Joined: 28 Mar 2007 Posts: 802 | TRs | Pics Location: The Quah
Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:27 pm
Enchantment Basin Grand Tour
Dates: Sunday July 6, 2008 through Wednesday July, 9, 2008
Participants: MLHSN (Mark), Mrs.MLHSN (Annie), RockBob* (Ryan), DayHike Mike (Mike), yukon222 (Steve), Schmidt Alti-Babe (Tisha), and Schmidt Alti-Dude (Jeremy) *May not be his actual nickname - it's a work in progress
Names: We prefer to use the mythological names the Starks gave the various features of the Enchantment Basin and that is what we will use in the trip report. The names that appear on maps are in parentheses after (if it is named on a traditional map).
*Many of the panoramic photos are labeled. Double click on the photo to enlarge and move your mouse over the picture to see the labels. Alti-babe wanted everyone to know that Alti-Dude did all the labeling so any errors are 100% his .*
Day 1: Pack Mules Meet Mountain Goats
The West Side crew (Mike, Steve, and the Altitude Team) met the Wenatchee crew (Mark, Annie, and Ryan) on Stuart Lake trail near where the side trail branches off towards Colchuck Lake and re-crosses Mountaineer Creek. After some brief introductions, it was time to haul our way too heavy packs up to Colchuck Lake.
Mark and Jeremy led the way to the head of the lake because they wanted to fish the lake where the inlet steam came in; a spot where Dude remembered catching a few trout the last time he fished it. Jeremy, in particular, was eager since he hadn't even made a single cast yet this year because of all the peak bagging his wife was making him do. Alas, the lake was so high because of all the melt water running in to it that they boys couldn't find room to make a decent cast . After steeling our resolve, we set up to climb the 2200' in less than a mile to Aasgard Pass.
The ascent sucked as much as we thought it would but it didn't last forever. We left the traditional trail a little before the pass and came over right at the shore of Freya Lake (Tranquil).
At Freya, we ate lunch and refilled our water supply. Then we set off for a side trip up to the Enchantment Plateau while Mike and Annie guarded the packs from savage marmots. We received a great view of the basin from the crest of a ridge just east of the plateau.
As nice as it was to have the packs off our backs, we had to keep moving so it was back to the packs and then make our way down to the traditional route through the Upper Basin. We navigated between Sigrun and Ulrun Lake, through the Brísingamen Lakelets, and to the overlook of Crystal Lake. Here we had our first mountain goat encounter, a ewe and her kid. The baby was a cute little fuzz ball but the mother looked quite silly with half her winter coat hanging on in shaggy clumps.
Next we traversed to and around Talisman Lake (Inspiration) and down to Rune Lake (Perfection) where we had another short rest break while Dude fished with no luck (sense a theme here?). The lake was only half thawed with large sheets of snow/ice still floating it so he stated that the fish were still in tupor. Lastly, we made our way to the head of the lake and up the last 300' to Gnome Tarn.
Our goal from the beginning was to camp at Gnome Tarn, a beautiful spot beneath Prusik Peak. Our biggest concern was to spend all this time hiking in and to find it already occupied. As we crested the final rise to the tarn, our fears were realized. We were going to have to share the tarn - with about a half dozen mountain goats!
Not done for the day, Tisha and Steve set off for Enchantment Peak, 8520', while the rest of us set up camp. They returned a couple of hours later mostly successful. They had decided not the climb the final 30' of the steep and exposed summit block. We ate our dinner and settled in to bed to the sound of the howling wind that hadn't died down like we hoped when the sun set.
Day 1 Trail Stats: Time 10:02, Gain 4521', Loss 1732' (plus 2:17, 1414’, 1411’ for Tisha and Steve)
Day 2: C Squared in the Lost World
Today was to be the day we explored the Lost World Basin, the area north of Prusik Pass. We split into two teams for the day. Team M (Mark, Mrs., & Mike) went down to explore (and fish) Shield, Earl, Mesa, and Toketie Lakes plus the Edward Plateau.
Team S (Steve, the Schmidts, and RockBob - his last name has two s in it) crossed over Prusik Pass and made our way over to the Lorelei Lakelets and Kobold Sink before ascending a steep snow field up the face of the ridge that shields Cannon Mountain from the basin.
We must of come across at the wrong notch because of instead of finding Druid Plateau at the crest of the ridge like we expected we were greeted to views down to Hel Basin and the east face of Colchuck Balanced Rock. We easily made our way north along the west side of the ridge crest and reached the Druid Plateau in a few short minutes. Cannon was right there on the other side of the plateau so we refilled our water in snow melt puddle and headed up the the summit.
Luckily we had some beta from Cartman, wamtngal and various trip reports that prepared us for the 40' friction climb up a granite slab to the highest point of the summit, 8638'. We went up one by one and stayed on top only a few moments before heading back down. We joked that if you started to fall, fall to the east since you'd only be maimed instead of killed . After our summits, we found a nice flat and less exposed part of the mountain to have lunch (summer sausage, parmesan, and naan sandwiches = delicious).
After lunch, we climbed out to north end of the mountain to look at the extremely steep route down to Coney Lake 1000 plus feet below us. We figured we'd probably done worse and headed down. The first third of the way was on bare gravel, scree, and rock but soon we had to face in and downclimb the snow. This was a new experience for RockBob and he admitted to feeling a little out of his element. Dude stated that he was going to glissade until he watched an accidentally dislodged rock go screaming down the face at Mach 1 and careen into a finger of rock sticking out into the snow chute. After we made our way past the rocks and the way was fully clear, we conducted a very bumpy 400’ elevation drop glissade (also a first for Ryan).
Once at the shore of the lake the plan was for us to take a short break and pump more water until Dude saw a huge trout swim by and he freaked out. Of course, he was off fishing while the others took care of the water filtering. After refilling the water, Jeremy led the way around the north end of the lake and across the outlet stream, casting the whole way. Once again, he was disappointed as the trout were just following his lures but never biting. Finally, near the bend in the lake where he could cast into the deeper water, he hooked and landed his first fish of the year, a healthy, fat cutthroat.
After releasing the fish, we finished traversing around the shore of lake, exited at the west end, and made our way to Elf Pond. We then made an ascending traverse up to the crest of Elf Ridge which separates the Coney Lake area from the Shield/Earl/Mesa Lake area. On the ridge crest just above Earl Lake, we dropped our packs and made our way back up to Elf Point, 8287', the highest point on Elf Ridge.
Then we went back to our packs and picked our way down to Earl Lake. At Earl Lake, we followed the trail that goes along the shore of the lake and headed back toward Prusik Pass and camp. Dude, of course, fished along the way and caught 20 or so 6-9" cutthroat but nothing bigger. Babe borrowed the pole at Shield Lake and caught the biggest one we saw of the two lakes, 10", on just one cast. Jeremy stopped fishing after that. We left the lakes behind and climbed up to Prusik Pass and then up and over the ridge to camp where, curiously, the goats had multiplied into a herd of about 15 or so. The wind was much tamer this night and the whole group talked around the stoves as we cooked backcountry pizza/calzones (pizza sauce, shredded cheese stick, pepperoni slices, and bacon bits in a folded tortilla).
Day 2 Trail Stats: Time 11:14, Gain 4667', Loss 4731'
Day 3: Mosquitos, McClellan, and Maulings - Oh My!
This was our Lower Enchantments day. Same teams as yesterday. We left camp first and made our way to Naiad Lake (Temple) below the Temple Range. There the mosquitos took advantage of our blood supply so we left quickly and went straight down to the north shore of Lake Viviane where Jeremy caught two fat cutthroat around 12" each. After figuring out that there wasn't a way around the lake shore, we went back up to the ridge between the two lakes and made our way over and down to the outlet stream.
Next, it was up to the shores of Leprechaun Lake where we planned our route up the face of McClellan Peak. We picked our way mostly on rocks with some brief snow patches just west of The Prong, a rocky spire NW of the McClellan summit. We then ascended the final snowfield to gain the climbers’ path that leads behind the Prong up to the McClellan-Chessmen ridge crest and dropped our packs. From there, we circumnavigated down and around to the south side of the summit block and scrambled to the top, 8364'.
We retraced our steps back to our packs and finished off the naan sandwiches. We then climbed back down to The Prong and proceeded to traverse west on the snowfield along the north slope of McClellan-Chessmen Ridge. Halfway across, we hit an icy patch. In yukon's effort to ram the ice axe extra hard down into the ice he managed to clip his knee cap with the pick end of the axe. The first of our blood was spilled on McClellan. Not long after, in a less steep section, Tisha slipped and fell in the snow. She turned it into a short glissade but as she fell, her arm flew backwards and was slashed by a crampon tip. McClellan claimed second blood!
We were able to make it over to Crystal Lake without further maulings and enjoyed some more great views. Then it was back up to Rune Lake passing Grail Tarn along the way. Jeremy and Ryan hung out at Sprite Lake (no fish, too cold) while Steve and Tisha went down to visit Troll Sink and Dwarf Pond. We then gained the ridge that rises west of Rune Lake (Perfection) and followed it back up to Gnome Tarn.
Apparently when Team M had arrived back at camp (after visiting all the Lower Enchantment Lakes), the mosquitoes were so bad that Mark prayed that the wind would pick up and blow them away. When we arrived back at camp, the wind was blowing about 15mph and it steadily increased all night with gusts reaching around 40mph. Each time a gust would blast us, blowing larch needles into our food and drinks, we would glare at Mark and exclaim "At least there aren’t any bugs!". We stayed up late into the night talking and watching the orange glow of the Wenatchee fire spread along the distant horizon.
Day 3 Trail Stats: Time 9:51, Gain 3169', Loss 3169'
Day 4: Witch Way To Dragontail (we'll be back!)
We awoke at 6:00AM to find a herd of about 40 goats waiting for us to conduct our morning rock watering. We were amazed that such large animals could breed, gestate, birth, and grow overnight!
Today our group would go three separate ways. Mark and Annie wanted to visit the Snow and Nada Lakes and exit via the Snow Creek trail. Mike was going to go down Aasgard Pass to Stuart Lake trail and drive their car over to pick them up. Team S stayed together to finish our tour of the Upper Enchantments area and then meet them back in Leavenworth for dinner.
We left camp with full packs about 8:30 and retraced our steps from the first day past Rune and Talisman Lake up to the Brísingamen Lakelets. From there we headed SW to the Little Annapurna summit, 8440'. We were on rocks most of the time with a few patches of soft snow.
After our fill of pictures, we traversed along the ridge crest on the Snow Creek glacier NW towards Dragontail Peak. We then made our way under East Dragontail over to the base of the Witch's Tower; a Class 3 spire directly west of Brynhild Lake (Isolation). The weather forecast had foretold that this would be the hottest day and it turned out to be true. The 80 degree air temps and snow glare were frying us. We shucked our packs at the base of the tower near the col and circumnavigated to its’ south face. From there it was a scramble to the 8520' top.
We made it back to our packs, ate lunch, and discussed the rest of our day. Our plan was to ascend up to the East Dragontail ridge and make our way to the main Dragontail Summit and then descend the Snow Creek glacier. We added up the time it would take us to do this and hike back down from Aasgard Pass to Colchuck Lake and out and realized that we would be back far too late for our friends. We briefly considered just giving the Wenatchee team Mike and taking Ryan back with us but we figured Mike's cat, Sassy, would figure out that the 5'8" blue eyed blond haired RockBob was not her 6'4" brown eyed dark haired human. Thus we made the very difficult decision to skip Dragontail Peak . Besides, if we do everything in one trip there will be no reason to ever go back, right?
We made our way back to the little saddle between East Dragontail and Little Annapurna and down to the shore of Brynhild Lake (Isolation). We crossed around the lake and over the land bridge between it and Reginlief Lake and over to Aasgard Pass. Going down the trail in 80 degree heat was absolute misery and it took us an hour and a half.
Then it was back around Colchuck Lake and down to Mountaineer Creek where we stopped for our last water pumping session. Jeremy was so tired at this point that he didn't even fish even though he could see three trout swimming in the pool we pumped from. We pounded out the last 2.5+ miles in 39 minutes and stumbled to Steve's vehicle. We made it to Visconti's at 8:30 to find the rest of gang had been there since 6:30 and were just finishing their food (they waited as long as they could to order). We celebrated with good food, beer, wine, and of course the Nightmare dessert! Then we went our separate ways to hot showers and soft beds (after a long drive back across the Blewitt and Snoqualmie Passes).
Day 4 Trail Stats: Time 11:33. 3278' gain, 7037' loss
Total Elevation Gain for all four days: 18,211'
A huge thanks to Mark for obtaining the permits and inviting us along on his hike. What a great idea and you planned the weather perfect.
Thanks to Annie putting up with all our mapsterbating and hiker talk.
We also wanted to say thanks to Ryan for sticking with the crazy S Team this whole trip. You totally kick @ss. Anyone lucky enough to have an opportunity to hike with this guy shouldn't hestitate to include him at all.
Favorite Lake: Coney
Favorite Peak: McClellan (Witches Tower a close second)
Favorite Day: Day 2 (Cannon and Coney day)
Favorite Goat(s): The twin kids
Favorite Meal: Backcountry Pizza/Calzones
-------------- "Forest 101: These big wood stick things are called trees. The big rocks are called mountains, and the little rocks are their babies." Elliott from Open Season
A land of lakes, mountains and ridges. Flowing water, grasses starting to green up and roaming mountain goats. What a place. Special thanks to Mark (MLHSN) for securing the permits. Definitely an area that can best be appreciated by camping there for several nights.
Joined: 27 Jul 2004 Posts: 1336 | TRs | Pics Location: Bremerton. I'm the Lorax, I speak for the trees
Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:43 pm
-------------- There's a mostly unspoken acknowledgment among the voluntarily impoverished that it's better to be fiscally poor yet rich in experience-living the dream-than to be traditionally wealthy but live separate from one's passions.
Joined: 02 Mar 2003 Posts: 10997 | TRs | Pics Location: Going to Tukwila
Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:04 pm
Great pics you guys! Love all of the panos...
Thanks again for a fun trip and for offering to do the write-up. It looks really, really good!
-------------- "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
Absolutely beautiful. I just want to create a slide show out of your pictures, fold my arms, sit back, enjoy a cup of coffee, and just watch it over and over again.
Congratulations on such a great hike.
Lot's of fun on this trip. Thanks a bunch for the great company guys
As _Dude said. We split up during the day to attain whatever leisurely goes we esteemed too. We spent most of Sunday hiking in and setting up camp while Trish and Steve tagged Enchantment peak before dark.
On Monday Mike, Annie, and I went over Prusik pass to the lost world lakes. After a leisurly mourning, we hit up the saddle between Mesa Lake the Toketie drainage. There's a nice little tarn there where we all ate lunch. Afterwards, Mike went up to Edwards Mesa while Annie and I descended to Toketie Lake.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lost world lakes. Shield, Earl, and Mesa lakes are all fun to hang out at, even though they are full of overpopulated stunted cutthroat.
The trail to Toketie is pretty clear most of the way until you hit a little choke point where it gets steep on both sides of the valley. The last fire left a lot of snags that have been piling up over the last decade. In this field of deadfall we lost the trail and ended up crossing over the creek and boulder hopping down to the lake. I was amazed we lost the trail. Annie and I traversed around the lake and picked the trail back up only to see it disappear again in the same spot. For those considering descending to Toketie I would skirt as close as possible to the cliff band in the narrow section of the valley.
There were some very interesting boulders of basalt shattered amongst the car sized granite deposits. Very odd I thought. Toketie isn't the prettiest lakes at this time. The water is blackened by all the ash runoff from the last fire.
I had never visited the Nada and the snow lakes so Annie and I decided to depart from our group and check it out. We had heard it was a pretty nasty trail but we figured if we were ever going to visit Snow Lakes there wasn't a better time then heading downhill instead of doing it as a dayhike. As reported it was a very dry and dusty route with a lot of rocks to cross.
There was an immense rock slide along the way. We could tell it was fresh because the vegetation caught in the slide was still green and hadn't died yet. I expect they will have to re-route the trail because I don't know how they will move some of the boulders short of blowing them all up.
All in all, a very memorable trip. Thanks for the company guys
Sat down to write a TR from my first ever (!) solo backpack this weekend... which was also my first ever trip to the Enchantments. (Compliments of crwdog - many, many thanks to him.) Thought I'd browse while I thought about what to write. Now the task is even harder! You've set the bar high.
Grand trip indeed, excellent report and even better photos.
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