Will and I, together with Art and Arthur Freeman, spent August 3 – August 12, 2002 in the Enchantments.
We got to the Leavenworth ranger station to pick up our permit at about 9:15 on Saturday morning. We stopped at a bakery and were on the trail by 10:30. We took breaks every 45 minutes and got to Snow Lake (5 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation) late in the afternoon. The pipe that controls the outlet rate from Snow Lake was flowing at full force so we stopped and inspected it. Shortly after the “fountain” we saw a nanny goat and kid on the trail. There was very little water running over the dam and we camped between upper and lower Snow Lake, in a camp site with a huge boulder. It was very buggy but not cold. Late that evening another party camped just across the dam from us and made noise.
On Sunday we hiked from Snow Lake up Trauma Ridge to the Enchantment Lakes basin. We rested at Lake Vivienne then continued on to Rune Lake (Perfection on the TOPO maps). We found the camp we were looking for right at the junction of the main trail with the trail to Prussik Pass and set up tents. Art and Arthur hiked back to Lake Vivienne to find a lost hat. Will and I hung out for the afternoon. It was cold, but sunny. There were a couple of snow patches near our camp and lots of tortured-looking larch trees. That evening a bunch of goats visited us. We took lots of pictures. The night was really cold.
Monday morning we woke up to ice on the lake and stream. After breakfast we hiked up Little Annapurna, then played with the ice on several of the lakes in the upper basin. We went to Asgard Pass and looked over the edge. We watched a couple of climbers descending steep snow from Dragontail (slowly). We returned to our camp late in the afternoon and decided to rig up our tarp as a fly over the cooking area. At dinner time it started to hail and soon we had an inch of white stuff on the ground. (We sat under the tarp and watched!) It was cold that night too. Goats only at sunrise and sun set.
Tuesday morning we hiked to Prussik Pass and then up to the summit of Enchantment Peak. Art stood on top, I touched the top, Arthur touched a rock near the top and Will stayed below the summit block. We climbed down a steep goat trail (which spooked Will) visited another lake, and then climbed Cannon. There is a plateau on top of Cannon that is evidently pre-glacial and it is really other-worldly. It is just this big barren flat area with boulders strewn across it and nothing growing more than about two feet tall. The summit is an exposed boulder that doesn’t offer any easy way up. We all touched the boulder but only Art crawled to the top. On the way back we saw something orange that looked like someone had stashed gear in the rocks. It turned out to be lichen with green plants that looked like oxalis around it. I don’t know why only one rock was orange and why the green stuff didn’t grow anywhere else, but there was more marmot manure there than I have ever seen in one place! The climb back up over Prussik Pass was first on steep hard snow and then on loose rock and rubble. It was cold again that night. Only a few goats.
On Wednesday it seemed warmer in the morning. We rigged a top rope on the cliffs near the camp and did some rock climbing. The area we chose was too hard. Eventually we all were able to get up the cracks in the lower cliffs, but only Art attempted the long crack at the top. (He was the only one with rock shoes.) After lunch we put on gortex (in the hot sun) and practiced ice axe maneuvers on the snowfields near the camp. Lots of fun glissading, but the steep parts had too many rocks below to really throw ourselves into it. The goats were back in force, as were the bugs. Before dinner I walked most of the way around Rune Lake and then walked up to the ridge north of camp and hiked to the lake just below Prussik Pass. It rained at dinner time. Still cold at night.
On Thursday we climbed Dragontail. We went up onto Dragontail Plateau (via the knob next to Little Annapurna and its’ snow saddle) and then ran the ridge to the col below Dragontail. Will found several runners and carabineers on the summit. The views (especially down to Colchuck Lake and Glacier) were breath-taking. We descended the steep snow rather than retrace our route. We anchored one end of the rope with an ice axe and then stretched it out and anchored the other end. We clipped the kids in and had them use the rope as a hand line, then leapfrogged ends. Three pitches put us in some rocks, and we did three more pitches straight down from there. Then the run-out was okay and we plunge-stepped. Got back to camp late in the afternoon. Lots of goats. Lots of bugs. Not too cold that night.
On Friday we left the kids at the lake below Prussik Pass (Gnome Tarn) and Art and I climbed Prussik. I started to lead the second pitch, got off route and into some stuff that I couldn’t climb so I backed off and let Art lead. He led the rest of the climb. I wished that I had my rock shoes. The cracks below the summit were really hard – I ended up pulling myself up on the rope for a couple of moves. The little chimney to the summit was a tight squeeze. We rappelled off the summit with a single rope – two rappelles to the easy ledge, then three more to the base. The second one below the ledge was really sketchy – no ledge at the bottom and the rope wasn’t long enough to let you get to the rappel station before getting off the previous rappel. We took six hours instead of the four we’d estimated to the kids and they were worried. We lay around in the sun by the lake – I waded out to an iceberg and got wet when it broke under me. Plenty of goat activity in camp that evening and plenty warm.
On Saturday we broke camp and headed up over Prussik Pass. The valley on the other side (Shield, Earl and Mesa Lakes) was sub-alpine in contrast to our camp at Rune Lake and it looked positively lush. It really is a very pretty valley with gorgeous meadows and lakes. At the other end we climbed a small granite ridge with a lake on top where we rested and had a snowball fight. Then we descended on increasingly faint trail to Toketie Lake. We got to lake early in the afternoon and took a long time to select a camp site. (I walked all the way around the lake.) It is a spectacular place that obviously doesn’t get visited very much. The fishermen who had used the campsite before us had left a mess, though. Warm that night. We heard goats in the morning but never saw them.
On Sunday morning we broke camp early and headed for the cars. The first part of the trail was well marked with cairns and it wound along the creek through dense forest. Later the forest thinned out and we left the creek; the ground became much steeper and rockier until we ended up at a rock pinnacle where it didn’t look like we wanted to go left but there wasn’t really any trail right either. At this point we also entered the 1998 burn. The next thousand feet of elevation loss was in the burn and was pretty brutal – very steep, loose dirt and rock, very dirty and unsettling with heavy packs. Lower down we ended up boulder hopping trying to follow the cairns. We finally made it to Snow Creek and the main trail. Then we had a little over two miles to hike back to the cars in really brutal heat. I stopped and washed in Icicle creek once we got to the trailhead. We had ice cream at Sleeping Lady and then drove home over Stevens Pass.
Absolutely a great trip! We got up all of the mountains we wanted to (except that Art had wanted to do Colechuck along with Dragontail). We stayed dry even with rain and snow. We ate well. We were warm. We saw goats. There were beautiful flowers and mountains and the cold weather kept the bugs down for the first few days. We read all of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and the first part of “Welcome to the Monkey House.”
My pack started out at 75 pounds. Will’s was about 40. Mined ended at about 40 (I think) and Will’s probably didn’t decrease much. We took more clothes than we needed – but we stayed warm. We had one extra canister of gas. We didn’t bring back much food – three extra cliff bars and three extra mars bars (oh, and one cup-of-soup). Maybe a little trail mix, too.
Here are Will’s pictures. I need to develop the B&W film I took and then scan in anything that turns out well.