July 9, 2002, Vesper Peak
WA Cascades West Slopes Central
In search of low elevation snow. After a moderately interesting creek crossing, we encountered continuous snow almost to the very lip of the basin below Headlee pass. The ascent up the Big Bowl and the gulley to the pass was pretty straightforward. "Crater Lake" or whatever it is called below Vesper was 100% frozen. 1 hour final uphill from lake to the summit, which was calm and pretty with unlimited views to in every direction. We could easily see downtown Seattle. We followed our ascent route on our descent on fairly good snow from 6200 to 5000 feet (summit to lake), with continuous snow. Dropping into the Sultan drainage, we undershot the pass on continuous snow and climbed a short step back up to the pass. The descending gulley from Headlee was in shadow, and firm. Florian side-slipped on semi-AT lock-down gear, while this concerned telemarker did a careful downclimb featuring a few self-arrests (ice axe recommended). Once down into Big Bowl, we descended entertainingly tree-debris covered snow. Descent on continuous snow was possible almost to the very lower lip of Big Bowl. At the bottom, the snow was green because it was totally covered by branches. Big Bowl was about 40% giant popcorn avalanche debris snow but there were pathways of better snow between this stuff. The creek was higher in the afternoon adding fun factor to the final crossing. Overall, this trip rates high in scenic beauty and variety, and the snow on Vepser itself was quite good. A few points require care and I should add that crampons also would have been appreciated in the couloir below Headlee pass.