Enchantment Peak

After going back and forth about where to go, I finally settled on my mid-week destination-The Enchantments. I was off work at noon and had the following day off. Somehow I had completely blocked the memories of the difficulties Chris Mattson and I had had on an early May trip to the Enchantments a few years ago. Optimistically, I thought I could be on the Snow Lake Trail by 3:30pm, Nada Lake by 5:30 and Snow Lakes by 6:30. I could camp at Snow Lakes but hadn't ruled out pushing up to Lower Enchantment Basin and camping there instead.

I arrived at the Snow Lake Trailhead fifteen minutes behind schedule (road construction in Tumwater Canyon just west of Leavenworth, "Expect 20 Minute Delay"), it was 3:45pm when I left the parking lot and started up FST 1553. It was mostly cloudy and warm and occasionally a few drops of rain would fall. I hoped there hadn't been a weather forecasting snafu that would lead to a miserable night, but the clouds didn't look too threatening. At 7:30pm I arrived...at Nada Lake. The hike had taken much longer than I had hoped and I struggled to figure out why. Was it the Dairy Queen lunch I had eaten on the way? The first mile of trail was in perfect condition, winding its way through the partially burned forest. As I made my way toward Snow Creek Wall I began to encounter fallen trees, but these were generally easy to go over, under or around since most of the needles and branches had been burned off of them. Then there was the minor washout. Beyond Snow Creek Wall I picked my way through the avalanche debris trying to find the trail on the other side and wondering if it was really going to be worth finding it. Once beyond that there were the talus fields, mostly snow covered but melted out enough that I could never be sure that the snow was going to support me or if I was going to have to pull myself out of yet another hole. As I continued around Nada Lake I realized what had taken so long. Finding new and creative adjectives to enhance the meaning of four letter words requires large amounts of both time and energy. Beyond Nada Lake the snow got better and fewer adjectives where required. I thought about putting on my skis for the final ascent to Snow Lakes but decided it just wasn't going to be worth the time.

Nada Lake from the Snow Lake Trail

By 8:15 I was at Snow Lakes and the thought of going any further was no longer in my mind. As the evening continued, the clouds began to clear and I soon found myself under a star filled sky. In the morning I would travel around Upper Snow Lake on its south shore and find my way to Trauma Rib. I was beginning to remember the difficulties I had encounter before when the trail was buried under several feet of snow and the rib seemed to offer the best route to the lower basin. I am not sure how the name "Trauma Rib" came about, but can only speculate that Fred Beckey came up with the name to discourage others from going to the Enchantments while he made the first ascent of nearly everything in sight (including Enchantment Peaks main and SW summits). Wherever the name came from, it is largely undeserving and I knew that getting to it would be the harder part. 

Upper Snow Lake and McClellan Ridge at sunrise

It was a cold morning as I began skiing around the lake and made my way to the inlet, where the thrashing through "Trauma Forest" began, (nothing a band aid can't fix, but bring a tourniquet just in case). Eventually I reached the rib and began my way up on snow and rock, reaching the top near Naiad Lake (aka Temple Lake). The rigors of getting to the lower basin of the Enchantments were all but forgotten as I made my way toward Prusik Pass. So much to do, so little time. It was tough to decide where I should go next. Skiing into the upper basin would be fun. The north side of Little Annapurna definitely looked like it offered a great ski down. The convenience of Enchantment Peak coupled with the view I would get from its summit finally lead to my decision. 

Lower Enchantment Basin and Little Annapurna from Prusik Pass

After reaching Prusik Pass I  headed west on the ridge toward Enchantment Peak. After a couple minor humps I skinned up the the open slope toward the summit area. I first checked out the SW summit. A snow covered class 4 climb with exposure turned me back before the top, but there was a nice view point nearly as high just to the NE. After taking in the views there, I made my way to the main summit. A short class 3 scramble up the south side on mostly snow free rock lead to the top. The view was...

Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Peak, Sherpa Peak and Mt. Stuart from Enchantment Peak


Mountain Overload or Hypoxia?

After enjoying the view, the noon sun and some Nutter Butters, I began skiing down. Near Prusik Pass, I stopped to take a photo of Prusik Peak. No trip to the Enchantments is complete without at least one photo of Prusik Peak, especially one where I had not seen so much as a foot print. If you want the Enchantments to yourself, you have to be willing to pay the price...I had. 

Icon of the Enchantments: Prusik Peak

On the way down to Upper Snow Lake, I decided to take a route where I imagined the trail comes up (I have never hiked here when it has been snow free). After several hundred feet of good skiing followed by thrashing my way through "Trauma Forest" and an easy ski around the lake, I was back at camp. From there I skied to Nada Lake where skiing became counter productive. Five and a half miles, three hours and countless adjectives later I was back at the trailhead.

Cascade Alpine Guide, volume 1, second edition; Fred Beckey; pages 223, 236 and 253
100 Classic Hikes in Washington; Ira Spring and Harvey Manning; pages 130-131