Randy has been wanting to do a 4-day tour of Mt. Hinman in the spring for awhile now, and it sure sounds like a great idea to me! Unfortunately, that cantankerous mother we know as Nature decided that the weather would not cooperate on the weekend when we could all go, so a backup plan was quickly formulated.
The first part of that backup plan involved Vesper Peak, off the Mt. Loop highway on Friday the 17th.
We started from the Sunrise Mine trailhead under overcast skies around 8:45 or so.
The players are from left to right: don b, Anita (BigSteve's squeeze), BigSteve, Randy (in back), Dicey, Stefan-K, and the Jack-dog and yours truly behind the camera.
I had my concerns about how far I'd have to walk in ski boots before we hit snow. Fortunately the first creek crossing was cake.
Subsequent creek crossings were a bit more of a pain in the posterior (see video at end).
Onward we trudged through forest primeval and recently thawed avalanche swaths where I learned that avalanche lilies are edible. There were fern fiddleheads and avalanche lilies everywhere, enough for a nice salad if one were so inclined. Don't forget the vinaigrette!
It didn't seem like all that long of a walk before we began to hit steady snow.
Shortly after that we were blessedly able to start skinning in the valley below Headlee Pass. (While my boots *are* alpine touring boots with a walk mode, they are decidedly more skewed towards downhill performance and aren't much fun to walk in.)
The avalanches that came down this valley must've been a sight to see. There was a deep trench with "moraines" sculpted into the snow where a river of snow must've flowed in the not-too-distant past.
Want further proof that nature's a bitch? Look at how these poor trees were smeared by the passing torrent of snow:
Jack had a nice shiny new pair of red boots for this trip. I just need to get a santa hat for him to complete the look.
The group was in general agreement about which col. we should ascend to Headlee Pass.
But first we needed to stop for a snack.
Then it was up and over Headlee Pass where we got our first look at Vesper, it's summit shrouded in clouds.
Onward we trudged, for mile after mile across the consolidated slurpee-like high terrain.
Trudging and climbing and clawing our way up, we ascended into the clouds.
The summit of Vesper probably offers some really fantastic views of the surrounding terrain. I wouldn't know, I've never been up there before and on this day it was completely socked in, making it hard to see more than 20 yards. Funny thing was, it was really hot up there too. It was a lot like being in a sauna if saunas were built with snowcones for floors and no walls.
We sat around on the summit for as long as we could stand to, waiting for the sun to burn off the clouds. This, of course, never quite happened though we were teased into believing it could several times. While we waited two more skier/climbers and their dogs appeared.
Finally, the really fun part began - the descent! The first part of it involved not being able to see where you were going which always adds a little extra flavor to any trip, but soon enough we were back below the clouds and schussing along at breakneck, death-defying speeds.
Especially Stefan. That guy can really ski.
Don b is a holdout from a past age - the age of free heels and freer minds.
Quicker than you can say...
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
...we were back at Headlee Pass and ready to tackle the couloir below it.
Due to a technical glitch none of the pics from the top of the col. came out, but some from a little further down came out great, like this one of BigSteve who appears to have just seen Sasquatch.
I looked around myself but didn't see him. Dang that 'squatch is a squirrely bastard.
The col emptied out into the broad valley we'd ascended earlier and offered up several options for good skiing. Turns out the good line was to skier's left of the avalanche path, through the trees. Figures I chose to go right...
Randy got it right though (as did Don & Stefan):
All too soon we were removing the skis and trudging mile after mile through forest and bush, through dell, dale, and gully, thinking of the cold hoppy rewards awaiting us at trail's end.
But, we did get one more opportunity to make some turns. In the middle of the brushy avalanche swath lay a good sized snow finger that offered up the tremendous potential for 2-300 ft. more vert. Randy led the charge with Stefan and I in close pursuit. We came here to ski, dammit, and we weren't going to let a snow finger go by without tracking it up.
Stefan getting to the bottom of it.
Randy's last turns of the day.
Our thirst for turns had taken us well below the trail. We had a bit of bushwacking to do to regain the trail. Randy and I angled back up the hillside and regained the trail before it crossed the creek. Stefan decided he'd rather cross the creek below then ascend in the large trees on the other side. We all met up again at pretty much the same place and then it was clomp-clomp-clomp went the ski boots on the duff and crunch-crunch-crunch went the boots through the rocks and splash-splash-splash went the boots through the mud all the way back to the car where we slaked our prodigious thirsts with the yeasty-hoppy-malty contents of chilly aluminum cans .
Yay beer, yay skiing, yay Vesper Peak, and yay good friends on a beautiful if cloudy spring day!
If you've never ski toured in the Cascades in the springtime, then this video will give you a little sample-sized taster.
How did your dog do in the col from Headlee Pass? Ever since my dog went careening out of control down the gunsight on Pilchuck I've been reluctant to take her on trips that involve hard, steep snow. I'm not sure how steep the gunsight actually is, but that's the only time that she's had trouble with traction and the Headlee Pass col seemed like it might be in the same ballpark the one time that I skied it.
The snow was soft and Jack had no troubles with it. He's very athletic, I have yet to take him somewhere that he hasn't been able to handle, though he did have problems with the waterfall area at the bottom of the Phantom back in January. That had two spots that were pretty much mandatory small jumps for a skier and Jack was reluctant to downclimb them, but he eventually got down to me with lots of encouragement.
nice report Will... wasn't sure if there was going to be one. Everybody must still be in "sensitivity training." So great to finally get out with the nwhikers-on-skis brigade! Even if the weather never did attain forecast stature. Just a beautiful shifting screen of fog for the movie playing in my head: Sperry, Copper, Morning Star... if you've been... if not, something to look forward too the next time up.
up drainage towards Headlee Pass
lunch on Vesper Peak with stunning views, 256 shades of white
Repeat yesterday with Anita, Brad, Shawn and Ted, this time with visibility
Totally off topic (sorry) - BigSteve, Anita was one of my clinical instructors during nursing school. Please tell her I said hi, and I am not surprised at all to see that she engages in such high adventure!
Great report. It is interesting to see how many folks hike in the heavy boots, and how many carry them. I've carried mine when doing this sort of thing, but if their isn't much dirt, it would make sense to just hike in them.
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