This was my third trip into the spectacular Alpine Lakes Wilderness Enchantments area near Leavenworth Washington. (See last year's TR which is much better than this one here.) I sent in an application for 8 permits for the 4th of July long weekend not really expecting to get any but much to my surprise I got all 8. Fortunately it isn’t very difficult to fill 8 spots on an Enchantments trip ;)
The Canucks (Mike, Chris, Vlad, Eva, Claire and I) left home around 3am & met up with our American friends (Andrew & Greg) at Sandy’s Waffle House at 7:30 in Leavenworth. After a leisurely breakfast of bacon with a side of waffles we hit Safeway for some last minute food type stuffs then were off to the trailhead 15 minutes outside of town. As usual, it took forever to get organized at the trailhead. It was 11:00 by the time we finally started up the trail. A respectable start to what I intended to be a weekend full of slacking and underachievement.
The trail to Colchuck Lake is pretty tame but it was hot so we weren’t breaking any speed records. We popped out at the lake at 2:00 and I urged everyone to keep going to the far end of the lake with the promise of a beautiful white sand beach where we could go for a swim, take a nap, eat lunch, etc.Unfortunately when we got there we realized that the beach was under water so we had to make do with lunch on a rock.
I managed to spill my last litre of Gatorade as we were packing up to leave. Mike had already put his Katadyne filter away so I borrowed Vlad’s MSR OMG that thing is slooooooooooooow! Everyone but Chris had already left by the time I emerged from the lake shore with aching arms and 800ml of water. It was my turn with the rope and now I also had the filter. At first I thought my pack must be stuck on something but no.. it was just damn heavy.
In spite of my pack and very angry knees I managed to get up Aasgard in about 2 hours… 30 min slower than Mike who must have had rocket fuel in his boots that day. The others were up anywhere from 30 min to 3 hours later due to a combination of slacking & various dysfunctional body parts.
From the top of the pass it wasn’t long before we found a camp site which was right next to last year’s spot that was still covered in snow. It felt pretty good to take the pack off and relax. Everyone was in camp before sunset and we had loads of goats come to greet us. After dinner we all hit the sack for a much deserved sleep.
Day Two - Dragontail & Colchuck
The weather was perfect again and we were all looking forward to a relatively easy day with nearby Dragontail & Colchuck as our objectives.
It only took us about 30 minutes to hike over to the base of the Dragontail glacier. The glacier was looking like a far friendlier place this year as almost all the rocks were still covered in a blanket of snow. The glacier is steep but the runout is pretty benign so we didn’t rope up. The snow was soft enough to kick good steps.
We made it up in good time, stopping a few times for pictures and snow skirmishes along the way. The view from the col is breathtaking. Mount Rainier and Adams pop into view immediately as you come over the top.
We all stopped to admire them for a little while before continuing up the final rock scramble to the summit. There’s a bit of a trial but I found it was more fun to stay on the rocks in search of low 5th moves. In no time we were all standing atop 8840ft Dragontail Peak with views of the sparkling green waters of Colchuck Lake, Colchuck and 9415ft Stuart which looks absolutely massive, Rainier, Adams and the Upper Enchantments basin.
We hung out for a while enjoying the sunshine and the views and trying to figure out our next move. Then we descended back to the col, then traversed a steep snow slope under the Dragontail ridge to a snow gully called “Pandora’s Box.” We’d watched a goat fall down this section as we’d been descending from the summit so we knew it was going to be steep.
The snow was pretty good though so we were able to kick good steps in the 50 degree slope. I set the rope up when I got to the top for the others behind me in case anyone wanted a hand line but I think most of us managed to get up without it.
When we got to the top we could see that we still had a loooong way to go to get over to Colchuck. Andrew, Vlad, Claire & I scrambled up to the highest point on the ridge just for fun before heading down the steep snow slope towards the Colchuck col. It kinda sucked losing all the elevation we’d just gained but it was such a beautiful day and we were all having fun (with the exception of Eva who wisely decided that she’d pushed her luck on her bad ankle as far as she should and opted to wait for us at the top of Pandora’s Box).
We scrambled down rock and snow slopes to the col where we’d been turned back by weather a month ago. We met a skier who was just head down the Colchuck glacier so I snapped a few pics of him on his way down. Then we headed up Colchuck which is a fun rock scramble most of the way with one nice long flat section just below the 8705ft summit. Both Mike & I hit a wall shortly before the summit but managed to drag our weary bones up to the top before stopping for a much needed lunch break. The others trickled in over the next 45 min or so. The view of Stuart from Colchuck is very seductive. I can’t wait to get up that one! We could hear ice cleaving off the glacier and crashing down the steep slopes.
Getting back to camp was a fairly simple matter of retracing our steps… down and up and down and up and down and up.
The Dragontail glacier had firmed up quite a bit and was downright icy in spots so we put our crampons on. Mike’s crampons were being quite rebellious but he finally whipped them into submission.
We were back in camp 7 hours after we’d left with 2 big peaks under our belts. We even had some very sexy gaiter sunburns to show off. Not a bad day out!
The Rest of the Story
The next day Mike and I climbed Prusik Peak. Click here for that trip report.