Vesper Peak 10-5-2013
I finally got a chance to write up a report of my recent return to the Mountain Loop Highway. Vesper Peak was an ideal location for a last minute weekday hike. The trail was nearly snow free up to about 100 feet below Headlee Pass, and for most of the traverse over to Lake Elan. Vesper had 2-3 feet of snow above the lake and a well beaten path broken in by at least 5 pairs of snowshoes since Friday. I reached the summit at 10 am without snowshoes, and experienced only minor post-holing, mostly on the way down. Sperry peak appeared to have just a light dusting, most of which was caught by small vegetation. Both of the dogs did great on Vesper but Sperry seemed to have more scrambling than I wanted to drag them along for. This was Maverick's first serious hike since his knee surgery nearly six months ago, and all signs point to a 100% recovery. We saw about 20 people and a few dogs on the way out.
We hit the trail at 7 a.m. as the sun began to rise. Alpenglow struck the top of Sperry Peak as we crossed the North ridge of Morning Star. Fall colors were pushing through all of the green in the South Fork Stillaguamish River Valley. I noticed one of the mine entrances described in several trip reports I have read, more on that later. Small patches of snow began in the switchbacks leading up to Headlee Pass. The talus field traverse beyond the pass was nearly snow free, but Vesper Peak was blanketed in the white stuff. We crossed Vesper Creek and started up the ridge while a 4-some broke down their camp on Lake Elan, the surface of which was half covered in slush.
I enjoyed the quiet summit with the dogs for about an hour before heading down, allowing the sun to further heat and soften the snow surface. The dogs were post-holing nearly as bad as I was and we were all stoked to get back to solid rock. I stopped to chat with a solo hiker near the snow line, who was glad to have brought his snowshoes after hearing about the snow condition ahead of him. I really started to feel the sun's heat on the way back down the switchbacks. We took a detour to explore the mine entrance, which turned out to go only 10 feet into the rock. On the way back I got a much better view of Lewis Peak in the sunlight, which would make for a great winter ascent.
~8 miles Round Trip
~4500' elevation gain