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|GuideBook||Nelson 2 or Green Beckey|
|Weather||Clouds, fog and sun|
|Mailed to WacList||08/30/2005|
(NOTE: Sorry this TR is so belated - finally got around to writing it today)|
My friend Scott H. and I had been talking about doing a climb together for months and we just couldn’t seem to find a weekend that worked for us both: I’m married w/ two kids, while Scott actually has a social life. So finally we agreed to get serious and just take a day off work. Scott hadn’t been rock climbing much this summer, so he was in the mood for something alpine yet mellow. I’d read and heard a bit about Vesper’s N. Face, and thought it’d be perfect for a moderate day out. The quick and dirty: Vesper is, in my humble opinion, an excellent choice if you’re looking for an easily accessible multi-pitch climb to a summit w/ fabulous views. It makes for a great day trip, as it’s a reasonable drive from Seattle (~2 hours) and the approach is relatively short (~4 miles in? We were car-to-car in <12 hours, despite a variety of routefinding errors – see below for more on that).
We left Seattle around 5:30am and clearly didn’t drink enough coffee because we drove right past the turn-off from the mountain loop highway. We eventually got a clue and found our way to the proper trailhead, ready to hike at ~ 8. The weather had been consistently sunny for a couple weeks, but good things must come to an end. Low clouds and fog covered the area up to about 6k feet, limiting our visibility to ~ 100 ft. The hike up to Headlee pass went quickly. There’s an amazing quantity of blueberries on this initial part of the approach, so we kept our eyes peeled for bears (saw none).
After Headlee Pass our progress slowed to a crawl because the trail gradually becomes less obvious and we couldn’t see any landmarks – everything was shrouded in fog. After much bumbling w/ compass, gps and map we finally picked a path through the boulders and scree to the notch b/w Vesper and a minor peak to the North. At this notch we actually got a brief glimpse of Vesper through a break in the clouds. Unfortunately we weren’t at a point to see the route yet, so we had to be content w/ the summit teaser.
We dropped down about 700 ft. to the glacier and began wandering around in the fog and rubble alongside it, trying to find the start of our intended route (the route highlighted in Nelson’s Selected Climbs #2). We had a couple photocopied pics of the face, but with the low visibility we were just guessing where the route base was (though we wasted more than an hour trying to find it!).
Finally we picked a spot to begin climbing. My confidence took a bit of a hit as I had to shovel out large chunks of dirt and moss to set up our initial anchor. Where the hell were we going? We did two wandering pitches looking for something that would “go”, then another two fun pitches on fairly good rock after I found what looked like a reasonable line. The climbing was only in the .5-.7 range, though it felt harder due to the lack of visibility, and lingering doubts about whether I was on a route we could manage.
Finally we reached a third class ledge system and realized we were WAY to the climber’s left of our intended route. In the current Green Beckey guide there’s a picture of the N. Face, and I think our route was roughly in an area noted w/ a “?”. With less traversing, this lower section of the route would only be 2 or 3 pitches.
As we were already roped, we simuled rightward through 3rd and 4th class terrain to reach the classic slab/open book of Vesper’s upper N. Face.
During this time we finally climbed above the clouds and fog – hallelujah, WE CAN SEE!!
For the last section of the climb we stayed near the open book rather than off on the slab because it seemed like there was more opportunity for pro placements there. The climbing is easy-moderate, but perhaps a bit runout between opportunities to place gear. Fun climbing, for sure – especially now that we could enjoy the view!
We relaxed for a long time at the summit, taking pictures and guessing which peaks we saw poking out from the sea of clouds. Finally a higher layer of clouds moved in, and we could see rain falling off to the West and North. Time to boogie!
The hike out went quickly. Miraculously the rain held off until just after we reached the car! A couple beers, some caffeine, and we were on the road back to Seattle.
- Aluminum crampons and light axe (not used because we started climbing too far left – would want if you were doing the Selected Climbs route).
- 60x9.4” rope
- Smallish rack – 7 cams to 2”, Nuts (~9), 4 smallest tri-cams. Could definitely use less, but it was nice to have “extra” since we were not on route.
- About 12 single and 2 double runners