With adventure on our minds, Dane and I set out for the Mt Loop Hwy. Our plans included summiting Sperry and Vesper.
We got to the trailhead and were on the trail by 8:00am. The first part was pretty easy going, a bit steep in a few spots but a good trail though. The crossing of the Stilly was a bit percarious as it was a few small branches with a 7" diameter log on top of them. We quickly found ourselves in the open air looking up the snow covered basin towards Morning Star Peak.
We headed towards Headlee Pass with the sun in our faces. We headed up the steep gully and were glad that we had our crampons and axes with us.
Near the top the snow was gone and we still had to use our tools as the terrain was really steep and non forgiving. At the top we kind of wondered if we were actually on Headlee Pass. After removing our crampons and taking a short break we headed down the backside and soon found the trail as it led towards the lake below the peaks. This further made us question our "Pass".
Made good time getting to the lake and decided to head up to the more difficult summit of Sperry first and Vesper 2nd.
Vesper was really pretty covered with snow.
We made our way up the slab rock behind the lake as snow melted and made little streams through the rock. My route up did not anticipate a return trip down as we planned on taking the ridge to Vesper.
Oh, forgot to mention that I had forgotten my ax at the top of the pass and therefore would be handicapped for the remainder of our route to the summits, d'oh.
As we got further up and traversed some rocky sections we realized that a ridge traverse to Vesper was not in our best interest and then thoughts of returning down the slabs to the lake started to occupy my mind. At that point my anxiety started to climb as we gaind more elevation. When we reached the ridge below Sperry I informed that I was done for the day. My anxiety was getting the better of me and I was not eager to climb up to Sperry.
I mentioned to Dane that I did not want to keep him from a summit attempt and that I'd wait for him where we were. We set a turn around time for him as we relaxed. After about 20 minutes I told him that I wanted to reconsider my decision to summit Sperry, but I would leave my pack behind as it makes me feel top heavy and unstable due to it's size and design. He was happy with my choice and offered to carry my DSLR in his pack so I could get summit shots.
We headed up and took advantage of many veggie belays along the way. Before we knew it we were at the summit block and Dane took to the summit first as I stood on the false summit and snapped some photos.
We switched and I, unlike Dane, took a not as freaky postition on the summit.
We hung out on the summit for a bit and soaked in the views and some food that he brought up.
Did I mention the views!!!!
We headed back down to my pack and went down the the slabby section above the lake that I had dreaded returning to. Much to my surprise I felt rather comfortable heading back down it as it was much wetter from increased snowmelt during the day. I realized that when I'm on a regular trail I don't think very much about my foot placement or holding on to anything. While on this section I was very deliberate with my foot placement and looking for good handholds. By taking things literally one step at a time I felt calm and comfortable and descended safely.
We returned to the lake and got a few shots as we took another short break.
We knew earlier that an attempt of Vesper would be another day as the day was getting away from us.
We returned to the trail and near Headlee Pass I ran to the other spot and retrieved my ax. Turned out that we were one gully away from the Headlee gully.
We donned our crampons and axes and started to descend from the pass.
As we started Dane stopped about 10 feet down and when he moved again he slipped and started going down. All I could do was watch helplessly as he slid over some exposed rocks before arresting himself. With shaken nerves and slightly sore elbow he was good to go after a few minutes. It spooked the crap out of me since I knew the feeling after my quick trip down Baring a few years ago. Getting himself ready to descend again he slipped and arrested very quickly. Cursing the pass he opted to downclimb the pass instead. It was slow going but safer for him. He got to a safe spot about 40 feet down and hid behind a tree as I headed down in the same manner. After about 30' down I opted to plunge step instead as I felt safer doing that with the soft snow. Finally after a little extra time we made it off the snow and at the bottom of the gully. We gave Headlee Pass the bird and continued along our way.
We got a few nice glissade runs in as we descended through the basin to the trail.
We returned to the car after an 11.5 hour adventure.
We are anxious to attempt Vesper but would rather for wait until Headlee Pass thaws out.
As I slowly push myself and improve on my skills I'm learning to accept and know my limits. Knowing when to stop and calm myself down made all the difference for me on this trip. I'm fortunate that I have friends that accept and respect my limits and help me to be a better hiker and take the time to help me when I need it, thank you Dane and to all the moron hikers that I take to the trails with!!
Joined: 17 Jan 2007 Posts: 4189 | TRs | Pics Location: dog training
Wed Jul 01, 2009 8:18 pm
Glad you got the summit and safely down. I was wondering about the pass...I think I'll let it melt out a bit before I hit Vesper. Thank you for the reports and pics. Looks like you had a beautiful day.
-------------- "May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
Headlee Pass was one of my first hikes. The log over the STilly was too short and too low, so we had to leap up and out a few feet to get to the other side. I still can't believe I did that, 'cause I'm probably the biggest creek wuss ever. Guess I didn't know better then.
Dane, you out of school all summer, or are you taking some classes A or B quarter?
-------------- "How much does a case of beer weigh?
Joined: 12 Oct 2006 Posts: 551 | TRs | Pics Location: Edmonds, WA
Fri Jul 03, 2009 8:18 am
We headed up and took advantage of many veggie belays along the way.
Reading about your experience reminds me that Sperry scared the hell out of me and I also gave up once before reconsidering. The wet dirt on the west face was unnerving so I worked over to the north face which was more exposed but seemed solid. I think Vesper was easier than Sperry but that was without snow. Sound like a fun and challenging trip.
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