August 2016 with Ron, Azarm, Lyn, Carole N, Paul N, and Randall from Guildford.
There is an easy way and a hard way to hike Winchester Mountain. The easy way is to drive up the old mining road to Twin Lakes, from which it’s a steep but fairly short 2.7 km to the summit. The hard way is to park at the trailhead for Tomyhoi Lake and Yellow Aster Butte and walk the extra 4 km up a headwall on a steep corkscrew road. If you have a regular 2wd vehicle that’s what you do. It’s possible for one to make it up the road to the lakes but I don’t recommend it.
The last couple of times I hiked it, Winchester Mountain was bringing me down with socked in clouds. In 2015 I hiked with Elena and a couple of others on a recce hike for a trip that she was going to lead a couple of weeks later. We had a great hike up but couldn’t see a thing from the summit. Her “official” hike was the other extreme – 35 degree heat. This day was better, hot but not quite unbearable. We drove to the Yellow Aster trailhead and parked Carole’s beater Lexus with the intent that at least some of us would hike the road. Ron was keen to drive his Forester up the road as far as he could with as many people he could fit. We discovered that it is possible to fit seven adults into a Subaru, though probably not legally, and it helps to have a couple of smaller adults.
So we drove all the way to the Twin Lakes and started the hike from there. The road can actually be very interesting (the first time I did this hike was with Rosemary and Terry Taylor and we found lots of good things) but it was still 30 degrees and when it’s that hot I don’t mind cheating. However, the thing about hiking to a place you can get to with 4wd is that when you get there it’s full of 4wds. Hiking two hours to find dozens of vehicles parked and tents set up can be a bit disconcerting, so driving up there ourselves kind of takes away that feeling. Maybe we’ll consider driving up and camping there ourselves in the future.
The lakes are nice but look much better from above. You gradually climb above them through meadows to a high gap and then around the other side of the mountain to the summit. On the other side you lose the view of the lakes and Goat Mountain but gain views of Tomyhoi Lake and peak (called Tamihi on the Canadian side) along with Mount Larabee and the Border Peaks.
The north face of Mount Everest has an infamous section of sandstone known as the Yellow Band. Winchester has its own Yellow Band, just below the gap, which is probably the riskiest part of the trail.
There’s a trail from the lakes to the gap below Larabee which we should check out one of these days.
There’s an old fire lookout tower on the summit which could be a neat place to spend a night, apart from the lack of water or biffy. Lots of interesting newspaper clippings, artwork and quotes are posted on the walls inside.
Goat Mountain and Mount Shuksan
And way off there, Mount Baker in all its splendour
Postscript: after the recce hike in 2015, we stopped at Graham’s in Glacier for ice cream as usual. While we were sitting there, Bettina’s daughter Andrea said “what are those birds?”. It turned out to be a flock of evening grosbeaks running around the parking lot. They’re not common in these parts though they can be locally common and sporadic – they tend to move around a fair bit – and I’d heard one or two on the hike, but it was a bit unexpected to see them right at Graham’s. While we were having our ice cream after this hike, there they were again. It seems that Glacier is a good place to find evening grosbeaks.