I spent a majority of the week trying to recover from jet lag. I have consistently been sleeping 2 hours, waking up for an hour, then going back to sleep for 2….repeat from 7 pm until 5 am. The larches were splendid at Freedom & Navajo last weekend, but I wanted more. So instead of teaching self rescue with the Mountaineers (sorry MattyP!) we decided to take advantage of the weather and tag Little Annapurna, and through hike the Enchantments…
- Distance: ~21.7 miles (my Fenix said 26 miles. You’re wrong Garmin. Ultratrac you suck)
- Elevation change: 6,387′ up…..8,507′ down
- Weather: Cold. Really really cold. Little A summit was 32 degrees. BBBBrrrrr
- What did I eat: Skratch (strawberry, lemon lime (yuck)), trail mix, Skratch Bars, and pizza (spicy chicken for 1 slice, butternut squash for the next. PCC has some weird toppings)
- Suffer Factor (out of 10): 6, because hiking down from the core zone is a pain in the ass. More on this later
- Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1903379354
The adventure began Friday afternoon. A long day at work ended at 2pm when I said “fuck it” and turned off my computer. I grabbed my gear from home, topped off the gas tank, grabbed some pizza, and made my way to Leavenworth…where I was promptly reminded by the hordes of people that it was Oktoberfest. Great. No brauts for me this weekend.
Matt had arrived earlier and found a campsite at Upper Johnny Creek. I’d actually never been this far down Icicle Road, and I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the bathrooms were. These deeper campgrounds must not see much use. After a few minutes of admiring the stars, we decided to call it early and crashed around 8. Of course, what that really meant was I woke up every 2 hours and stayed awake for 30 minutes before going back to sleep.
We met up with the rest of the team at 0500 at Snow Lake Trailhead. They drove up that morning, and we all looked equally tired. Car shuttles arranged, we drove up to Colchuck/Stuart Lake Trailhead and began our trek at 0600. We also saw Bree, who was hiking with a few friends. Hi Bree!
The hike up to Colchuck was pretty unremarkable. It was fairly cold (37 ish), but we made no stops and reached the lake in 1:40. We navigated around the lake, filled up on water, and were heading up Aasgard Pass by roughly 0830. I must say, I’ve heard stories of how steep Aasgard is and I fully expected to get my ass kicked. Well…..I personally think it’s not that steep. Training for the last year has really paid off, although I think the less than ideal eating habits and workouts throughout the week led my hamstrings to cramp a little. It was also cold and icy near the top. The microspikes came out for the last 500′ of Aasgard; they probably weren’t needed, but I was not too keen on slipping and tumbling back down.
We topped out at Aasgard approximately 3:45 hrs after starting, where we sunbathing for a few minutes warmed us back up. I topped off my water, mixed some more Skratch, and then chased my team up Little Annapurna. The route was snow free for the first few hundred feet, but ice on the rock was present the further we went up, which made for some interesting foot placements. Microspikes would not really help as the ice was very thin, and the snow in some places was just an inch of powder on top of heaps of granite. We summitted right around 1130 and were treated to amazing views of Rainier, Adams, Baker, and Glacier, as well as a stunning perspective of the Enchantments.
After several minutes of photos and shoving pizza in my face, we retraced our route back down the slope to the trail. We had contemplated returning to Colchuck and exiting that direction, which would have been significantly quicker, but most members of our team had never done the through hike of the Enchantments and we wanted to see what the rest of the area had to offer. So after another refill and rock chucking session, we made our way into the Core.
The rocky terrain reminded me of Boston Basin. The approach up the Quien Sabe is similar in terms of prominent ridge lines and imposing peaks, surrounding an alien landscape barren of most trees. Boston Basin is predominately slabs and waterfalls, which larches dotted the landscape of the Enchantments. This was the most larches I’ve ever seen in a given area. I can see why the Enchantments is so popular for backpackers and climbers.
I wish I could say I enjoyed the hike out, but to be perfectly honest, the minute we left the Core Zone and began our descent into the Snow Lake Zone I was bored. Gone were the rocks and larches, and into the dense forest we went. I had a headache since we left Little A, and it followed me down the mountain for quite a ways. I was definitely eating and drinking a lot of electrolytes, so I have no idea how to explain it’s source.
We finally reached the Snow Lake Trailhead at 1820, approximately 12.5 hours after the start. While I wasn’t thrilled with the last 8 miles, I think I would do this again in a year or two. A through ski of might be in the cards, and there’s quite a few other peaks I need to tag (Prusik, McClellan, Enchantment, Cannon)!!!