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John Guilford's Hikes

Vesper Peak on 1998-09-05

Date: 1998-09-05

Location: Vesper Peak

People: (including myself): Pam, Jim & Amy Guilford

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Start:		10:55	2260	2360?
S Fork Stilli:	11:15	2420
Headlee Pass:	2:15	4680	4600
~Lake:		2:40	4880	~5000
Vesper Peak:	4:05	5960	6214
Leave:		4:35	5960
Headlee Pass:	5:44	4620
Bottom of Gully	6:00	4260
~Bottom Valley:	7:06	3080
S Fork Stilli:	7:45	2380
Out:		8:15	2260
From the parking area near the trailhead, one can see two valleys leading roughly southward.  The left and larger one contains the South Fork Stillaguamish river.  The right and smaller one is the one that the Sunrise Mine trail ascends.  The trail first heads towards the left valley before climbing the fern covered lower slopes of that valley in a couple switchbacks.  The trail then crosses the north ridge of Morning Star Peak (between the two valleys) in a little stand of trees and then enters the right valley. 

The trail starts off relatively flat, through trees, before climbing a bit near an old miner's cabin.  Shortly after this, one crosses the beginning of the South Fork of the Stillaguamish river on a large log.  This time of year, the river was low and the crossing was very easy and uneventful.  After climbing the switchbacks through the ferns, the trail crosses a large washout.  Here I decided to take off my pant legs and make my pants into shorts.  We crossed the ridge into the second valley and soon ran into our first problem. Unlike previous visits to Vesper Peak, we had difficulty following the trail up the valley.  We quickly got off the trail and started up the dry creek bed at the bottom of the valley.  After we got into the main part of the valley we decided that we were off trail and I suspected that the real trail lay higher up on the right side.  We proceeded in that direction and found the trail.  We then immediately proceeded to lose the trail again, this time being too high up on the right side of the valley.  It appears that we weren't the only ones who went wrong this way as we passed several cairns of rocks and witnessed several other groups going approximately the same way.  I do know that we were indeed off the trail as we found the correct one (at least this section of it) on the way down.  The going was rougher higher up the side of the valley and we had to cross two wash outs that were full of loose rock with steep sides.  After the second washout, after cutting through a stand of trees we re-discovered the correct trail and the going got easier.  For future reference, the correct trail ascends through trees on the right side of the valley bottom near the entrance to the valley.  It then bypasses further bands of trees (passing below them) aiming for the bottom of the last band of trees (the furthest up the valley).  Shortly before reaching that band of trees, the trail veers right, climbing, and passes through the midst of those trees.  The gully leading to Headlee Pass is the furthest one up at the top end of the valley. 

All the way up the valley we could hear the squeaks ("eek!") of Pikas, seeing some of them from time to time. 

The gully up to Headlee Pass was snow free and of relatively easy going, though steep.  Past the pass, the trail descends a bit before starting a rising traverse across scree below Sperry Peak.  Bypassing a nameless lake (Vesper Lake? Headlee Lake?) the trail climbs up the steady slope to the summit of Vesper Peak.  Essentially all the snow was melted and the entire climb up was made on the rock slabs.  The granite slabs gave good traction (with one notable exception - see below) and the way up was pretty straight forward though tiring.  Probably the easier approach is to head for the saddle to the left of the true summit, gain the ridge line, and follow that to the true summit.  That's the way we came down. 

Due to the time, we didn't spend too long on the summit - enough time to sign the summit registry, take photos, and eat some food.  On the way down from the summit, Amy really out distanced/out paced us and had to wait periodically for us to catch up.  My descent from the summit was marred half way down the slope when I stepped on a slab covered with little bits of granite particles (i.e. BBs).  I didn't realize anything was amiss till I had my full wait on that foot and when that foot shot out from under me.  After a couple bounces I can to rest and found that fortunately the worst damage I sustained was a sprained right thumb.  Things would be been much uglier if I had taken out an ankle or a knee. 

After reaching Headlee pass and descending the slot gully, we made a vigilant attempt to find the correct trail down through the valley.  For the upper part of the valley, that went well and we saw where we should have gone on the way up.  However, when we reached the point where we had first re-joined the trail (after climbing up the west side of the valley from the valley bottom) we lost the trail.  We headed down hill and found and lost the trail several more times before we got to the heavier brush at the bottom of the valley. 

We were moving a bit slower than usual as Pam's feet and hips were really bothering her (it being one of her first long hikes of the year).  We got back to the cars just about in time.  During the last part of the trail, it was getting pretty dark (not dark enough to pull out my flashlight, however).  The sky wasn't that dark yet, and it was still pretty light in the open areas, but down in the trees, we could just make out the roots and rocks.  Coming out a half hour later w/out a flashlight would have been interesting. 

This is a hike that is better done earlier in the year.  The long slope up to the summit is nicer in the snow, especially with the fast, efficient, and fun glissade down from the top. 

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