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Forum Index -> Trip Reports -> Colchuck Lake/Aasgard Pass/Upper Enchantments
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Post Tue Jul 16, 2002 5:26 am    Colchuck Lake/Aasgard Pass/Upper Enchantments
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There's a more concise version of this trip report posted on WTA for July 12.

Three of us headed to the Leavenworth area early Friday morning, (after much negotiation re start time vs. a certain person’s need for an early morning iced latte and her ‘eight-grain roll’ and the problem that her local Starbucks didn’t open until 5:30am, finally resolved with an agreed stop in Monroe), with the Enchantments as our ultimate goal via Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass.  Friday morning at 8am when we picked up our permit at the Leavenworth Ranger Station, the expected high in Leavenworth that day was 110 degrees.  We were all thrilled that mother nature was going to be providing good warm weather, (for the second consecutive weekend, no less !!!),  but also quite glad we were heading out fairly early.  Surprisingly, there was still one permit available for that weekend.  And of important note, according to the ranger station they will not be closing the Eightmile Creek road until August 4th so until then permits are still available – they’ve had to spend money on fire suppressants so are delaying work on the bridges.

From the ranger station we headed for the trailhead.   We’d been on the dirt road for some time and came to the conclusion we should have taken a left hand turn before now.  Our driver had been too busy nattering to pay much attention to trailhead signs.  As we drove back down the dirt road we again passed a large group of young people alongside a van with a vast amount of gear it seemed they were unpacking and sorting.  They looked as if they had been out in the woods for over a month and appeared to have soot-blackened faces.  Odd, but there you go.  We finally got to the trailhead and as we leisurely geared ourselves up, scarfed down large quantities of not particularly healthy food to prepare us for the trek ahead.

The trail to the junction where it splits between Stuart and Colchuck was fairly easy going; beyond that the trail is in not quite as good shape but not particularly problematic.  There's one big blow-down near the lake that for those short-of-leg really necessitates a walk-around, but its easy to see where others who are also not tall have done the same.  Arrival at the lake is a wondrous sight to behold - such a glorious colour !  We secured our campsite atop the isthmus slightly protected but still able to glimpse the lake, the almighty Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks, and the taunting Aasgard Pass.  Just several yards north east from the site is the 'porch' - big rounded slabs of granite where we breakfasted and supped while gazing up at the peaks and down at the lake, snoozed, took in the beauty surrounding us, contemplated mother nature and talked about nothing much.

Mosquitoes were fast, ferocious and voracious, although seemingly more for me than the other two.  I became the decoy.  Donning raingear and boots helped although it was a tad toasty.  The climate overnight was positively balmy.  We retired relatively early, as much due to the buggy atmosphere as anything else.

Saturday dawned cloudy.  Nevertheless, we were not in the slightest bit deterred from our assault on the pass and in fact grateful that the sun would not be blazing down on us as we ascended.  No problems getting round the lake and to the upward trail.  This is not a trail to take lightly but is no biggie provided you are not nonchalant about it.  It was useful to have hands free for grasping and clambering.  At one point some rocks were dislodged.  Close to the top (about 80% there) there’s one small section of snow to cross but as of our crossing it was straightforward.  We had seen this patch and had clearly identified the the trail from the porch far below and were surprised how minimal of a trail it actually was.  We made it to the top of the pass in just over 2 hours and by this time most of the cloud had disappeared.  It was a little windy right at the top, but not cold.

The upper Enchantments still have quite a lot of snow.  You can get by without gaiters, but if you’re one who has a knack of kicking the stuff into your boots and you’re paranoid about wet socks, you might want to wear them.  Poles are handy but not really necessary.   Ice axes not needed unless you ascend any of the peaks in the area.  Sunscreen and sunglasses were a must.  Postholing was not really a problem but will definitely become one as the snow melts.

We wandered through drinking it all in, and went as far as the gully which descends to the lower Enchantments.  Then we wandered on back to where, according to the map, there’s multiple lakelets though still very much snow-covered.  At this point there were decisions to be made.  One was dying for a nap.  One wanted to hit Little Annapurna.  And this little piggy wanted to conserve energy for the trip back so was content to bask in the sun and watch the mountain man claim yet another peak.  The sun shone, the water running under the snow and around and over the rocks, burbled and gurgled.  Marmots gambolled, looking svelte after their winter’s hibernation.

Upon mountain man’s return, we continued to bask in the sun whilst he regaled us with a strange incident.  About three-quarters of the way up, somewhere around the 8000 plus feet mark, it was quite gusty, and being borne along by the wind and their own wing-power, were, apparently, hundreds and hundreds of butterflies.  And even more unbelievably, mountain man managed to catch one of these butterflies and put it in his woolly hat inside his pack for safe-keeping (!!).  And as he told this tale, he unfolded his woolly hat and out flew a butterfly.  One HAS to believe him, I suppose.

Clouds were gathering but we were not fazed until thunder ripped through the air.  Quickly we decided to head for the pass with the intent that we’d be just over it before the storm was right above and by then NOT the highest points in that immediate vicinity.  As we hurried across the snow fields lightning continued to flash and thunder to roar and rumble.  It had become quite dark – not at all bright like it had been 30 minutes before....which was how my sunglasses came to be left on a rock.  Of course as we trudged across these open snowfields our ice axes strapped to our packs with their metal spikes aloft......we WERE the highest points in the immediate vicinity....

We sought shelter alongside a major rock formation before reaching the pass and just before we came to a stop the heavens opened up.  The rain shower, though, was fairly brief.  We waited until we thought the storm had moved on and then continued towards the pass.  Thunder thundered.  Once we got to the pass things were much clearer and the storm really had moved on.  A couple of ridges to the north west we could see smoke and surmised (correctly, it transpired) that there were small fires caused by lightning strikes.

Our return to the campsite was uneventful.  Mozzies again ruled the day around the campsite.  However, it was a little cooler.  Mac and cheese was served by one for all.  Rum (Monarch 151 proof) and Crystal Light were imbibed by some.  Pontificating on the porch was enjoyed by all.  The clouds passing through made for a gorgeous sunset.  The Alpenglow was stunning.

The slightly cooler temps made for an easier night’s sleep and Sunday began gently but brightly.  We again pontificated on the porch and watched as the rising sun tipped Dragontail.  All was good with the world.  In a leisurely fashion we breakfasted and struck camp.

As we headed back to the trailhead, many, many people were heading to the lake, mostly for a day hike it seemed.  We enjoyed a long break alongside Mountaineer Creek and shared a packet of Taco flavoured corn nuts.

When we returned to the trailhead there was a notice about multiple fires in the region started by lightning.  As we reached Leavenworth we could see one burning and helicopters doing water drops.  It didn’t look too big but I hope they were able to contain it.

The final item of note for the trip was a stop at Zeke’s just outside Gold Bar where two of us had the half-pounder Zeke’s Specials.  Magnificent !!

And if anyone found a pair of Smith tortoiseshell sunglasses sitting on a rock in the Upper Enchantments, I’d be grateful if you could let me know.
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Otter
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Joined: 06 Jun 2002
Posts: 84 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle, WA
Post Tue Jul 16, 2002 10:14 am   
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Thanks for a wonderful report!  Someday I hope to get up into that area..it sounds spectacular!
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McPilchuck
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Joined: 17 Dec 2001
Posts: 860 | TRs | Pics
Location: near Snohomish, Wa.
Post Tue Jul 16, 2002 8:28 pm   
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Hey a nice trip report there, here's one from the same weekend I just put up on my site from two climbing friends of mine:

http://www.alpinequest.com/enchantments.htm

--------------
in the granite high-wild alpine land . . .
www.alpinequest.com
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