Forum Index > Trip Reports > Yellow Aster Butte, Winchester LO and High Pass Looped 9/5-9/7/19
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Lakes&Summits
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PostSat Sep 07, 2019 2:58 pm 
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There's little one can add to the plethora of trip reports extolling the well-deserved virtues of Yellow Aster Butte. A popular destination, so I'd long waited for a chance to make it there on a weekday and camp at one of the roughly gazillion adorable tarns. Last year I went during a brief clearing, but my second day was choked with the smoke that became the signature of summer 2018. I was also intrigued by the treacherous road up to Twin Lakes, not even thinkable in my Prius.
Fast-forward to September 2019: Finally the confluence of circumstances! I had two free weekdays, a new Subaru, a perfect weather forecast and--knock on wood--so far a pretty smoke-free summer. I wanted to go back to YAB, visit Winchester L/O and high pass and set out to find a way to do it all creatively without returning to my vehicle.
On Thursday morning I drove to Twin Lakes. The road is as bad as everyone says, but manageable in my Subaru. The lakes are charming on a weekday. I could vaguely imagine camping there even. Vaguely. We started up toward the Winchester L/O, but not before Louie had successfully dined on the remains of someone's garbage left rather carelessly by a picnic table. He was loathe to abandon his booty of large animal bone.
I'd never been to the Winchester L/O, but I once had a friend who maintained it and I'd seen many of his photos, so I was very keen to check it out. In fact I saw a photo on the wall which I'm quite sure is one of his, but didn't find his name on it. What a charming place! Had it not been for the flies buzzing around on this unseasonably warm September day, I might have convinced myself I could hang out there for the rest of the day and spend the night... sitting... reading. But sitting has never been my strong suit, so I quickly abandoned that delusion and pressed on. I'd decided to follow the ridge from Winchester Mountain to Gold Run Pass and get over to the tarns that way. Looked do-able. Indeed, I managed, though the very first part, getting up to the ridge from the saddle just below the lookout produced just enough anxiety to determine that I wouldn't go back that route as I'd originally planned. I had someone else's tracks on Gaia, but that person wasn't carrying an overnight pack and, based on the photos sans companions, didn't have two dogs in tow either. The dogs generally manage well on steep terrain and find routes that they can manage, avoiding the big class 4 steps. Sometimes though this involves dislodging rocks and in general making me nervous. Once atop the ridge, the going was easier. There are still some very steep bits, but they are vegetated and not harrowing.
After successfully reaching Gold Run Pass, the remainder of the trail was peopled, but not unpleasantly so. We found a lovely campsite on one of the tarns overlooking Shuksan and Baker, enjoyed a swim and admired the view.
At dusk, three birds continually circled around near our camp, calling occasionally. I didn't recognize them until one alighted on a tree and I got a good look at its silhouette. Owls! I'd never been visited by owls at dusk before and delighted in the experience.

Much as I wanted to summit Tomyhoi (scoped it out last year), I had decided wisely I think that I shouldn't attempt it alone with the dogs (maybe the owls were a sign of increased wisdom in my advancing years...). So I left the requisite gear at home and determined to come back yet again at a later date.

On Friday morning I lingered quite long, strolling to the top of the butte to the south for an even better view,
going for another swim... Since I'd determined not to walk the ridgeline back to Winchester, I was stuck with hiking out to the YAB TH and then trudging up the awful road. So I dallied. As luck would have t, I struck up a conversation with an older woman as I filled my bottles at the last stream, preparing for a hot and dusty day. She suggested taking the Tomyhoi Lake trail down and then crossing over the valley and up to Low Pass. Brilliant! I wish I could take credit for having thought of it myself, especially since I'd gone down to Tomyhoi Lake last year (not very interesting mind you)... But credit goes to the 73-year-old of superior wisdom. So, following her tip, we did just that. It was a very pleasant stroll by and large, even though I found the boot path up to low pass only after I'd blasted through some small trees onto the trail, startling some hikers en route to Larabee... Oh well. A wee bit of bushwhacking.
Next on my agenda was to camp up on the ridge above High Pass. Key to the success was finding a water source. Dropped my pack above high pass and checked out a smallish snowfield. It was such a warm day that rivulets of water trickled down the snow and I was able to create a well deep enough to scoop out enough water for myself and the pups. I hoofed it up to the top, not at all certain that I would find a spot. To my utter joy, I did. Out on the last knoll, seemingly floating amidst the mountain peaks was exactly what my heart desired. Solitude, no human sounds, only the rush of water off Larabee, and peaks as far as the eye could see. I was in my own version of heaven.

I had sufficient time to study Larabee to temper any interest I'd had in climbing it. Just didn't strike me as fun... But it sure was scenic to look at in all kinds of lighting!

Right around dusk, the clouds that had been hovering around Baker moved in, eventually engulfing us on an island of terra firma amidst a sea of white puff. And though it deprived me of another magnificent sunset, it was beautiful in its own rite.
And by late in the night, those clouds had once again yielded to a spectacular, clear, star-studded sky, which in turn brought me a glorious sunrise behind the Pleiades.
I'd succeeded in my mission: to visit three very popular and glorious destinations on one trip with minimal back-tracking and at least a modicum of solitude.

Side note: whenever I hike on popular trails with my dogs, I cannot believe the number of people who, upon seeing them wearing packs, make comments such as, "Oh, that's the way to do it--put them to work!" or "What great helpers!" No, they're not pack animals. They just carry their own food. And they really don't help at all, except by doing what dogs do best--being devoted and loyal companions.
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Brushbuffalo
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PostSun Sep 08, 2019 7:52 pm 
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Clever linkage, and gorgeous sharp pictures.
Thank you.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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HermitThrush
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 5:09 am 
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Gorgeous.
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joker
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 12:58 pm 
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Ditto,  and yeah,  having a snack break at High  Pass  before returning to a car camp at the  lakes and then doing a lap up to  the  lookout was enough to convince me that I wouldn't be returning to bag Larabee. Looks like a lot of loose crappy travel.
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Brushbuffalo
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 4:19 pm 
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joker wrote:
Larabee. Looks like a lot of loose crappy travel.

Yes, Larrabee has lots of very loose rock. When  I climbed it in August 1984, I think, and bivied on top, I  noticed a large centralized fire over at the Mt. Baker Ski Area. Turns out the employee lodge was burning to the ground! But the new lodge was operable by opening of ski season that fall.
When I descended from the top of Larrabee I mused that it is a summit to do solo, or at least with a small party  with each going up and down different loose gullies.
But it is still a nice summit that I recommend. It is only class 2+, just loose.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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joker
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 9:06 pm 
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As I recall it looked like the  class 2 had extended airiness to it though!

A friend who had done it mentioned that  he'd only want to do it with a partner  he really trusted, and not with any other parties en route.
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Brushbuffalo
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 9:13 pm 
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joker wrote:
class 2 had extended airiness

That could be. However, even the trail on Table Mountain is class 1+ to 2 with airiness.

With the passing decades some climbs get harder in my memory, others get easier. Like many mountains, Larrabee looks more difficult as viewed directly, as from High Pass, than it turns out to be.
But I stand by my opinion of doing it either solo or less desirably, with partner(s) who remain well out of the rockfall zone of each other.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Foist
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 9:46 am 
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Cool idea and nice photos, thanks for posting.

Lakes&Summits wrote:
Side note: whenever I hike on popular trails with my dogs, I cannot believe the number of people who, upon seeing them wearing packs, make comments such as, "Oh, that's the way to do it--put them to work!" or "What great helpers!" No, they're not pack animals. They just carry their own food.

They are helping insofar as if they didn't carry their food, you would need to.
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joker
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 9:52 am 
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Brushbuffalo wrote:
That could be. However, even the trail on Table Mountain is class 1+ to 2 with airiness.

With the passing decades some climbs get harder in my memory, others get easier. Like many mountains, Larrabee looks more difficult as viewed directly, as from High Pass, than it turns out to be.
But I stand by my opinion of doing it either solo or less desirably, with partner(s) who remain well out of the rockfall zone of each other.

Well perhaps I'll consider doing it solo some  fall weekday...
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D. Inscho
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PostSun Sep 15, 2019 10:32 am 
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What a fine collection of rambles Linda.  It has been some time since the Nanny Goat trip with you and Max.  You've new companions now!   Good to see you're still bashing thorough beautiful landscapes  cool.gif

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The key to a successful trip is to do the planning during work hours.       --  John Muir
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PostMon Sep 16, 2019 5:27 am 
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Looks like a great trip!  Thanks for the write up.  Great pictures!  up.gif  up.gif
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chiragjp
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PostWed Sep 18, 2019 11:58 am 
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Your report came right in time, I was going to Twin Lakes with an Outback and every mention of that road was high-clearance 4wd. I was a little unnerved as coming from CO when people say 4wd high-clearance they really mean it you couldn't drive those roads without a pickup or Jeep in lowrange. If you were able to do it that weekend, I should definitely be able to make it to the lakes this upcoming weekend with no trouble as long as I drive slow. Excited to grab scenic views from Winchester and do some trailrunning for several hours to and from High Pass, I haven't visited any trails north of the Baker highway. Maybe I can see some owls in the evening too never seen them in the wild.
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