Vesper Peak

Yesterday Kathleen and I headed up Vesper Peak. We somehow managed to get perfect weather despite making plans a week in advance (you’d think this would be a given in August in Washington, but not this summer).

Some reports indicate that Sunrise Mine Rd, the road leading to the trailhead, is closed. There is a small handwritten sign immediately after you turn off the Mountain Loop Highway that says the road is closed at mile 1.5. However, there were no barriers blocking the road at any point, the entire road was easily navigable, and neither we nor the half-dozen other vehicles parked at the trailhead got a ticket or warning…

The forecast was for decreasing clouds, which meant we started out under cool cloud cover. We crossed the Stillaguamish River several times during the first mile. Although the crossings were a bit slippery, they were all relatively mellow, even in the late afternoon on our way back (i.e., snowmelt didn’t turn them into a raging torrent later in the day)

As we reached Wirtz Basin the morning fog began to clear, and eventually we punched through the remaining ceiling. The views from Wirtz Basin in the morning light were perhaps even better than the views from the summit, which is saying a lot.

Kathleen taking pics as the clouds slowly reveal the terrain ahead of us
Near the top of Wirtz Basin, looking out at the lingering cloud ceiling. 
The sun and fog and mountains were doing some cool stuff.
Majestical (where my Wilderpeople at?)


By the time we reached Headlee Pass it was sunny and warm, but there was a nice breeze to keep us from overheating. We followed a relatively obvious bootpath to just above Lake Elan, at which point we headed up the granite slabs that lead to summit of Vesper. The slabs were grippy and super fun!
Views from the summit were incredible – Copper Lake looks unreal, Spada Lake was sparkling, and Sperry and Glacier loom over Lake Elan. The only downside to the summit were the black flies. Nasty little buggers. You can see one biting me on the face in our summit pic, and Kathleen had multiple welts the next day.

Summit pic! Kathleen, me and a black fly gnawing on my cheek.
Lake Elan and Sperry Peak, as seen while descending Vesper.
Kathleen descending the granite slabs, rocking a sweet new Ultraspire Velocity pack!
Loved this ridgeline on the flanks of Vesper



View of Copper Lake from just below the summit of Vesper, with Baker lurking in the background.
Sperry Peak up front, Glacier in the back
Mount Rainier to the south
Puffs of clouds still lingering over Spada Lake and beyond
From top to bottom, Glacier, Sperry, Kathleen.
Another shot of Sperry and Lake Elan

On the way back down we got to chatting and managed to lose the trail as it traverses a scree field just west of Headlee Pass (see the pic below). Instead of traversing, we kept descending the scree field. It didn’t help that there were a couple of cairns to urge us on. 🙂 We realized our mistake fairly quickly, and managed to climb back up to the trail and correct ourselves without losing too much time. Honestly, if you pay attention and don’t get too engrossed in conversation you should be fine.

The scree field where we went astray on the way back. Vesper Peak is the partially snow-covered peak on the right


This route is just over 7 miles and only 4400 ft of elevation gain, but as others have mentioned, it somehow feels harder and goes slower than the stats would suggest. Maybe it’s because you’re stopping all the time to take pics!

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