Trip to the Enchantments 2021
September 18-22, 2021
Shot on iPhone 12
Day 1: To Colchuck Lake and up Aasgard A test of physical and mental strength.
Our 4.5 mile, 2100ft ascent to Colchuck Lake began around 10am. A busy, but pleasant trail proved to be good warmup for what was to come. We stopped at Colchuck Lake for lunch and marveled at the crystal clear blue waters.
We traveled 1.5 miles, bouldering and scrambling, to the base of Aasgard Pass. Here begins the most harrowing .8 miles of my life.
Aasgard Pass, only about .8 miles, but with a 1900 ft elevation gain, tested the boundaries of my physical and mental strength. We were ready to haul our full 40+ pound packs up this beast, but what we weren’t ready for was the harsh gusts of cold wind and snow that started pelting us about half way through the climb. This slowed our progress and soon it was dark and we could no longer see the summit. (Later on, we met other hikers that watched us from below until they lost our headlamps in the white out.) The air was thin, 5 steps, take 5 deep breaths—I was not ready for this. Julia was our fearless leader, finding cairns in the dark, as we slowly made our way into the abyss.
After a grueling 3.5 - 4 hours, we finally made it up Aasgard, hands and feet numb, and body slightly in shock. We set up camp on a desolate snowy lunar landscape near Tranquil Lake, downed hot soup, and slept.
Maurice Ravel - Le Tombeau de Couperin, Prelude
Erik Satie - Gymnopedie No. 1
Ravel - Rapsodie espagnole, M. 54 - 1. Prelude a la nuit
Day 2: Camped at Tranquil Lake and heading to Leprechaun Lake
After a terrible night of sleep, we woke up to a beautiful lunar wintry landscape—a snowy rocky terrain with little plant life.
I made the terrible decision to venture out on my own to get a view looking back down on Aasgard Pass and Colchuck Lake. I found the view, but I could not find our camp. After climbing over several rock hills without luck, panic set in. I was able to locate hikers climbing up Aasgard and went down to join them. Eventually Margaret found me. Lesson learned. Don’t go walking around alone, especially if you have a poor sense of direction like myself.
We left our camp on a 3 mile hike through the core of the Enchantments and setup camp at Leprechaun Lake. Weather was cold and snowy, but gradually improved by the next morning.
Claude Debussy - Cloches a travers les feuilles (Debussy Images - III)
Maurice Ravel - Pavane pour une infante défunte
Day 3: Exploring the Core of the Enchantments
Camped at Leprechaun Lake, we woke up to sunshine and perfectly still waters reflecting the mountains that surrounded us. Now in the 50s, it felt like a tropical paradise. We spent the entire day exploring the core of the Enchantments. Without our heavy packs, we were able to quickly summit peaks, each one providing an even more spectacular view than the last. The Fall yellows, reds, and browns in this sunny Alpine heaven, smattered with larches, was breathtaking.
We eventually found our way up a summit where we could see all the lakes in the core. We also saw 2 rock climbers near the top of Temple Peak. Like small specks moving slowly up a rock, we witnessed the very moment they made it to the top, arms stretched out in victory. We yelled and cheered like crazy. That sense of our own victory over Aasgard in winter’s wrath was too fresh in our bones.
We slowly made our way back down to camp, stopped for a time to watch the sun set. Pink hues set over the larches and we sat in silence to hear the light wind sing as it passed through the sun kissed trees. For dinner, I ate the last cryogenically frozen McDonalds Double Cheeseburger in my pack, Top Ramen, and a Manhattan. It was the first evening it was warm enough to hang out outside after dinner. Night set in and we saw the full moon rise over the horizon. Its light reflecting off the crystal clear lake, provided plenty of light. We turned our headlamps off. In our camping chairs, our minds full with the day’s magical adventure, the moon light lulling my eyes to sleep, it was the perfect day.
Claude Debussy - Clair de Lune
Claude Debussy - Arabesque No. 1
Day 4: Descent to Snow Lakes. Down we go.
Another gorgeous day. Packed up and started a rather steep descent to Snow Lakes. After about 3 miles of occasional scrambling down steep rock, we slowly made our way into yet another climate. Instead of cold, dry, Alpine wilderness, we descended 2000 ft into a lush forest. The air was thicker and the sun felt hotter, now at 5500 ft. I went down to a single layer of clothes.
After 4 days of backpacking, all of us were emitting quite an aroma, like moldy cheese sprinkled over rotten onions. We like to call this, ‘crotchet.’ It was a good time for a bath. We cut our hike short to 5 miles and jumped in lower Snow Lake.
We set up camp in the forest of lower Snow Lake in scenery familiar to car campers. We appreciated the soft ground and the Zelda-like cauldron stone that served as our round table for our final dinner together. We ate like Kings and Queens and ended the evening star gazing on the shore of the lake.
Music: Claude Debussy - Reflets dans l'eau
Day 5: A Reflective Return Home.
Waking up to sunshine is something I can get used to. After we packed up camp, we set on our final leg of our journey to our car located at the Snow Lakes trailhead.
A steady 7 mile descent via endless switchbacks in the forest made for a comparatively boring hike. (If only I could nap while walking.) However, if there isn’t much to see outside, I often turn inward for a period of reflection, a time to examine the landscape of my own mind. And with each boring step, I am drawn further into this space.
After deciding what I was going to eat for dinner (burger), I thought about the Enchantments. I thought about how that broken branch that nearly tripped me a few minutes ago will outlive me. I thought about how the mountains might outlast the human race. Being in nature has a way of reminding us how insignificant we are.
It’s all the more reason to make the best of what time we have left. And while I might be a flash of light in the life of the Enchantments, her majesty shall live in my mind forever.