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Mt Washington to Buttle Lake….. As A Day Hike??
    I have made up a "Topo/Image Map", with the GPS track route traced onto a topo map.

Click - 'Black star' to veiw photo taken from that approx. location.

    It was early summer when Randy Church first mentioned that he was interested in trying a day hike starting at Paradise Meadow Trailhead "Mt Washington" and ending up at Buttle Lake via Jack Augerpoint Trail. He had heard it was possible to do as a long day hike, if you were to pack nothing but the bare essentials. At that time of the year the route was still mostly covered with snow at the higher elevations and we both thought it best to wait till most of it had melted before venturing up there. The only drawback from leaving later in the year was the daylight hours demise the longer we waited for the conditions to change. We wanted to give ourselves between 12/18hrs to do the route.

millertime oldgrowth smallake hikingdown 1400below buttlepano camping grandhinde sydwatts albertauger northslope ruthpano waterfall sydnorthside southwestridge  marsh ralph comingdown mitchell smalltarn charity alexandra saddle      castlecrag reflections

    Aug 30th: my alarm clock was set to go off at 1:00am that would give me enough time to have a quick breakfast, and double check to see if I remembered to bring everything. Instead I must have been in a deep, deep sleep because I never heard anything. Luckily I rolled over and opened my eyes at 2:15am and quickly realized I was suppose to have left the house by 2:00… Eekkkkk!!!!!!! Now the mad dash was on, no time for breakfast, no time to double check gear, just time to brush the fangs, slap some water on my face and race out the door with pack in hand. I showed up at Randy's place in Qualicum amazingly only 10mins behind schedule. From here the plan was to drive up to Mt Washington and leave Randy's truck there, and his wife "Peony" and her friend were going to drive up later in the day and wait for us to arrive at Buttle Lake

    Arriving at Paradise Meadow Trailhead we quickly got ready and set off down the trail at 4:30am under the power of LED's. It was actually quite cool seeing the low alpine brush covered with morning dew glowing under the artificial light. It was close to Hairtrigger Lake when it became light enough to hike without the headlamps. The morning was crisp and cool along with a slight breeze. Having to keep the pace up a bit to stay warm, crossing the meadows towards Circlet Lake took no time at all. It was not until the first hill heading up onto the North ridge of Mt Edward that I warmed up. We got to the saddle between Mt Jutland & Albert Edward in just under 3hrs, this looked like a good place to call Peony telling her how we felt and also giving an ETA to the Augerpoint Picnic site 1.5 km further down the Buttle lake road from the trailhead. Reason we were to meet there was it was unsure if there would be a pull-off at the trailhead or even a sign of its location. The call went through loud and clear and we ended up spending about 30mins there sucking on Gatorade and chewing on energy bars "Oh ya, plus a couple of Tootsie rolls for energy".

    The hike up the North ridge leading to Albert Edwards South-West Ridge took around 1.5hrs, half way up the ridge we ran into a couple of folks hiking up from Circlet lake and on there way to the summit of Edward. We stopped for a short while to "Brag", and swap stories of hikes that we had done in the past. Once high on the South West at the 1980m level it was time to air the feet out before heading down the cliff bands. Going down the first section took no time at all, there were lots of rock cairns to follow until we were stopped by a deep ravine appearing out of nowhere 1440m, hike left if you are unsure looking for a wide bushy ramp heading down. Hiking up the centre of the ravine on the other side we picked up the trail again which took us down the backbone of the ridge and turning slightly north at the last bit ending up down at a small marsh 1280m. From here hike towards the top end of the marsh and head right into the timber, there was some flagging tape to follow and the odd rock cairn. Going up the next 150m are fairly steep, no obstacles were encountered except for the need for more rock cairns or flagging tape. I built a few.

    Once on top we hiked on low angled rock bluffs towards the main creek that drained Ruth Master Lake. Just before the lake there was a small waterfall, it looked like a perfect place to park our butts for a bit and soak the feet in the cool alpine water hoping to try and bring the foot temp down. After spending 20min or so there we again heard voices, low and behold two hikers came over the crest of the water fall. Randy had a good chat with them as I was still soaking my feet and wasn't moving no-where. They were camping at Ruth Masters and just started their hike to Albert Edwards summit for the day. The lake was only 5min from where we had stopped and boy what a beauty it is. The colour of the lake was a vivid dark ocean blue and the clarity was unreal. The trail, which is hard to find, follows the north shore and heads up towards the col 1620m that separates an Un-named peak and Augerpoint Mnt.

    When we arrived at the Col, it was time to try and call Peony and tell her that we should be down at Buttle Lake in a matter of a few hours. Unfortunately I was unable to pick up a signal to dial out. "Shoot", the girls now would have no idea when we would be coming out. Randy didn't seem to be too bothered in saying that they should be at the Picnic site by 5:30pm and would wait there for us. After hiking up the first false summit I noticed it looked possible for us to drop down and cut across the north slope of the un-named peak we were on. This line would save us hiking over two more small peaks, my guess was right and we sailed across the slope without a hitch, I figure it took at least 30min off the hike. At the Meadows above Shark Lake we came across one small tent camped beside a small tarn, no one was around and a short distance away were two more tents, also unoccupied, they must have all been out hiking together somewhere.

    The trail starts to get more defined as we started our decent to Buttle Lake. The only Hic-Up I had going down was near the top, the trail uses a talus slope for a 100m, unfortunately I ran right by the trail and ended up at the bottom of the rocky slope in a pile of large boulders. Having no idea which direction to go, I quickly called up to Randy asking him to keep an eye out for the trail heading off the talus slope into the bush. Luckily he did and yelling down to me to head right, so I did and was back on the trail in no time. He told me to go ahead if I wanted as he was going to take it easy on his knees, I still felt quite fresh and decided to jog down the trail stopping at a small lake 800m and waiting for Randy there. The Lake was nothing more than a frog pond with a small fire pit looking like it was used on a regular basic. Hopefully no one uses it in the extreme fire hazard we're in at the moment. Randy showed up in about 15mins hiking at his own pace telling me he'd meet me at the bottom. Down the trail we went for the last leg of the journey. Looking at the topo map it showed the lake situated 600m above Buttle Lake and the trail appeared to be about 1km in distance. Nah… that was not the case, it ended up to be an endless downhill being at least twice that distance, a real leg burner for people hiking up. The trail for the most part was in great shape with the exception of the odd blow down creating some awkward moves when trying to hump over without slipping off the trail and sliding down the bank.

    I finally reached my destination, "Jack Augerpoint Trailhead", at 4:28pm doing the trail in just under 12hrs made me feel quite honored with myself. Once on the highway I noticed 3 vehicles parked on a small pull over directly across from the trailhead, also there was a large blue arrow which had been spray painted right across the middle of the road pointing right towards the start of the trail. So there was a pull off by the trailhead, I'll have to remember that for future trips. Peony was not aware of this and would be parking a further 1.5km down the road at Augerpoint picnic area, so hopefully she had not passed by yet. I headed into the bush just off the highway to change into my running shoes, as I was doing that, Randy showed up asking me if I had seen the girls go by. Not knowing the vehicle they were driving I asked and he replied by saying it was a light brown Honda civic. I told him I'd seen nothing like that drive by in the 20min I was there prior to him showing up. As I was still changing my foot wear Randy headed down to stand on the highway and wait for our ride to hopefully show up soon, he wasn't even at the road when I heard a car pull over, it was the girls, wow, what perfect timing seeing that the last time we had talked to Peony we were standing on the saddle between Mt Jutland & Albert Edward at 7:30 in the morning. I guess all good things have a good ending because the hike started out a little rough but got better and better as the day went on. We couldn't have asked for better weather, the sun was shining and there was always a nice cool breeze keeping the body temperature down enough that I never even lost a drop of sweat. I later found out Randy lost three drops of sweat.

    Anyone thinking of doing this route as a day trip should be in good physical shape and have done some backcountry hiking, plus someone in the group must have some form of navigational experience. Be sure to check for weather conditions before you go, and make sure you pack all essential gear incase of a mishap, a slower member in your group, or a turn in the weather making it necessary for an unexpected overnighter.
Cheers: Quagger