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Guiran
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Guiran
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PostFri Sep 09, 2005 8:45 am 
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I've been up Vesper Peak a few times now (still 0 for 2 on convincing anyone that the traverse to Sperry is worthwhile), and each time I go up, I look west at the long backbone of granite slabs stretching out to Big Four and wonder if it's possible to get there.  The answer: possible, but certainly not easy.

On Sunday evening, Kevin and I pulled into the Sunrise Mine Trailhead and (loaded with more gear than we probably needed) headed in to Vesper.  Three wet looking hikers emerged from the woods as we were putting our boots on and looked at us like we were insane.  We got a little rained on getting up to the basin, but made camp on the flat above the Lake Elan outlet in the last of the light.

Kevin got up early the next morning and captured a striking sunrise over Sperry from the top of Vesper.  I slept in.  We first tried descending the slabs from the col beteween Sperry and the unamed knob between Vesper and Sperry.  Found one sandy ledge heading down that looked awfully exposed.  From below it looks like the route *might* go if you could find a way to rap a 10-15 ft section of 5th class.  Option 2 was to downclimb the ridge from the unamed knob.  Consulting Beckey on the way home indicated that this is actually a 12 pitch climb.  Needless to say, we elected to take Option 3 - descending to the Copper glacier.

The descent to the Copper glacier (or what's left of it) is loose but quite feasible (class 2).  We found generally sound rock on skiiers left and particularly lousy loose, wet stuff on skiiers right.  Just above the snow remnants, we traversed right to reach a series of broken slabs heading back towards the granite ridge.  The rock here was quite sound once the loose rock covering all the good surfaces had been kicked off into a gaping schrund below us (neat sounds).  The traverse was pretty low key, with the exception of one long stemming move above the schrund (class 3).  The ascent of the slab/gully was where things got more interesting.  The bottom is sound class 3, but the top (by any route) is at best class 4.  The route I (unwisely) chose was stiff 4th class (or maybe just unprotectable 5th) for about 10 feet.

Once off the slabs, it was easy walking on talus and then granite nirvana.  up.gif   The backbone slabs are larger than they look from the top of Vesper and encompass an area larger than many football fields.  I can't emphasize enough how cool this area was to walk around on.  Because the slabs are so featureless, they really mess with your perspective and everything if further away than you first think.

Our goal for the day was the South Peak of Big Four.  We gained the ridge that grows from the center of the backbone, but got cliffed out after some krumholtz tunneling.  For anyone else attempting the route, we recommend dropping north and contouring below the ridge to reach the south summit of Big Four.  The red rock on the summit looked awfully loose.

After a nap in granite nirvana, we scouted return paths and quickly discovered the only option was to come back the way we had come.  Fortunately, I'd been carting around a climbing rope in my pack all day and we were able to rap the worst section of the climb.  There are signs (rusty piton and sling, newer slings on a tree) that a double rope rap would further simplify the descent, but who's going to bring two ropes for one rap?

A quick scramble returned us to the notch above the Copper glacier.  I opted to run up the summit in the fading light while Kevin took from pictures in a small snow-melt tarn.  Back to the car around 7:30 and to Seattle without incident.  We polished off the flask I'd brought along prior to leaving camp and the opening stages of the hike out were somewhat more interesting with the Captain at the helm.

Good times.  I'd like to go back and give the South Summit of Big Four another go by the same route.  Maybe try to put the NWHTSR up there.    guns.gif
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Oren
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Joined: 27 Jun 2004
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Location: Stranger in a strange land
Oren
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PostFri Sep 09, 2005 6:08 pm 
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I was up there trying to get down on that ridge Monday also but no go. I came to the same conclusion about the saddle next to Sperry.

I looked at the traverse across the glacier which would take you to Copper Lake and a route of beckeys but I didn't want to go that way. All I seen was cliff below the ridge I wanted to get on. Don't have technical skill necessary. Glad you was able to find a way up.

That granite ridge is quite appealing.
Granite galore and Big Four
Granite galore and Big Four

Granite galore and Big Four
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naturealbeing
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naturealbeing
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PostFri Sep 09, 2005 6:50 pm 
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Guiran,

Nice bit of work getting up there on those slabs of granite. I've often gazed over there from the TH and from Sperry and have always wanted to get over there to experience that area.

The shots below were taken 7.10.03 from the TH, the summit of Sperry, and near the saddle between Sperry and the Pt.

Do you think it would be possible to get up to those slabs from the N side of Sperry ascending the gully shown in the picture below?
Sperry-Big 4 Ridge
Sperry-Big 4 Ridge

Heres your granite play field covered in snow.
Big 4
Big 4

Heres a shot of that Pt. between Vesper and Sperry.
Pt. between Vesper & Sperry
Pt. between Vesper & Sperry

Putting the NWHTSR up there would be great trip. Did I hear Sunday?
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Tazz
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Tazz
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PostFri Sep 09, 2005 7:03 pm 
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nice TR  good job up.gif   thanks for the pics NB and Oren.  hmmm I think this will be on the list for next year (maybe biggrin.gif )
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Guiran
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Guiran
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PostFri Sep 09, 2005 8:20 pm 
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Quote:
Do you think it would be possible to get up to those slabs from the N side of Sperry ascending the gully shown in the picture below?

NB, it's possible.  Beckey mentions an approach from that side, but says 4th class and only goes while the gully is snow-filled.  The approach is also fairly brushy!  I think the approach Kevin and I used is probably one of the more feasible late-season options.
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