Location: North Cascades/ Mountain Loop Highway
Mileage/ Elevation gain: Est. 10-11/ 4,200 FT
I had 2 Minnesota friends move into town and it was the perfect weekend to show them the beauty of my beloved Washington state. Vesper Peak had been on my list for a long time and everyone was on board. WTA website said the hike was 8 miles, but it definitely ended up being a lot more. We’ll get to that.
5 of us left Seattle just a little after 6 AM. We arrived to the turn off on Mountain Loop Road and the sign said”road closed.” I had read online that there were 2 big washouts on the road, but even small cars were making it, so the outback should handle it fine and it did. At one part about half the road was gone, so definitely a little bit sketchy but we zoomed on past it. We arrived to the trailhead just before 8 and were on the trail by 8. The parking lot probably had 7-8 cars in it at this time even with the “road closed” sign.
The first part of the hike was all woods and crossing low streams. We crossed a bigger stream and soon after started our climb. The climb from the woods to Headlee Pass was some of the toughest 2 miles I’ve ever done. Steep steep climbing on loose rock and it was already heating up at this point. We took many breaks along the way to make it through this portion. After a couple hours we finally made is to the pass. I was feeling really ill at this point and didn’t know what was going on. I said I wanted to at least make it to Lost Lake and then we would all assess how we were feeling. On the way to Lost Lake a man said Vesper was about 1.5 more and wasn’t too bad at all to get to and was way worth the views. Half of that was about right. I’ll let you take a guess which on which one. Shortly after we made it to a stream crossing and to Lost Lake. This is a gorgeous alpine lake surrounded by large granite giving it a nice dark color. There are many campsites in this area with amazing views all around. It was exactly at this point that I realized that I ran out of water, all 2 OZ I brought. This is usually more than enough for a day hike, but it was really hot and I must’ve started the hike dehydrated. I had a headache, was dizzy and had no appetite. I was panicking as I did not bring my water filter and we weren’t even half way done with this hike. Caitlin offered to share her 3L, so I took her up on it. I wasn’t feeling like moving up the mountain anymore, but the top was so close. We all pressed on up more crazy steep sections finally getting to the last granite field. This was really steep sections of large boulders that took some navigating and scrambling to climb. Along the way up was a stream that seemed to be coming right from snow so this was the chance to get the most unpolluted water, hopefully. I did learn my lesson to always bring my water filter. We all drank the ice cold glacier water and it tasted soooo good. Near the top we got our first glimpse of Copper lake and I had forgot I had seen pictures of it. The color blue was something just amazing. I read something online about this lake-more people have summited Everest then have been to the shores of this lake. Apparently it’s quite difficult to get to. 10-15 minutes of more climbing and we were at the top. Another summit in the bag! I was so proud of us. Proud of me for pushing on even though I wanted to quit so many times and proud of my Minnesota friends who had no hiking experience here, quite the ordeal for their first hike! We ate PB & J at the top and enjoyed views of Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak and Mt. Rainier. After that started the long descent back down. It is pretty grueling to mentally have to think through that you have to take every step back down that you took to get there (duh). We all cruised the way down with sore knees and ankles to boot. My limbs wanted to stop working and I probably fell more times on this hike than ever before. Oh and with the mileage deal, WTA said 8, other sources said 10-11, so we are gonna believe the later with how long it took us. When we finally made it back to the car it was 4:30. So a 8.5 hour day. Longest day hike for me yet. I can look back and enjoy the day now, but at the time it was one of the most miserable things being so dehydrated and feeling so ill. I think I drank 5L of water during that hike.
This was one of the first times getting up close and personal with the North Cascades and I can say I am a big fan. The rough, jagged peaks are something so enthralling. They are called the “American Alps” for a good reason. I would love to come back to Vesper for an overnighter and break up that mileage/elevation over 2 days.