Yellow Aster Butte  - 6129'
Tomyhoi Peak  - 7435'
Miles: 13 Gain: 6200' GT Mt. Baker #13
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The five of us met around 9:15a in Stanwood and carpooled from there. By noon or a little after we were on the Tomyhoi Lakes Trail - #686. This is the new trail replacing the old Keep Cool Trail.  The new one is a highway, well used and maintained, easy grades and after a mile and a half reaches a junction with the Yellow Aster Butte (YAB) trail #686.1.

At the junction, bear left and follow 686.1 as it makes a long flat traverse around the head of the valley below Gold Run Pass. The trails climbs west from a bench on the south flank of YAB and eventually deposits you at 5600' above the tarns and SW below the butte.  The views are quite distracting from the junction onward.

Having never been in this area, I just had to continue on and scramble the long ridge out to YAB. Neil who has probably done it many times came along as water bearer. :) The scramble is really more of a strenuous hike with a trail leading all the way to the final 30' of rock on the summit. Great views deep into the eastern and northern parts of the Cascades.

On rejoining the others, we followed the trail as it dropped steeply down 400' to the basin, winding between the tarns before starting the climb up Tomyhoi's south ridge.  There is lots of room here among the small lakes to camp and while we saw lots of people on the trail there didn't seem to be many tents.  Most day hike to the tarns or climb up to the 6000+ high point nearest YAB for the view.

From the north end of the lakes basin we followed a well established path up the broad ridge to about 6200', where Carrie found us a nice spot to camp overlooking Tomyhoi Lake.  East across the valley Mt. Larrabee and the American and Canadian border peaks stood, while Shuksan and Baker dominated the view south.   The evening was near perfect; clear, warm with an almost tropical breeze.  No moon or city lights to dull the blaze of the milky way.

At the crack of 9:30 we had finished breakfast and started for Tomyhoi. While the summit was only 1200' higher than camp, the ups and downs we crossed in the mile and a half to the summit made the total gain closer to 2000'. 

I found the following route description and it says it all better than I can:
"Ascend to the ridge top and hike the ridge in meadows and grand views until you reach the rock. Cross a hump, then descend about 200 feet to a rounded col at 6,300 feet. Continue upward as the ridge broadens again. Upon reaching a narrow rocky section, traverse around the north flank of

the ridge on an expansive bench system, avoiding several rock pinnacles by traversing the top edge of the glacier on snow or firn. Climb over a rocky hump (the false summit), descend 100 feet to a notch at 7,250 feet, then climb moderately steep but firm rock along the left edge of the ridge. Cross a narrow 50-foot level gable. Follow a ledge west for 30 feet to a broad corner, turn right and take easy scree-rock ledges west of the crest to the summit."

Neil and I pretty much followed this route, except that on the way up, we scrambled up the second gully above the glacier.  From there we were forced to down climb a short gully then traverse around a rock rib and regain the ridge and what had now become a path just below the ridge crest.  On the descent, we dropped down the left side of the third gully above the glacier on a handy rock ledge.  Much better than having to reclimb the steep loose second gully.

The view of the summit block from across the last notch probably stops most scramblers right there.  It sure doesn't look like anything you'd want to try without protection.  In fact a lone scrambler who had passed our camp much earlier in the day, met us on his descent and told us that no way he would do the final 150' to the summit because as he put it:  "I've got kids to think about".

But what you see from the base of the summit block is something different.  A surprisingly secure, even while exposed, rock route unfolds.  As Neil put it, where the route is exposed, there are great hand and foot holds, and in the one spot where good holds are few, it's not exposed. One of the pictures in this album shows the route we took to the summit. 

On the way back from the summit Neil's pack attempted suicide, launching itself from the notch above the third gully and falling about 400' before finally coming to rest on a narrow bench.  Neil was only barely able to climb down and retrieve it.  Medication and professional help are recommended so that this does not happen again.

On our return to camp, we found our stuff piled in Neil's tent and no one around.  The others had packed up while we were on Tomyhoi and went down the trail to pick huckleberries.   We met up with them at the last tarn before the trail heads up to YAB's shoulder. 

An uneventful hike out and dinner at Milano's in Glacier.  The restaurant was crowded when we got there around 7:00p but that's to be expected considering how good the food is.

Drive I-5 north to Hwy 542 - Mt. Baker Highway.  Follow to the town of Glacier.  From the Glacier Public Service Center, continue east for 12 miles to Forest Service Road #3065 (Twin Lakes Road). The road is located on the left hand side of the highway just beyond the Department of Transportation's Shuksan maintenance facility. Turn left on Twin Lakes Road and continue approximately 4.5 miles to the Tomyhoi Lake/Yellow Aster Butte Trailhead.
 54  images in this album.
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