A Day in the Enchantments

3:30 a.m. After five and a half hours of marginal sleep in the back of my car, I ate some soaked oats with dates and almonds, shouldered my pack, turned on my headlamp, and quietly left the many others still sleeping in their vehicles.  I am one with the roar of the creek and the pitch black forest.   My plan is to through hike the entire Enchantments from Stuart Lake parking lot to Snow Lake parking lot – 20 miles, 6000 feet of climbing, 7000 feet of descending.  18 weeks out from a severe ankle sprain, I almost decided to stay home and endure another day in Seattle with the Blue Angels strafing my home.  Doubts and fears can never be vanquished unless you face them.  I reasoned that I could always turn around at Colchuck Lake.

 

The trail to Colchuck is straightforward. After crossing the creek again, veer right in the boulder field and follow the creek until the trail is clear again. I stopped and filled up both water bottles, consuming over 5 liters over the course of the day. If I had been concerned about pack weight, I could have waited and collected water almost anywhere along the entire route.
Looking up valley before sunrise. Click on any of the images with your mouse to view them in high resolution.
Looking down valley with morning’s glow filling the sky.
Colchuck Lake
Colchuck
Sun’s first rays on the top of Dragontail Peak. Aasgard Pass. The gully below the pass is where I am headed.
Looking back towards Colchuck Lake
freckled rock and flower
Colchuck, starting up towards Aasgard
The view up Aasgard Pass. At this point, one needs to pay careful attention to the location of the rock cairns, indicating the route.
Looking back at Colchuck.
Shadows on Dragontail Peak.
Dragontail Peak
These three hikers were also doing a through hike of the Enchantments in a day, only they were going to throw in an ascent of Prusik Peak. With their youthful energy, they easily passed me going up towards Aasgard, even though their packs were considerably heavier. Likely full of ropes and climbing gear.
Dragontail Peak
Boulder
The goats are everywhere. Avoid urinating on the trail. Goats will meticulously lick the dirt for the salts in your urine, creating a dangerous obstacle for other hikers. I encountered a few goats at close range and announced my peaceful attention, singing mantras, carefully stepping around them with steel tipped hiking poles ready for defensive action.
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flowing water over smooth rock
flowing water over rock
grass and rock
reflections
The path across smooth granite.
snow pile and running water
Old man on the mountain.
There were so many beautiful lakes.
Lake Viviane?
rock, lake and mountain
Difficult to miss the trail here.
reflections and snow pile against cliff
stream through marsh – perfection
flowers and lake
peaceful glade
fractured boulder and lake
idyllic
another look at Prusik Peak
The three hikers who passed me earlier are just barely visible in the first shadow on the left ridge line going up Prusik.
Snow Lakes – by this time, I had hiked about 11 miles and had a bit of a brain fart as I looked at the considerable mileage still ahead.
The descent from Lake Viviane down to Snow Lake was the most challenging portion of the entire hike. Lots of downclimbing over slippery (dusty) rock, and occasional disappearances of the trail. Look carefully for the cairns. If you get lost, go back to where you last remember being on the trail. I got lost here the first time, and without the benefit of a satellite navigation app, I bushwhacked for about 15 minutes before finding the trail again.
grandfather tree
rocky landscape

 

Looking back across Snow Lake up at the pass which I had just climbed down.
It was 90 degrees and hot now, but still about 5 miles to go through an old forest burn. No shade. I stopped taking pictures and just kept my feet moving. When you’ve identified a positive goal that you want to achieve in life. Figure out what you need to do to accomplish it and then go do it!

 

 

Lake Stuart trailhead. Note: The blue/purple line is my recorded satellite position (which might vary a bit from my actual position). If you click on any of the map images, you can view them in higher resolution and clearly see the marked trail from the Thunderforest Outdoor data.
Lake Stuart Trail
Colchuck Lake trail
Colchuck Lake
Trail up to Aasgard Pass (7761 feet) and upper Enchantment Lakes
Lower Enchantment Lakes
Lower Enchantment Lakes
Lake Viviane down to Snow Lake
Snow Lake to Nada Lake
Snow Lake to Nada Lake
Leaving Nada Lake
approaching Snow Creek Wall
Through the old burn – very hot with little shade.
many switchbacks – last section down to the Snow Creek trailhead.
BackCountry Navigator app data
full route map
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