Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sperry/Vesper - 10.25.08

Due to the mixed nature of an alpine rock climb this time of year, Julie and I decided on a scramble. The goal was the Sperry/Vesper combo. Only as I sat down to write this did I realize we did not summit Sperry, and were really not on Sperry at any point. More on this confusion later.

The hike was mostly uneventful early. Autumn colors were beautiful, as clouds broke and built. We had some off trail time below Headlee Pass on the talus, but this was corrected with no significant loss of time. There was a fair amount of snow below Headlee Pass, with more than 12" on the ground from the 4300' elevation up. We were somewhat surprised by this since there hadn't been much precip this week, and we saw no new snow near the Tooth at levels to 5000'+. Anyway, the snow up to Headlee Pass was of a decent quantity to not hinder our ascent.

After Headlee Pass, we traversed over to "Vesper Lake." This is where going got slow. The talus/boulder fields that lie in the basin had similar snow coverage. Which in a boulder field meant enough to hide problems, but not enough to protect you from them. One had to be careful not to twist an ankle. On an related note, the lake at approximately 5000' was frozen over.

Now for the Sperry explanation:
Being somewhat lackadaisical about the trip, neither Julie or I packed a map. (The USGS map clearly labels Sperry Peak.) All we had to go on was the description and map in the "75 Scrambles in Washington" book. The map should have been enough, but for some reason we saw the unnamed hump on the ridge as Sperry. (I'll take the blame for this.) We started around the right side of the lake as the book told us, and thought that it would take forever, as the going was really slow with the moderately snow covered boulders and slabs. It is probably for the better we did not attempt both, as our 9 hour day would have been at least 2 hours longer.

Since we had already decided that the hump on the ridge was Sperry, it was an easy decision to go straight toward it from the south end of the lake. We picked a line up the slope and made our way to the summit. (The lack of tracks in the snow could have tipped us off, but did not.) We made our way to within 20' of the summit as there were some exposed moves on snow covered rock that we were not interested in. It was now about noon, and we sat down to eat lunch.

After lunch we headed to Vesper. We retraced our steps to the saddle between the hump and Vesper and proceeded up. After the initial snow slope, going got slow again as we had to post-hole our way between rocks and delicately cross snow covered slabs. About an hour later we were on the summit of Vesper. We dallied for a bit and started to head back down. The same slowness ensued although somewhat aided by our ability to retrace our steps. At some point we left our steps and found someone else's steps and followed them down to the crossing at Vesper Creek.

The hike out was uneventful, save for some late starting hikers trying to make it to the lake. What's up with late starts and unprepared hiking in the snow?

My pics are located here.

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