Yellow Aster Butte
The day before Suzanne, Kolleen, Bob, and I hiked
up Hannegan Peak. We camped at the trailhead. By 7:15 am there was movement
and by 8:30 we had eaten breakfast and broken camp. By 9:00 am we drove to
the Yellow Aster Butte - Gold Run Pass trailhead and were on the trail. Years
earlier I hiked up to Gold Run Pass and looked for the "easy slopes" to
wander up YAB as mentioned in 101 HIkes. There are no easy slopes near the
pass. After hearing all the good things about the basin, tarns, and summit
I was more than ready to get up there.
Back in February our same group snowshoed up to
and wandered along the ridge to just above the tarns. That only made
us more interested in a summer visit. Even at 9:00 am there were at least
a dozen cars at the trailhead. We expected to find backpackers in the basin.
The trail begins with a few steep switchbacks before traversing out of the
forest into the open. Unlike the day before, the sky was crystal clear this
day. We soon had a nice look at Mt. Baker.
The old "Keep Kool" trail started at a lower elevation and steeply climbed
to the the basin and tarns. I expected the new trail to leave the Gold
Run Pass trail and cut over to the old trail. It does no such thing. The
whole route to YAB is new (relatively). The route was mostly in forest
which was nice for the descent as the day warmed up. There were several
large trees down but they were not too tough to go over or under.
There was some mud in the meadows and we reached some small snow patches
which will be gone very soon. Not far below Gold Run Pass the route turns
off to the left. It contours around the head of the valley and slowly climbs
under YAB. This route provides great views out to Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan
as well as other peaks to the south. We had a directly opposite view of
Goat Mountain compared to the day before on Hannegan Peak. Wildflowers were
everywhere. The slopes were green with some rock and lots of colorful flowers.
This is the perfect time to do this hike.
The route turned into a small rocky basin and crossed a creek. There
was still snow here. We dropped a bit and climbed up partly on snow. The
footing was good and gaiters were not needed. Soon we were back on dirt
and turned from south to west as we contoured around YAB. There were some
bugs but even with the flowers they never became much of a bother. It looked
much different than we expected but we picked out the point where we turned
around in February. It looked to be a pointed peak from this angle though
it was just the end of a long broad ridge coming from Welcome Pass.
As we rose more and more peaks came into view. The trail soon reached
a split and we turned right and began the climb up the butte. Bob and Kolleen
had been here before in later season but not with snow. The route meandered
gently before getting down to some serious elevation gain. We were moving
slowly taking many photos and another group passed by us. The last climb
was pretty steep but a boot path continued all the way to the top.
At least we thought it was the top. Suzanne and I were ahead and didn't
realize what Bob and Kolleen knew. This was a false summit. There was plenty
of room and the views were outstanding but we could see a slightly higher
point to the north. Speaking of views, they really are tremendous. Tomyhoi
Peak towers above to the northwest. North and northeast are Canadian Border
Peak, American Border Peak, and Mt. Larrabee. Shuksan and Baker dominate
to the south. Even the top of Mt. Rainier was visible.
I had a quick sandwich and when Bob and Kolleen arrived we were quickly
off to the real summit. The group who passed us were ahead on the same route.
There is a boot path which drops off the north side to a saddle, goes over
a smooth bump, and then climbs to the summit. The drop was steep but easy.
As we hiked along the ridge we scouted for a possible drop into the basin
for our return. It was mostly snow with a good deal of talus and heather
The summit appeared to be small and we were concerned that the four hikers
and a dog would not leave much room on top for us four and two dogs. We
decided to head on up and hope for the best. The scramble route is not bad
as the path does continue all the way to the top. Lots more wildflowers
adorned the summit. The very top is big enough for two or three to sit but
just below is plenty of room. We had no problem with 8 hikers and 3 dogs.
The two groups took photos with each others cameras so we all had a photo
of ourselves at the true summit.
Now it was time for a well earned lunch. To the previous views we added
Tomyhoi Lake far below us to the north of Gold Run Pass. The other group
mentioned an interest in dropping into the basin from the ridge so we stayed
on the summit to watch their route. They did not have ice axes and were conservative.
They did manage a little glissading with mostly plunge stepping.
We then dropped back to the ridge and followed it farther than the other
group. We passed over the bump and stopped at the low point. It was steep
and harder than I expected. Still it was easy to self arrest. Directly
below us was a big patch of talus. I slowly glissaded down and the others
followed. A downward traverse on snow brought us to another open slope.
This time Bob went first. I went much faster here but still had to stop
before hitting more talus. One more snow traverse and a final longer glissade
brought us down to the basin.
Many of the tarns are still under snow and a few are mostly open though
with snow around them. The snow firm and not deep enough for any post holing.
We caught up with the other group at a melted out tarn. Their dog Chavez
and our Clover still had the energy to tear after each other all over the
snowy basin. Sadie had the good sense to take a dip in the frigid water.
The basin is extremely scenic with the snow and peaks all around. I would
love to camp there this time of year.
Leaving the basin required a 200' climb up a grassy slope covered with
more wildflowers. At the top we completed the route where the false summit
trail turned off. The hike down was lots of fun. The peaks were laid out
all around us. The wildflowers covered the hillside. The crowds converged.
I was really surprised how many people we met still coming up in mid afternoon
on a Sunday. We passed many groups. We really had not seen that many people
until the descent. The hike out seemed much longer than the stated mileage.
We were back at our cars by about the same time we left the summit of
Hannegan Peak the day before. For the day we covered about 9 miles with
3200' gained. It turned out to be a terrific weekend. They were the third
and fourth new trips for me in a row. It has been many years since I have
done that. The first day was cloudy but the second day more than made up
for it. Both hikes had very good wildflowers. I need to spend more time
in the far North Cascades.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Shades Of Green
Goat & Shuksan
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2006