It has been a terrible August for air quality in the Pacific Northwest. Throughout August and September, smoke from both British Columbia and later from the Cascade Crest severely hampered hiking and climbing plans in the Pacific Northwest. If you read my last trip report and saw the pictures you will know the frustration that was happening with many of the August and September trips in Washington State. Luckily the weather has started to turn, the rain has started to fall and the fires have started to dwindle. I decided to setup a trip up to Yellow Aster Butte to gamble if the air was clear and potentially to see if there was any fall color yet. I line up my hiking friends Ezra, Chitra and her husband and we decided to head up to Yellow Aster Butte.
Heading UpWe got a later start for this trip to Yellow Aster Butte and we were at the trailhead around 12 noon. Upon arrival at the pullout we were greeted with tons of cars. Yellow Aster Butte has some popularity but not nearly as much as what we saw to today.
Because of our midday start the sun was at its strongest and we were all warm at the start. The trail started out at a good moderate to steep pace. It soon went in and out of forest in the beginning and stayed at a moderate pitch all of the way to where the Yellow Aster Butte and the Tomyhoi Trail split. Once we got to the split the trail went to the left. It should be noted that at that point we started getting into Yellow Aster Butte's legendary blueberry bushes. This trail is loaded with delicious berries. Our pace dramatically slowed because of the incredible berries. Every step we took was at one time every berry we ate. The first of the fall colors had started on Yellow Aster Butte and on this sunny day they were downright stunning.
The trail rose for the 2 miles at a alternating grades as it passed by first a tarn then rose up to a whole set of stunning lakes which were just west of the summit ridge. As we got more loaded with berries we started to run low on time. I soon introduced a turn around time because two of us did not have a headlamp. We went quicker up the final steep path to the false summit and though the last rise was steep we all made to the false summit in great shape.
The Final Summit Ridge
Once on the final summit ridge we looked across to the true summit only to find another hiker struggling with the final leg. She went severely off the main route and from a distance it looked downright scary the way she took. All of us collected our breaths and headed onto the final narrow ridge to the summit. Once off the steep false summit, the ridgewalk really was not that narrow and was absolutely stunning to cross In every direction we were greeted with excellent views of the North Cascades. There were some small mini scrambles but nothing that was too hard on this peak. We hit the final section that was the true summit of Yellow Aster Butte. One could either take the very exposed trail/bootpath to the summit or take a Class 2 unexposed variation to the summit. Ezra took the bootpath and the rest of us took the unexposed Class 2 scramble to the true summit.
I would say we were greeted on top with excellent views of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan and hundreds of other peaks but to be honest we had many of those views starting from the mid-point of this legendary hike. Out of Green Mountain, Hannegan Peak and this mountain I would say that this mountain had arguably the best views of the summer with both of those peaks in a very close tie. All of us sat on the summit, took in the views and enjoyed this special peak. We took our time on this trip heading up and it was 3:45 when we made the summit. The views up were so incredible and those berries were so delicious. But because of our time limits, we could only spend 20 minutes on the true summit before heading down from this legendary place.
Heading Down To Beat the Dark
Traversing down the ridge was stunning. The light got a little lower and Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan got more stunning with every ten minutes. Unfortunately for all the good camera pictures this creates in also is a warning sign that the sunset is closing in fast. The blueberries were like sirens, stopping us with there delicious taste and intoxicating smells. The second stop to false summit created even better light on the stunning fall colors in the region.
Though we wanted to go fast, the views just kept getting better. One thing was my right foot was giving some issues going down. Between the berries and the views I was for much of trip downhill the faster one. We really noticed the impact of the sundown when we hit forest. With every minute light on the trail got dimmer and dimmer. Close to the trailhead we all broke out our light devices, two of them being cell phones. Luckily by the time it got really dark we got to the car, thankfully.