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pauleRoute Climbed: Wirtz Basin / Headlee Pass Date Climbed: June 28, 2003  Sucess!

paule

Left trailhead at about 8:30 am. Just as we gearing up, a solo climber drove up beside us, and without even your basic hello, began barking at us, saying that we should nose in and park, as there are often many people that park there. I understood the issue of space, but she was very rude and didn't see or care that her jeep was much shorter than my truck, and that if I did what she suggested, I would be exposing half of my truck in the middle of the road, giving no room for anyone to turn around. I thought it would have been a ridiculously inconsiderate thing for me to do as she suggested. Oddly enough, she parked up close to the trailhead (the sign says you are not supposed to do), which severely limits the space for someone to turn around. I decided to park further away, but still park parallel to the edge of the road, to give other people as much room as possible, and zero opportunity for anyone to bitch about it. She seemed upset that we were even there. Very strange lady with a chip on her shoulder. No wonder she was solo.



The suffering began as the trail headed through dense shrubs and even thicker mosquitos. The combination of heat and mugginess was draining my fuel really fast, making it very slow going for me, and we were essentially just beginning. The temperature wasn't as bad as a couple weeks before on Mt. Pugh when it was in the high 90's but for some reason, it felt much more stifling. Finally as we approached the expansive basin guarded by large talus, we picked up a little relief from a slight cool breaze that kept teasing us. After cooling off some, we headed up the north basin. There was enough snow left in the basin to make it worthy to avoid the scree-laden trail parallel to us on our right. Despite severely rapid meltoff this season, the north basin will probably remain a worthy alternative to the scree filled trail for just a few more weeks. We saw one solo climber coming down the trail as we were climbing through the north basin.



As we approached the apron directly below the steep col towards Morning Star, we traversed a small section of scree to regain access to the trail to the right, which then leads directly up Headlee Pass. The terrain through here was very mixed which kept things interesting. Jodi and I opted to stay mostly on the snow and climb directly up Headlee Pass, as opposed to using the switchbacks. This option may not hold out another week, as the meltoff stage was becoming pretty severe. We took a break at the top of Headlee Pass (4600 ft.) for a snack, some shade, and to monitor the weather, plus my hands were shaking a little from carbo fits, and I needed to refuel. On the way through Headlee Pass I was close to overheating, despite drinking water gradually and consistently. By the time we got at the top of Headlee Pass, I had burned through three quarts of water, and would soon be ready for some free, exquisitely cold refills. We went by another solo climber on his way down from Headlee Pass that didn't go any further. Immediately on the west side of Headlee Pass we encountered the grumpy woman who wanted to give us a parking lesson earlier. I couldn't tell if she had become more agitated because she had turned back knowing that we were headed for the summit, or if she had become more annoyed just from the mere site of us. She frowned and looked at us as if we were part of an annoying 12-person Mountaineer’s group.



There were scattered storms in the region, and a severe storm moving in very fast from the south. Another lower system was colliding with it, essentially guaranteeing some major wind and rainfall for most of the Monte Cristo area and then to Glacier Peak. There was also a large, slow moving rainstorm moving in from the southwest that would eventually hit us. When we down climbed the west side of Headlee Pass, and headed towards Vesper Peak, we ran into a couple that was on their way down. They made it about half way up and turned around. At that time, there were mild north-bound storm clouds over Vesper, but it was fairly localized and there was a comforting blue hole to the south. We witnessed some thunder and a few violent lightening strikes nearby, and one bolt hitting Vesper near the bare summit rock, sending a little snow in the air like a small plume of smoke, and then it was over. While we waited it out, we stopped off at the Vesper Glacier / frozen Lake Elan runoff, and refilled our water bottles. The valley between the Vesper and Morning Star toward the south, and the northern face of Red Mountain showed off very lush green meadows that seemed unusually brighter than usual.



After talking to the last two climbers on our way up, we began our final summit approach through snow that was in pretty good shape. We had to traverse around / through a few patches of trees and a little rock, but then it was snow the rest of the way up to the bare rock on the summit. We saw a major crevasse close to the talus section, but it was easily noticeable and avoidable. When we got to the summit, we signed the register and then took in some awesome views of Morning Star Peak, Sperry Peak, Sloan Peak, Copper Lake, Spada Lake, Lake Elan (still frozen) Mt. Pugh, white Chuck Mountain, and Glacier Peak. To the west and northwest, we could see Mt. Pilchuck and Three Fingers. The summit of Vesper Peak also offers a very rare, and unique view along the south side of Big 4 Mountain.



The glissade down was pretty interesting. I had to stay conservative on speed, as there were no significant run outs, and there were two sections where we had to get up and traverse around some exposed rock. Other than that, the glissade was pretty decent. In a few weeks, the snow will probably be a little softer and wet, but should still be in decent shape. The trail might be bone dry all the way up to Headlee Pass, but if you can make it to the top of Headlee Pass before spending all your water, don't worry. If you run out of water, the runoff from Vesper Glacier / Lake Elan should be available even after several more weeks of consistently hot weather. We made it all the way back to the meadows and dense woods area before our number was up with dodging rain clouds, and we welcomed the light shower. Aside from the scorching hot section of the lower trail through the woods, and again through the sun scorched Headlee Pass, we were blessed with good weather. Storms sideswiped the Vesper Peak / Sperry Peak area, and crashed any climbing parties in Monte Cristo area, and the larger rain storm hammered Glacier Peak with the same lack of mercy the heat and mosquitoes had for us. It took us about 5 1/2 to 6 hours to summit, and 2 hours tops to make it back to the parking lot. It was a great climb, but probably would be too hot for me on a return trip until sometime in September, unless I made a head start in the very early morning. There were eight other climbers we encountered that day, but we were the only two that made it to the summit.
Posted Jul 1, 2003 2:37 pm

KlenkeRoute Climbed: North Face Weigelt Route via Ledge Traverse Date Climbed: September 23, 2002  Sucess!

Klenke

Climbed this route with Sergio Verdina on Monday, Sept. 23, 2002. Nothing to it. An easy slab/dihedral climb that can be done more than once in a day from the summit doing laps around the peak. It's only about 400 feet of climbing when done from the ledge traverse. 5.5 max, but this depends on how comfortable you are with liebacks.
Posted Oct 7, 2002 2:05 pm

RStokesRoute Climbed: Sunrise Mine/Headlee Pass Date Climbed: August 27, 2002  Sucess!

RStokes

Another beautiful day in the Cascades. After crossing over Headlee Pass, Vesper Peak comes into view. Lots of granite and a wonderful class 2 scramble on solid rock. The views are great with Glacier and Sloan Peaks dominating the landscape, along with all the peaks on the Mountain Loop. Only encounterd three other people on the trail.
Posted Sep 13, 2002 6:00 pm

JosephRoute Climbed: Sunrise mine/Headlee Pass. Date Climbed: 6/07/01  Sucess!
It sure seemed like a long 2 miles to Headlee Pass.In fact,it seemed like a long hike period.Great views from top.I plan to shorten the trip next time by going when I'm not sick.This rugged place is definitely worth seeing again.I love this area and am always mindful of the hardiness of the miners who explored this region hoping to strike it rich.
Posted Nov 25, 2001 7:20 pm

scot'teryxRoute Climbed: Main Trail/Sunrise Mine Trail #707 Date Climbed: 10/21/01

scot\'teryx

Second time up this route. It was raining already, and we left the trailhead at 850am. The first portion of this trail is muddy, rooty, and downright unpleasant when in it's worst condition. A few boulder hops, and a few stream crossings and your through the worst of it, well maybe. After coming out of the trees you ascend switchbacks that have been cut up beyond belief along the side of the trail. I think it was Devils Club before, and it was not that bad in May, but they seem to have cut it back to the roots for several feet back from the trail leaving a really ugly appearance. So just close your eyes and move forward to the top of the basin. At this point we experienced some fluffy snowfall at about 3500'. Folllow the cairns closely once you get into the talus and scree areas. We then started to ascend Headlee Pass. Never has been my favorite, and there was about 1 foot of snow on the ground to make it interesting. There were still switchbacks, so using an ice axe and ascending straight up was not necessary. Once at the pass the winds were blowing hard and the snow was blowing sideways. I thought about turning back since we were wet and cold, but my friend Tom wanted to push on. We traversed the scree field that was covered in snow towards a small patch of trees and that is the only marker for the trail as there are no cairns that I oculd see. Visibility was still about 50 feet, like the whole trip so we pushed forward. Once we reached the outlet stream from Lake Elan we crossed it and ascended the ridge towards the summit. The conditions were worsening and the snow was bad. It consisted of 3-6 inches of powder with pure ice below it. For some reason it took us too long to put on our crampons and we suffered the whole way up. It wasn't until about 5 minutes below the summit that we put the crampons on in real bad weather, and we were determined to make the summit. A few minutes later of intense work we touched the summit and went back down. The snow was in such bad condition for climbing it made it real hard, since there was enough snow to cushion the spikes of your crampons you would slide once in awhile, but w/o them you would slide the whole way on a snow raft. As we descended toward Headlee Pass on the traverse the wind was howling and I could not feel my left fingers. As soon as we dropped down on Headlee Pass the wind stopped and we got feeling back in some of our extremeties. The rest of the trip down was uneventful, but tiresome. I do not believe the mileage for this hike, as the trailhead says 2 miles to Headlee Pass, when it should be about 2.5 to 3 miles. From there I guess it to be about 2.5. So the RT that I have read elsewhere says 10 miles to Vesper should be more like 12-13. www.climbwashington.com
Posted Oct 22, 2001 11:30 am

scot'teryxRoute Climbed: Main Trail/Sunrise Mine Trail #707 Date Climbed: 6/07/01

scot\'teryx

Trail starts out at the Sunrise Mine Trailhead #707. Follow through heavily wooded areas thick with tree roots that are slippery and hard to navigate. Many waterfalls to pass, with a few down trees and a couple of bridges that are out. Easy to navigate though since the runoff this year is so low. After entering and exiting many clearings we finally got to the basin leading to Headlee Pass. Del Campo sits high above to your left, with Lewis Peak to your right. Quite an astonishing view, especially when thinking you are going to be ascending the high ridge! After navigating the boulder fields on the right side of the basin opposed to the trail in the middle of the basin, we hit some smaller snowfields until we reached the main snowfield leading up to the main portion of the basin. Waterfalls and large rockslabs surround you. It was a beautiful day, and we were blessed with nice warm weather with a cool breeze.

We then found some steps created by Dick W just minutes earlier, and followed those up and around to the right of the basin which lead us to the snow chute that gets you to the top of Headlee Pass. Post-holing was a common incident, and there were some really large holes along the way which could lead to some serious injury, so we took extra precautions. As we started up the snow chute, the angle got steeper and steeper. We trudged along up the chute until we made up top where Chris had spent some time relaxing and enjoying himself before we got there. It was so cool up at the pass. Everything was very "alpine like" as Chris said. The views towards Del Campo were incredible, and looking down our route, I was able to get excited about the glissade down. I was excited at this point, thinking that we were almost there, but as soon as we crept our way out of the trees on the other side of the pass, Chris pointed out Vesper Peak to us, some 2-2.5 miles and 1500 vertical feet above us. We then continued to traverse a slope that was mainly scree beneath the snowfield, so we kept punching through time and time again. At this point Chris took off to check out the trail ahead and try and scope out Dick W. Joseph and I kept a slow steady pace as we started to ascend the ridge after ridge after ridge after ridge after ridge. So as we made our way towards the gradual ascent to Vesper, we had incredible views of Sperry Peak, and Lake elan which was fozen with snow on top, so it was hardly noticeable. Sperry Peak has some impressive walls that one would have to ascend if they hit the side by Lake Elan. The slog up towards the summit reminded me of Mt Saint Helens since you hit ridge after ridge and it just keeps on going with no end. The climb towards the summit does get steep in some spots ranging from 20-30 degrees, which made me map out our glissade path down as we went up. I think that was the only thing that kept a smile on my face. After what seemed to be forever we were greeted by Dick W as he was on his way back down from the summit. I payed him for the nice steps he made and we made our separate ways from there. After a few minutes we were at the top by the small pile of rocks they like to call the summit. There are some nice spots to curl up and relax that blocks the wind, and that is where you will find the Summit Register in a small tube that looks like a plumbing item. If you look over the rocks towards the NE you can see the Vesper Glacier and Cooper Lake. Just along side of the Vesper Glacier is a large rock slab which is what some adrenaline junkies call the direct route instead of the slog route that we took. The Vesper Glacier appears to be a mile or so long and runs about 30-40 degrees the whole way down. Pretty scary to me. As we packed up, I got excited about the glissade down, but after a few short jaunts I realized that the snow was really wet, but we made the best of it. Once down at Headlee Pass we took extreme caution and did not glissade untill we were within full site of the runout. There have been many accidents here, and all of us hit the ice layer underneath the soft snow. I had to self arrest at one point as it was some fast and slick I did not want to gain too much speed. Quite a rush! www.climbwashington.com
Posted Jul 20, 2001 9:36 am

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