Enchantments: 5 days, 25.2 miles 8200 ft. gain
Woke up at 4:15am and left driveway at 4:30. Arrived at Leavenworth ranger station at 7:00. The drawing for core permits was at 7:45. Mother/daughter group didn’t win Colchuck but rangers let them link with us for the five day trip. This has turned out to be such a blessing. They offered to shuttle us from SL to LS. Perfect, saved 50 on taxi. We left lake Stuart TH at 9:30ish. From the startJ-Hawk was having trouble with his pack. It was too heavy and uncomfortable. After he first mile I pulled most of the food out of his pack and replaced it with my 2.5lb sleeping bag. I inherited about 10 more pounds and my already heavy pack just more heavier. J-Hawk picked up the pace. By noon we were at the junction of Colchuck and Stuart. Only 1.6 steeper miles to go. It seemed slow going as we gained 2000 feet. By 2:00 we were at Lake Colchuck. We saw a baby goat and dad or mom. That motivated us. We carefully worked our way around the lake looking for our new hiking partners. The upside to their pace being faster is that they landed this awesome campsite. We almost turned around before we found them but D just happened to be hiking around the lake hoping to run into us. As we turned around hopeless and disoriented, she saw us and started calling our name. What a blessing! We followed her to camp. J-Hawk and u quickly dropped packs and started putting our tent up. Then J-Hawk retreated to the tent to read a Hardy boys book on the iPad. I wandered around taking in the impressive views of Aasgard pass, Dragontail and Colchuck. What a blessing it is to be in the mountains.
Probably the physically toughest day out here. We left camp at Lake Colchuck at 9:00. After 44 minutes or so we picked out way through the boulder field. Eventually we lost the trail in the snow and decided to use the snow field after following some misleading footprints. We fumbled through the snowfield and decided to traverse/bushwack to find the trail. After an hour and some close calls, we started seeing the cairns on Aasgard. By then, I was already wiped out and concerned about letting J-Hawk ascend this steep pass. I was also worried about my physical strength, my packing weighing close to 50lbs. if he got injured, could I even help him. But as a group, we decided to work together, stick together and make it work. J-Hawk was a rock star. With no complaints, he led the charge up this insanely steep pass. After 4 hours, we crested the top. We were all wiped out and just wanted to find a camp spot. However, the baby goats and families welcomed us to the Upper Enchantments. We would run into people giving us dim outlooks about descending beyond Lake Viviane and how bad route finding was. We needed to make a choice on whether to continue to snow lakes in a few days or walk back down Aasgard Pass, which is so much more dangerous.
We had camped right above Assgard pass. From our camp site, we could look down the pass and watch theM colors of Lake Colchuck change color. The winds were very fierce the night before. We all slept in a little and decided to hike down to Lake Viviane with light day packs. The hope was to assess the terrain and make a decision as to how we were exiting the Enchantments. We set off prepared for frozen lakes and lots of snow. This was also a good time to see how J-Hawk was on steeper snow fields. He, again was a rock star. He led the way most of the time. At one point he did post hole so bad that he couldn’t get his foot out. We had to dig his entire leg out. He did very well in managing the stress and cold. We hiked down to inspiration lake before determining that it would just be too much to continue on to Lake Viviane. Just as we decided to turn around we met up with some hikers that had just come from Lake Viviane via snow lakes. They gave us a very positive outlook on traveling through the area. We decided to head back to camp determined to head towards Lake Vivian in the morning. By 7:00, the rain began to fall on out camp spot. J-Hawk was complaining about not feeling well. We stayed in the tent playing Blokus.
Wow, words cannot express…..
Woke up at 4:00 to pouring rain and strong winds. The entire plateau was socked in. Around 6, J-Hawk and I were eating breakfast. I sorted our gear for the day and J-Hawk fell back asleep. J-Hawk’s boots were still soaked from the day before and I was worried about making the trek through the Enchantments. However, nobody wanted to go down Aasgard with these packs. Around 8, D and M woke up and we decided to push through. The thought was to camp at Lake Vivian, Snow lakes or if we were fast enough …to the car. By 9:00, we had packs on and set out on the journey. We were making really good time, even after I post holed so deep that I had to use J-Hawk’s helmet to dig myself out. Eventually we reach the first crutch, descending the steep snow field by Lake Inspiration. We roped up, for J-Hawk, and walked down the slope to meet the trail. After a little confusion, we found the trail but eventually lost it prior to descending to lake perfection. J-Hawk roped up for the next crazy snow field traverse. We blazed our own route down to the lake. Found the trail again and headed toward Leprechaun Lakes. There were more sketchy trails on steep snow fields and melting snow bridges. Eventually we made it to lake Vivian. We found the part that had been making everyone turn around and we could see no other logical route to descend to the lake. J-Hawk’s feet were cold, really cold. I changed his socks and put duct tape around the toes. D and M thought the found a route and I went up with M to check it out. It looked sketchy but doable and the risk was falling down a small snow field with a good run out. However it required traversing a 15 foot rock ledge with marginal handholds and ice on the rock itself. A fall woeful have really hurt if not broken something. We each took our time crossing. I stayed at the half way point to lower packs down to make the traverse easier. I also belayed J-Hawk over and then lowered him off the final five foot rock. This process was sketchy and fearful at times and ate up a lot of daylight. We slowly descended the snow field and rested at Lake Vivian for a few moments. We ran into some climbers who said the route down to snow lakes was snow free and marked well. It was 630 when we set off down climbing to snow lakes. J-Hawk was really tired and the decent was endless. By 830, we reached camp. Tents went up, water was pumped, dinner cooked and I enjoyed about 3 oz. of Chardonnay. Tomorrow, we hike out. One last 8.5 mile push. It has been a long journey, but amazing and unforgettable.
By 10:00, we were all packed up and ready to head out. As we packed up, it was so interesting how we had all bonded and by the end of the day we will have gone our own way. What an amazing journey. All we had left were the last 8.5 miles. Being that I had hiked this trail before, I knew this would be the most uneventful and grueling part of the trip. We stopped at Nada Lake for a short break. After noticing how many bugs were in the still Nada Lake, I chose not to resupply my water. After ten minutes or so, we threw our packs on and began hiking the remainder six miles to the Snow Lakes trailhead. EventuallyJ -Hawk and I were about a quarter mile behind the girls. My back was sore and J-Hawk was getting tired. His only motivation was getting to the car. The final miles face the hot Leavenworth sun with minimal shade. Eventually, J-Hawk would start to struggle with a little heat exhaustion. As the miles slowly went by, our pace was getting seemingly slower or maybe we just felt exhausted and tired. Toward the end, I would pour water on J-Hawk’s head to cool him down and motivate him to push out the 25th mile. With the promise of a greasy burger in Leavenworth, we pushed on. With a 4500 foot descent, our bodies were tired of catching ourselves. Around 2 pm., we finally arrived at the trailhead. I dropped my 50 pound pack on the ground and chugged more water. My feet no longer wanted to walk. After a five minute rest, we all loaded our packs into my car and headed back to the Stuart Lake trailhead to get the other car.
I was changed significantly after this trip. I was so overjoyed and proud of J-Hawk His resilience and determination during snow travel, rock climbing and heat exhaustion over 25 miles was extraordinary. What a journey we conquered. We stopped in Leavenworth and downed some burgers and headed home. The trip home was mostly uneventful with the exception of the I-90 closure for rock blasting. We were only stalled for an hour.