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John Guilford's Hikes

Vesper Peak on 1992-05-30

Date: 1992-05-30

Location: Vesper Peak

People: (including myself): Pam Becker

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Start:		9:53		2200 (?)
Headlee Pass:	1:00		4600
Summit:		2:50		6214
Leave:		4:00
Bottom Slope:	4:25
Pass:		4:55
Out:		7:00
This is a fine early season hike.  It was sunny and warm (Seattle hit 84).  The snow wasn't as low as the 90-07-22 hikes, but was higher than the 90-08-28 hike.  There were low clouds and some fog in Everett when we left and we wondered how long it would be before the sun broke through, but the sun came out about Granite Falls and it was sunny the whole way up.  With the mild winter and warm spring, I expected that the bugs would be bad, but it turns out that there were virtually no bugs at all on the hike (which is a good thing). 

We didn't start real early and took our time to enjoy the hike.  The several streams that we had to cross near the beginning were flowing nicely.  After the turn near Manley's cabin there was still the large log to cross the creek.  This was easily accomplished and we soon reached the base of the brushy hillside.  Just before heading up, the trail crosses a little stream that they had reworked some stones to make a nice foot walk around.  The stream itself formed a very quiet, nice pool.  It reminded me of a garden pool.  We went up the hillside and into the rocky valley. 

There wasn't very much snow there.  The trail passed a few patches nearer the top of the valley, and there was a larger patch in the trough of the top of the valley.  Near the base of the gully leading up to Headlee Pass we stopped for a snack (to give us energy for the climb up).  We also put on some sunscreen here (but I missed my ears, and Pam missed her ears and chest - which got rather red the next day).  The gully was about 2/3 full of snow which made the going trickier (I think I'd prefer either all snow or all trail).  We alternated climbing the trail and climbing the snow and the going wasn't as bad as I had expected.  At the pass we went a tad off trail to the east where we sat and had lunch part II while watching the views of the Sultan River valley. 

After crossing the scree slope we hit snow just before the creek that flows out of the frozen lake.  The outflow was low enough that there was no difficulty in crossing on rocks.  We were not the first ones up that day, and had the luxury of following other peoples foot steps (so we didn't have to kick them in).  The slog up the hillside was pleasant and rather uneventful.  We traded leads periodically and took our time having numerous small snow "incidents".  One particularly memorable incident occurred while I was in the lead.  Pam was below me a couple feet and I was turned around talking with her.  She had recently picked up a largish snow ball and was just holding it.  Then she pointed behind me and said, "Look at that cloud coming over the ridge!" I just looked at her with my "Yeah, right.  What kind of a fool do you take me for?" look, to which she replied, "No, I'm serious".  It turns out that she was serious and it only sounded like it was a set up.  There was a neat looking cloud coming over the ridge (which wasn't that far away). 

The top 50-100' was clear of snow.  I looked for the summit register, but I couldn't find it.  I did find the cable that it used to be attached to, so I think it got lost during the winter.  It was a real clear day and Rainier was very visible.  Unfortunately, I only brought my P&S camera, so I couldn't get any good Rainier pictures (I should have brought the OM2).  After some viewing and walking around we found a place for lunch-part-III. 

When it was time to head down, I suggested that Pam wear the nylon overpants that I had brought since she had on jeans which would have gotten soaking wet on the glissade (and stayed wet) while I had my nylon-cotton pants that would dry quickly.  After some discussion ("But you brought them up for yourself" "No I didn't, I brought them up for you") she agreed and put them on.  They were a tad big, and initially looked kind of like clown pants (they were puffed out with air), but was the correct choice.  We hiked down to the top of the large snow field (we couldn't start at the top of the snow, since there was a band of rock that stuck up through the snow that we had to get below).  After putting on my Gore-Tex overmitts I took off and blasted down the hillside.  The snow was soft (and wet!) and there wasn't any problem controlling my speed or worrying about crashing.  The thin layer of my pants and my shorts provided nearly nil insulation and my derriere quickly felt the cold.  I went about 2/3 down the slope and stopped to see how Pam was doing.  She hadn't done as much glissading as I and felt the top part was a bit steep for her tastes, so she hiked down a bit before taking the ride.  She had a grand time coming down, though she had a little problem keeping her orientation - the last part of the glissade was done feet uphill and laughing.  A couple more glissades brought us down to the bottom of the snow field.  I had to redo my gaiters, since I hadn't had the footstraps cinched down tight enough and they were filling with snow. 

We met several other groups, some of which went to the summit, some that only went to the lake, and a couple who were going to camp there that night.  We were watching one group coming down from the summit and they looked like there were heading off more to the north side of the snow field.  For a bit it looked like they were heading for a steep chute that (after a right angle bend) headed down towards the lake.  I didn't think they were planning to take that (it looked much steeper than I'd want to go down), but was curious so I continued watching.  Sure enough, the first one did a fine sitting glissade down and around the corner and on towards the lake.  The second followed in a standing glissade. 

Returning down the gully below Headlee Pass wasn't as scary as I had imagined it might be.  It was too steep for me to try to glissade it, so I down hiked most of it.  Nearer the bottom I decided to just plunge step down the rest of the snow which ended up in a half-accidental half-intentional slide (hands and legs) down to the bottom.  There we removed the gaiters and nylon pants and proceeded to hike down. 

We met up with three climbers who had just come off of Morning Star Peak (on the far side of the valley).  They had come in on the far side of the Peak (the next valley over) and said that the bushwhacking was real miserable.  They had decided to descend on this side (with ropes) and take the trail down (though they didn't recommend climbing this side). 

The valley was in shade now (it is in sun in the morning - that is the time to take pictures - on the hike in).  The hike out was uneventful.  Pam commented on my demeanor as I got into usual end-of-the-hike-Zombie mode where I get quiet and just grind out the miles.  We hit the cars just as the sun was going down behind the hills. 

It was a fine day, and a fine hike. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015