Sunday morning, I woke up knowing full well that it had been raining all night. I checked the weather forecast for Leavenworth, in which the adjoining doppler map showed a large green mass hanging over the Stuart Range. Lately, it seems this kind of information would stop me from going out. But this time, I was determined to take advantage of what little summer remains and make a go of it. My goal: Cannon Mountain and Enchantment Peak as a day trip.
My journey over Highway 2 was wet and wetter as I approached Stevens Pass. Once over the pass, the weather gradually became better and better. As I turned on to Icicle Creek Road, I could see that heavy clouds still hung about the Stuarts. Oh well, time to take some chances.
I started off from the Stuart Lake trailhead at 9:15 AM, and promptly went in the opposite direction, northeast, along an old logging road. This is the approach for Cannon Mountain's north ridge. The road is overgrown, but the path is fairly easy to follow. I didn't get to take the road for long, as I encountered a large washout that was a gully unto itself. The climb to Cannon started here.
I wasn't on the main north ridge, but a subsidiary ridge to the west. Still, I wasn't the first to go this way, as I was able to follow some recent bootprints along the way. It was largely a bushwhack up slopes still recovering from a 1990's forest fire, with countless downed trees to hop over.
I climbed out of the fire zone and angled to intersect the main ridge. All the while, the weather was mostly cloudy, with occasional wind gusts and periodic "mistings" that I found very refreshing. On the downside, the poor light did not aid my modest picture-taking skills. As I approached the three hour mark of my journey, I was making good time, rising over 4k ft el. Along the way, I came into close contact with three mountain goats.
Upon reaching the 7900 ft level, reality set in. It was the start of very long ridge run. Initially, I enjoyed playing talus monkey, scampering around some very interesting ridge formations. Then, the talus got tedious, and I found I was slowly losing elevation as I dodged off the westside. I was very nearly cliffed-out, when I decided to punch up a dirt and scree gully and gain my bearings. Fortune was on my side, as I discovered safe passage around the last impediment before ascending to the summit.
The summit gully was steep, dirty, filled with loose scree. I did my best to stay on the islands of solid rock, trusting only the largest pieces, which probably lead to a harder scramble than necessary. The summit is a large talus jumble. At 2:30 PM, I climbed the well-worn summit rock. I was five hours into my journey, and not even halfway done!
I dropped down from Cannon Mountain to the Druid Plateau,a subsection of the Lost World. Although the size of the area is impressive, the overall feel is that of a dried-up lake bottom, none too appealing. It was here that a lack of research nearly sabotaged my efforts. On the map, it looked possible to make a high traverse from Cannon to Enchantment Peak, trending to the east of the latter. In practice, it just ain't so.
I was forced to descend into the Lost World Plateau, traversing above Shield Lake and through the Lorelei Lakelets. I would ultimately drop 1300+ ft of el. I hate losing el. The whole time, I had yet to see another person, not even a ranger. I was alone in the Lost World.
Coming up the other side toward Prusik Pass, I stumbled upon a system of cairns that lead me up and over the ridge, west of the pass proper. From there, I was able to commence climbing Enchantment Peak. The route is simple, just keep going up. The summit rock was nifty, including a fun little scramble to the flat, dinner table-sized top. Summit Time: 4:45 PM.
Time to head home. As I descended from Enchantment Peak, I headed directly southwest, thinking I could make a straight shot to Aasgard Pass. Wrong! A tall, steep cliffband dissuades me of this notion (The Black Dwarves, above Talisman Lake). I drop a couple hundred feet, head back toward Prusik Pass, then decide at to chance an early exit. I'm in luck - I find a steep, vegetated gully with good holds. I then stroll over to the trail from Prusik Pass.
I've dropped all the way to 7200 ft el, and need to hike back up to Aasgard Pass (7800 ft el). For the day, I would easily clear 7k ft el gain. Passing through the Enchantment Lakes, I reconnect with the human race. I reach Aasgard Pass by 7:00 PM, fighting a chilly north wind much of the way. I decide that it would be prudent to be past Colchuck Lake by nightfall, so I boogie down Aasgard Pass in a little over an hour. I truck around the lake as fast as my tired legs will allow. By 8:30 PM, I'm hiking out from Colchuck Lake, headlamp ablaze. It's getting to be a habit...
Two endless hours later, I finally make it back to the trailhead. I extract a Black Butte Porter and turkey and swiss sandwich from my cooler, a just reward for a 13 hour day hike. Damn, I must be getting slow!
Excellent report Mark and loved the pics as you put me down memory lane.
I did this hike in reverse back in 1976 with a good friend who unfortunately passed away at the age of 47. Every time I think of this particular hike, I think of this terrific guy who died way too young. I'd like to link this one to my Cannon Mountain page at summitpost. I hope you don't mind.
I find the personal interpretations of locations interesting. I thought the Druid plateau was fascinating and darned cool, in fact as high plateaus go it is one of my all time favorites.
I can see where the 'dried up lake bottom' idea comes from, whereas I found it delightfully austere, with a strong sense of high altitude and a decidedly otherwordly feel. I thought the vast number of lichen covered rocks were neat and it also gave hints of pictures from Mars, although without the red coloring present there.
Looking at your pics brings it all back to me, and what I will say is that from above it's nothing all that great, but when you're down among the rocks and tufts of heather, it improves a great deal. The area to the S where the lichen has had time to establish itself and provide some contrast is definitely the best portion. I think your shot looking up towards the summit shows what I mean relatively well, and the shot from the summit down shows your dried up lake bed comment.
There definitely is not a lot going on there visually for the plateau itself, just a large relatively flat area covered with rocks (and a great view in all directions), but I liked it a lot. So much so I'd like to return just to spend a night up there, just wandering the rocks and soaking it all in.
-------------- Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
Although the size of the area is impressive, the overall feel is that of a dried-up lake bottom, none too appealing.
I'll admit that I had hyped hopes for how this would look based on others' photos when it had more water no it, but still thought it was a cool place even when dry. It is none too often that you encounter mountaintop dry lakebeds where the horizon falls off concave in 2 of 4 directions! This seems like a place that has very little water because any snow that might be here and melt would blow away first, so catching it with those pools in place might be a rare thing.
Mesahchie Mark wrote:
As I descended from Enchantment Peak, I headed directly southwest, thinking I could make a straight shot to Aasgard Pass. Wrong! A tall, steep cliffband dissuades me of this notion (The Black Dwarves, above Talisman Lake).
Yes, been there, done that ... After looking at some photos, I think that there is a semi-pure way to get back up to the Dwarves after dropping at least 500vf to Talisman, but at the time it just made sense to run a contour towards just below Asgard. Otherwise, when I did the trip I think I had a fairly clear notion of the 1300vf pill to be swallowed to get to Enchantment Peaks through Lorelei and Prusik Pass, and also that ridge running the 7900 ridge could prove difficult.
This really is a classic combo. It didn't seem harder than some other in-a-days I have done, and the scenery is incomparable.
Hehe - I find it kinda amusing that my comments about the Druid Plateau could cause a stir. I certainly did not mean to disparage the place. In general, I favor steep slopes, rocks and trees to flat, wide open spaces. Also, I am sure that my feelings at the time were shaped by the poor, monochrome light - things looked much better, later, once the sun decided to come out.
Regardless, it was a privilege to traverse the area and see the Lost World firsthand.
Thanks for the detailed trip report, Mark. A lot of work to describe your trip in such an enjoyable style. I haven't been to the Lost World yet. Would it be more enjoyable earlier in the summer, perhaps with a few snow patches still around? Or is just really desolate for 90% of the area?
Glad to hear you made it past the boulder field at Colchuck before dark. I don't think I'd enjoy that section using a headlamp. However, a regular trail in the dark and a headlamp sounds like fun. I'll have to try that sometime.
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