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[TR] Vesper Peak - Upper North Face 8/26/2009

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Trip: Vesper Peak - Upper North Face


Date: 8/26/2009


Trip Report:

I had only done 1 alpine climb in the Cascades this summer, so Jon and I took advantage of the good weather this past Wednesday to make a day trip up one of the routes on the NF of Vesper Peak. It was a lot of fun, although we had a few route-finding moments, which we will clarify in this TR so you can save time when you climb the route yourself.


The road to the Sunrise Mine Trailhead is a 2 mile long mining road off of the Mtn. Loop Highway. You'll see a sign that says "Sunrise Mine Trail 2," and immediately after that is the road. We made the mistake of driving further on the highway. But no. You're supposed to turn right on the dirt road, and then drive 2 miles to the road's end. Hike 2 miles through the trees. You'll emerge from the trees to an avalanche field. The trail goes all the way to Headlee pass, but if you lose it on the way up just keep going to the head of the basin. There are nice switchbacks up the gully. We were thankful for these!



After Headlee Pass, there is a beautiful basin - it would be great to camp out here with a few friends and then do the complete NF of Vesper.


When climbing the NF of Vesper, you head right after the basin, and go to this notch. From here, you have 2 options: down climb class 3 to the Vesper glacier and start from the bottom of the face. Or, traverse up and then over on a ledge system (dotted red line). We chose the second option, due to time constraints and the size of the gaping moats below, which have been the scene of at least one accident. Jon looked down at the moats and described them as "horrifying, huge, gaping, and detached." They probably overhung about 50 feet!



Views opened up to the incredibly blue Copper Lake, with an unusual view of 3 Fingers and Whitehorse in the distance.



At the notch, looking for the ledge system, which we soon found. It was never more than class 2 or 3. If the moves start to get scary, think twice! You may be off route, or you may be at the first pitch.



After the route-finding shenanigans, there was some debate about the wisdom of starting up an unknown 5 pitch climb with "unclear routefinding" and "sparse pro" at 3 PM. When we got to 4th class terrain, we decided to rope up, hoping we were at the first of the 4th class pitches Beckey describes. Here is where we roped up:



Many fine views emerged. We could see the entire Picket Range!



When the rope ran out, we found ourselves just above a huge ledge. We traversed down to it and began simulclimbing up. Since there was almost no pro, the climbing went quickly! We simulclimbed 4 pitches all the way to the base of the "open book". The granite is solid and beautiful. So solid, in fact, that it has very few cracks for pro. But the pro you can get is absolutely bomber.



5.8 slab by the open book.. the corner didn't look that inviting, so we took the nice slab.. 30 feet up and no pro yet! Jon got in a smallish cam and a few nuts, and ran out of rope just before the top, so we simuled a bit more. We felt comfortable with it, but if you have a 60 meter rope and want to avoid simuling on this pitch, just set up your belay anchor a bit higher in the open book, if you can find pro.



1.5 hours after roping up, we were at the summit! The views were amazing: you could see every major peak in the State. Shuksan, Rainier, the Pickets, Baker, the Olympics, the Ptarmigan Traverse, Stuart, Dragontail, Chimney Rock, Hinman, Daniel, Glacier Peak, Monte Cristo...Rainier was looking huge.



Looking down the North Face. It would be fun to climb the whole thing. The back side of Big Four looks chossy. Baker looks melted out.



On the hike out: BLUEBERRIES! We got 2 liters in about an hour. We returned to the car and were home 1.5 hours later. What a fun day out! We'd love to do it again.



Gear Notes:

containers for blueberries.

Edited by Lisa_D

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Nice TR :tup:


Yeah, it makes it more alpine if you go all the way to the base. I think you can traverse around the big moats. The very bottom pitch is a little loose, the easiest 1st pitch version is the one on the right. And you can climb (5.4) around the 5.7 2nd pitch. The bottom pitches are just like the upper ones though, thin pro. Such a pretty peak and a nice easy walk off too.


Bivy on the summit to get the full alpine effect. Lots of nice flat spots. I compare it to the Tooth but with a little more exposure due to the straight down N face as opposed to the ledges on the S face of the Tooth. And certainly less crowded than the Tooth.

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We did the full NF route on the 22nd. Getting across the moat was the trickiest part. My partner threw his ice axe to a small ledge and jumped, crampons and all, from the top of the ice to the rock. I followed and after making it across found myself looking down to about 50 ft of air. No going back after that leap of faith. We opted out of the corner on the upper section that looked full of weeds and stuck with the cracks that go directly up from the ledges on the upper face.


Its a great moderate.


I'd post pictures but I haven't figure that out yet.





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