Valhalla. Shangri-la. Eden. Enchantments. Wow, what a spectacular place.
We met the fourth in our party at the Leavenworth ranger station around 8:30. The rangers filled us in on the regulations, gave us the permits, and off we went. On the way up to the Colchuck trailhead we could see larch shining on he hills above. The temperature was slightly cool and the trail was shady - perfect for speeding along. We made good time up to the Colchuck shores and then saw the pass behind the lake. Boo Aasgard pass - hooray Colchuck!
Getting around to the base of the pass was much more tedious than the climb for me. The trail here is very rough and the rock hopping is tricky with lots of big gaps in the rocks and unlevel steps. The climb up Aasgard is what it is - alot of elevation in a short time. The tread was pretty good, hands were only needed in a few places on the way up, and then only because we were unbalanced with big overnight packs. Lots of dayhikers and a few overnighters were on their way down as we neared the top.
Over the top and we could see the lakes! We poked along to the shores of Isolation lake and took some photos. The sun was dropping behind the ridge and it was getting cold, so we found the most sheltered site we could and setup camp. Everything was calm and warm with clear skies and shooting stars - until around 11pm. The wind came up and slammed the tents in huge gusts, the strongest wind I've ever been in. My Hubba-Hubba shook and bent heavily but held up.
The winds were calmer but still going strong. As I filtered water I had my hat and filter cap go sailing away. I managed to find them some 50ft away. We decided to pack down lower to find some shelter. Before leaving I hopped over to the ridge behind Isolation and looked down on the valley - spectacular! Larch everywhere!
We moved down slowly and found a fantastic campsite at the end of the string of tarns sheltered in a stand of larches. It had a great overlook of Crystal lake below. We took many photos on the way down, and even more on a dayhike down to the shores of Inspiration lake. Larches everywhere and Prusik Peak looming over everything.
Back a camp we cooked dinner and settled in for the night. The clouds sailed off so we didn't get a sunset. A ranger came up right near dark and apologized for setting up camp so near by but had to get her tent up before dark. Again the wind came up and cut through every layer we had, so we retreated to the tents again. Still windy, but calmer than last night.
Spectacular sunrise. We ran around the tarns snapping tons of photos as the color got better and better. Very quickly though the sun went behind some clouds and the light went flat. Back to camp for breakfast. Here we found Angry Granny sitting on a rock. Someone had left a McDonalds Happy Meal toy of an old woman behind our camp, we didn't notice it the night before.
We moved camp yet again, this time down to Leprechaun lake based on a dayhike by Yumi all the way down to Viviane. This was easily the most spectacular part of the trip. Larches everywhere from Perfection on down. Beautiful blue water and golden reflections. The sky was blue with nice fluffy clouds making perfect photo backdrops. The granite slabs added to the mix, fantastic!
Leprechaun knocked our socks off. Surrounded by granite slab and larch trees everywhere glowing in the low fall sun. We claimed some sites on a rocky peninsula and poked around the area in case we found something better. While looking we came across a beautiful pool of blue-green water at the lake outlet. The larches were glowing in front of a big snow patch on the hill behind it. In the pool there were many trout playing just below the surface - a few really big ones too!
After returning to camp for lunch we split up to explore. Three of us took a fun scramble up the slabby ridge to find Gnome Tarn. Don took his tripod and medium-format camera for a dayhike back up towards Perfection lake for more shots. Gnome was partly dried but still beautiful. The calm winds left fantastic reflections of everything in sight - Little Annapurna, Prusik, larch! Finally we found a goat! The only one we would see on the trip. He seemed totally unconcerned as we trailed him through the larch snapping photo after photo. Sadly I had left my zoom lens back at camp.
Back at camp we cooked dinner and watched the sun light up the larches before disappearing. Again we had no clouds so no sunset. The temperature plummeted, the coldest night of our trip, but thankfully no wind. We hung our food, built a creepy bear-scare out of a tripod, poles, and extra clothes (though it ended up spooking us more - we quickly forgot about it in the dark!)
Our last day. We found ice on the edges of the lake and streams nearby. The ground was swollen and crunchy with ice crystals. We run around a little before leaving, taking pictures of a nearby waterfall. I scrambled up to a small ridge overlooking Leprechaun for one last Enchantments photo.
The hike out was one heck of a long slog. The slabs near Viviane were pretty slow going, and definitley nowhere I'd want to be in the rain or snow. It took us a few hours to descend to the edge of Snow Lake. From the shore we got one last look back at the Enchantments, larches shining up on the rock.
I cant wait to go back! Four days and we still had so much more to see. We quickly abandoned our plans to go up Little Annapurna when we saw all the larch and shiny lakes everywhere, so this became a strictly lake bagging trip.
How can it possibly live up to all this eye candy? - Are you guys just faking all this in Photoshop? It CAN'T really be that nice...
Photos just do not do this place justice! I blew through all my camera memory and wished I'd had more! The light up there was great, even at mid-day. One hiker in our party brought his medium format camera and shot more than 20 rolls of film, I cant wait to see how his turn out.
Those pics are so beautiful and so enticing that I will head for southern Oregon again this weekend. I can't take all that so will settle for medium level beauty. Great TR. I've been linking TR's at the SP Enchantment page and this one will go to the top of the page. Nice work !!!
Great pics. You left via the Snowlakes highway? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Ill never do that again. Two times is enoughl....
Heh, yep, we did.
And we were warned too by JimK. But this being our first trip we wanted to make a grand tour through. Next time however we'll go in and out via Colchuck. That was the longest hike out ever! We passed one guy going in via Snow with the biggest pack I've ever seen.
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