Vesper Peak has long been on my list of mountains to climb. With summit views such as these its easy to see why. I had been putting off making the attempt waiting for a nice day, waiting for people to be free to join me and being a little unsure if I could do this solo. Finally, I bit the bullet and decided I could do it.
Mountain Loop Highway
drive time from Seattle
Poles for river crossings
NW Forest Pass
The trailhead for this climb starts off the Mountain Loop highway on the Sunrise Mine trail. This trail was built by miners wanting to mine under Vesper peak back in the 1900s. To begin with, the trail has a few river crossings which I honestly could have done with some hiking poles as there was more water than expected. Then the trail heads up and up and doesn’t give up. It climbs through the Wirtz basin and a narrow couloir to reach the top of Headlee pass (named after the first mining dude). I don’t know what it is about mining trails but they always head directly up. leading up to and after the pass there were open talus fields which require spotting cairns that mark the way. Take care on sections where the trail switchbacks, loose rocks from hikers above could be dangerous.
On the other side of Headlee Pass, you have to traverse up another talus slope until reaching the outlet stream of Vesper lake. From here it was a short walk following the outlet stream to reach Vesper lake. I decided to check out the lake before the summit because I new on the way back I would be tired and want to head out. The lake was a beautiful granite cirque, the water was crystal clear and didn’t seem to deep. It looks like it would be a nice swimming spot a little earlier in the season.
After taking my photos of the lake I headed up the peak, following the bootpath which starts from back near where the trail first met the Vesper lake outlet stream. The trail was easy enough to follow but pretty steep. Above the treeline, the top of vesper peak is made of this really awesome granite rock which is super grippy. I was able to comfortably walk up granite slabs following cairns. There had been a small amount of snow overnight near the top, so the only thing I needed to worry about was keeping away from water puddles which could be icy. Before I knew it, I’d reached the summit! The views were amazing, I could see 4 volcanos, the Olympics and the Seattle skyline!
A bit of wind of the summit made it pretty chilly while I took photos and ate my summit snacks. The weather was taking a turn for the worst so I made the hike down without too much delay. All the talus on the trail made my feet pretty sore by the time I got back to the car.