a lot of fog up higher.
As I worked my way up to Headlee pass the snow got deeper. Even with my snowshoes now on I was still sinking in a good foot or two each timed I stepped. By the time I made it to the top I decided the hike of vesper peak was a no go for the day.
Instead I wanted to see if I could get to Vesper Lake. Between dodging sinkholes, boulders, and tree wells the 1-mile trip took me 2 hours. Better to wait for spring at this point and then try the full hike of Vesper Peak. I have full trip reports for the summer and winter routes below
I had started off planning this trip thinking that I wanted to do my first snowshoe of the year. But, due to a light start of the snow year roads are clear all the way up to the Vesper Peak parking lot. The large creek crossing that is about 1 mile in was easy as the water was low. I expected to find the rocks slippery but they were all dry.
Once I started up the steep switchbacks that follow the river crossing the snow got knee-deep. There was no trail. Without GPS (and previous knowledge of the route) I wouldn’t have been able to find parts of the trail. There was also several fresh run out patterns in the gulley going up to Headlee pass. Don’t go up there without navigation and avalanche skills this time of the year.
Getting to Headlee pass along the Vesper Peak hike was a struggle. The snow was deep, there were no steps kicked and the snow was wet. Cresting the top of the pass felt like an accomplishment all on its own. At this point I realized that I had only an hour and a half to make my turn around time. Determined to make it I quickly ate an energy bar picked up my ice ax and headed up vesper peak. '
I was able to make it….barely. I reached the summit at 1:58 pm with a turnaround time of 2:00 pm. That last hour of post-holing over and over in the deep snow was worth it. I’ve never had the summit of this magnificent peak to myself and probably never will again. The peak sports a trail of climbers all summer long.
Vesper peak hike had been on my to-do list for the last few years. With a little bit of snow still lingering in the area it seemed a good place to head for a training climb.
The first portion of the Vesper peak hike provides little in the way of scenery. The early creek crossings are quite a joy though and could be quite treacherous with high water.
The climb up to Headlee pass was the crux the Vesper Peak hike. It is steep and long requiring some skill with an Ice Ax and a pair of crampons this time of year. A fall here looked like it would be pretty deadly and I began to wish I had brought my helmet. During summer it’s covered in loose rock and can be even more worrisome. Once over Headlee pass, exhaustion, distance, and elevation gain, all become your enemy. From the top of Headlee pass you can see the remaining hike up Vesper Peak. It is still another ~750 ft to the top and another two miles.
About 1 mile from the pass you will come to Vesper Lake (lake Elan). It is a great tasting source of water. It is also the perfect spot to sit and enjoy a long break before the final push on your hike up Vesper peak. Much like other summits on the Mountain Loop Highway, the view is spectacular.
It has one of the better panoramas of the northern cascades that I have seen. The best part was getting to glissade down the majority of Vesper Peak. Brandon and I found a small glissade chute that ran all the way back out to vesper lake. According to my fit bit, I got up to 15 miles per hour in one section. It was right up there with the glissade on Mount Ellinor