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I first developed a hankering for Vesper Peak at an OSAT
picnic. There's nothing like a big group of mountaineers sitting around eating great food and talking about nothing but mountains for hours. A friend of mine was talking about Vesper and asked me if I knew anything about it. I told him not much but that I had seen it from the summit of Mount Dickerman
. He went on to tell me about how for the majority of the year it was a technical climb but during a small window at the end of summer, it could be done as a straightforward hike. My interest was aroused.
When I returned home, the first thing I did was go to good-old, trustworthy SP to get some more information. It was settled then. The next weather-predicted bluebird day would find me driving before sunrise to the Sunrise Mine trailhead.
September 12, turned out to be that day and I was lucky enough to have my good hiking companion, Nick
along for the trek. The views of Sperry and Vesper were pretty good even from the trailhead. The light of the sunrise helped some. Anyhow, it got our blood pumping enough that we wouldn't be needing any coffee. We were walking by 7:30. The first half-mile led us through old growth forest and over some rocky ground. We had no idea at this point that the majority of the hike would be over talus and boulders. Better not to know such things.
There was one small simple stream crossing over a small log. I stopped to take a picture of Nick and somehow he managed to fall into the water 2 seconds afterward. At this point we emerged into the slowly rising edge wall of the valley. The slope had no trees on it but plenty of bushes. Being so early in the morning, all the bushes and grasses were covered with a heavy layer of dew. As hikers know, brushing up against these wet plants transfers what seems like all the water to your pants and boots. Thank God for quick-dry synthetics right? Well designers anyway.
We reached the crest of the base of the north ridge of Morning Star Peak
and dropped over into the Wirtz Basin. From here there is a decent view of Sperry Peak. The moon happened to be right behind it while we were there. The trail continued to the back of the basin over talus and more talus. There is a whole slew of Cairns that someone tried to mark the trail with but they seem to peter out about half way up. We got lost for a short while, if you can call it that. But we had the general idea. Go to the back of the basin on the western side.
Just like the Vesper SP page says "Your route through the cliffs is not evident until your are directly below it." We were wondering how the hell we were going to the other side of those Rock cliffs. The discovery of some amazing switchbacks up to Headlee Pass made it evident. There was one spot where the switchbacks had eroded making for a 50-degree plus slope with look rocks and dirt. This proved a little hairy especially on the descent. I would recommend using your hands here.
From the Pass we had our first view of the east face of Vesper. It's truly a unique mountain with nice looking granite slabs. At this point we were really excited. Although it still looked very far away, at that moment we could feel that we were going to summit. Weather had chased us away from so many summits earlier in the season, so this one was going to be special.
Next was the traverse across the talus slope on the south side of Sperry Peak
With another short easy scramble and then up through the bushes, we were at the base of the slabs. The surrounding views really started to open up here. There were plenty of awesome breath-taking crags to feast the eyes on. Walking up the slabs was very easy but it was good to have something solid and flat beneath our boots. Within a few hundred yards of the summit, we got a little off the official route and that made for some slightly more challenging scrambling and whole lot of extra fun.
Success! And Wow! There were a few cumulous clouds about but I really can't complain about the view. It's true we couldn't see Mount Rainier but when you've seen it from the summit of just about every other peak, who cares anyway right? Looking almost straight down the west side we could see a decent sized glacier with open crevasses. We could see that this years accumulation of snowfall had all but melted off revealing the blue ice below. There was also a very good view of Copper lake and the iron-rich back side of Big Four Mountain
. Nick found the summit register in a sealed pipe and we added our two cents worth.
I could write a description of the descent, but it's all downhill from here. Anyway I can sum up the highlights with one word; Talus.
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