Vesper Peak Winter Ascent 11-07-2020

#thehad Climbing Headlee Pass

Benson and I headed up to Vesper today for our first attempt and for me besides Mount Pilchuck, the first peak on the Mountain Loop Highway.  We met the people who wrote the prior two trip reports today (we were slow and hiked out in the dark) NodR and his climbing partner on the way down and Comma – passed us up and down.  How embarrassing, or more a compliment to your fitness and skill on the trail.  Both NodR’s and Comma’s trip reports are very comprehensive and accurate.  Snow level was about 4000 feet on the way up and 3400 on the way down.  I estimate up to 6 inches of new snow from the past few days.  Maybe 2-4 new inches today.  Very dry and powdery – Too much snow to grip the granite on the final summit push. Too fluffy for spikes and axe. Not ideal. We followed someone’s tracks up the final 500 feet of the summit. This was not ideal as they ambled a bit, but avoided some exposure.  This section was no joke in these conditions.  There was frozen water ice on much of the granite slabs, covered in 6 inches of fluffy, unstable snow.  I had to ice axe arrest a couple of times, as with or without crampons, you either lost purchase or risked punching through the snow into a rock well and twisting or breaking an ankle. Let’s just say it was a slow, and long journey up.  Visibility was reduced to about 50 feet on the summit by 3pm, and the temp was dropping.  We rested at the summit.  The summit register pages were damp and the pen was frozen.  If someone can bring a pencil that would be great.  We took photos of the register and black PVC pipe as evidence we summited and found the register.  We were not looking forward to a slippery descent, so decided to follow as best as possible the route we used on Gaia.  It worked better than the up.  Keep left of the blocky granite on the final 500 feet and avoid the boulder scramble to the best of your ability, then turn right and find a more straightforward path to the summit.  Hopefully, more snow will fall and freeze to make for better footing.  The wind picked up as darkness fell, so we were happy to return to our car, the last in the lot – untouched and undamaged.  This will be an awesome hike in the summer. I am looking forward to the views!

Other beta – the final stream crossing was straightforward – we crossed lower down below the large log in the middle of the river and parallel to the current.  At night this log was frozen and the slabby rocks on the far bank (near TH) were super slippery – just be careful and be prepared for some low friction footing.  Headlee pass was great down in the dark – up I lost the trail a bit with Comma, but look for, and use a GPS and map to keep on the switchbacks – this will make the going much easier and less daunting.  As I mentioned on the final summit push – keep left, follow gullies up – more stable footing as the enticing large smooth snow areas have unstable snow and frozen rock ready to test your skills.  My other links have my AllTrails report with GPX file and also a Relive flythrough of the route.

Have a great time out there and be prepared for changing conditions, and safe.

Leave a Reply