Our group of four had an awesome trip to the Enchantments this last week, the first time any of us had been there. The hoped-for clear fall weather didnít pan out, but we were still greatly rewarded in other ways over the four days of our trip.
Conditions were pleasant as we set out from the Stuart Trailhead with high clouds breaking to blue every once in a while, a bit deceiving for the weather later to come. I was gob smacked by the blue color of Colchuck Lake on arrival. Iíve seen few lakes like it before. I also didnít expect the in-your-face directness of Dragontail Peak and Aasgard Pass from Colchuck Lake which I hadn't got a sense of from online pics. The beauty and dramatic landforms convinced us to stop for a good long lunch break.
Aasgard Pass was about as much fun as advertised carrying a full pack. In fact, the scrambling on the south side of the lake which I hadn't known about was a real gem of a time too. I can see a definite advantage in the winter getting to cut straight across the lake. We made it 3/4 of the way up Aasgard Pass Saturday before getting caught by the system which moved in that night into Sunday. The rocky pass we'd been scrambling on turned instantly into a heat sucking mass kissing our fingers numb. Light snow started to fall with the wind. Out came the gloves and additional layers.
The ranger we passed made sure we were prepared and then let us on our way. Up top we briefly saw a nanny goat and kid as well as a couple males passing by, neither concerned with us in the lightest. As darkness was soon to be upon us we pushed on through the upper basin until we reached some patches of larch. We wound up making camp at about 7400 feet with a view down to Crystal Lake and over to McClellan Peak. We spotted one other tent setup in the area which by morning was gone with no tracks to be found in the new snow.
Sunday was a lovely drag of a day with no views and pretty much snow all day, so we did some exploring from camp down past Inspiration Lake to Perfection Lake. We didn't see signs of anybody. Fairly sizable drifts were already forming and made the scramble down the small canyon to Inspiration Lake a bit more interesting, but we were still able to follow the cairns projecting out of the snow-entrenched landscape. That night the snow continued to fall. From inside our tents it sounded deceptively like we were really getting a thrashing.
Monday things dried up in trade for wind and periodic clearings, good enough to hit Little Annapurna. Compared to Sunday's snow which seemed a bit wet, by Monday the snow was powdery and forming deep drifts among the rocky landscape. We had to be careful about ice on the granite boulders and slots between the rocks, but there wasn't enough coverage to make use of snowshoes which was good since we didn't have any. The clouds seemed to break over Dragontail and Little Annapurna giving us some fresh views on the upper Enchantments over to Prusik Peak and The Temple. On our ascent we did spot a group of five passing through the basin towards the lower Enchantments. It didn't look like they had backpacks, but I guess they did fine coming up the pass.
The rock near the top was growing a layer of rime ice, and wind gusts from 20-30 mph kept us cautious as we stood on the summit. A few times the clouds cleared enough such that we could eerily see the finger of rock which extends up just south of the summit. We actually had to drop several layers on the descent as for a brief period the wind died down.
The wind kept us busy at camp digging snow drifts away from our tents. My buddy David L and Joseph made a makeshift windscreen for my three-season tent to help keep the doorway clear. Our last night on Monday seemed especially violent with the wind ripping across the high basin and past our tents. Iíd definitely say my tent was pushed to its limit.
Tuesday we had to leave, but unfortunately the wind didnít buy us any breaks which made packing up a bit more fun than it usually is. By the time we descended the short distance to Inspiration Lake we already had gotten below freezing level as the snow there was getting slushy. Our way bared clear a definition for the word ďlongĒ: Upper Enchantments to Snow Lake trailhead. Wow, what a bugger! Not only is the landscape enchanted, apparently so are the miles which seemed far longer than usual as our drop down 6000 feet and 14(?) miles took us past 5 PM to get back to the car. It seemed especially cruel to see the trailhead parking lot but know there was still another 1000 feet to drop to get to it.
All in all, even with the snow it was an awesome first trip to the Enchantments and we got enough of a taste to know we need to go back! Being my longest backpack yet it was also a confidence booster learning I could handle myself in such conditions over multiple days. I appreciate the input this site offered in preparing for the trip.
Beautiful shots of the Enchantments in the snow, its an amazing winter wonderland up there now. You definitely have to go back, its fantastic during the melt out in July and when winter doesn't come early cutting off fall as it seemed to this year, the upper basin is a wonderland of yellow. Here is one from last year in October
indeed, what a difference a day makes - from yellow ground to white cover overnight!
You had wonderful light during your adventure: I love how you catch the sun in the clouds ('last clearing'), on a lake ('Crystal from viewpoint'), and on the mountain top (right after 'summit pose') in your photos!
Thanks for the compliments everyone, one of those trips it's great to think back on.
There were a couple ventures that didn't work out. Has anyone ever been to the "Druid Plateau" and Cannon Mountain? How are the views and is it worth going over there? Also, McClellan Peak looked like it could be a fun scramble. Is there a non-technical route all the way to the top?
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