In March of 2017 I was lucky enough to be invited by a Mountain Chick who won a permit to backpack the core zone of the Enchantments from June 21-25th. The Enchantment wilderness outside of Leavenworth, Washington is highly protected and if you are lucky enough to score a permit for an extended stay; here is some trail beta and logistics from my experience.
We took the advice of many bloggers and started our trek at the Stuart Lakes Trailhead. If you go up this route, this means you will have to tackle Aasgard Pass; 2000 feet of elevation gain in ¾ of a mile. I was most nervous about this as a 19 year old boy died on this pass three weeks prior.
Day One: The first day we hiked from Stuart Lake Trailhead up to our first camp site at Colchuck Lake; which is a popular day hike as people can get day of permits. From the car, we hiked four miles up gaining 2,532 feet to the top of the lake. You will cross boulder fields and the trail will disappear at times, but cairns usually will exist on this part of the trail. Once we got to Colchuck Lake we found a designated campsite and set up for the night. Be sure to head over the boulder field to the right to a smaller Colchuck Lake to go swimming; a perfect spot to relax and unwind. Aasgard Pass stared us in the eyes as we plotted our trek the following morning.
With the advice of Meghan Young from PNWOutdoorWomen group on Facebook, I knew that staying to the left of the tree line and water run-off was essential as you hike up Aasgard Pass. The right side of the tree line is where the boy died from glissading down in previous weeks. Here is a photo she sent me which all should study prior to heading up there. It is essential to prepare gear wise as the conditions change for your trip. We had microspikes, crampons, an ice ax and helmet. We ended up leaving the ice ax and helmet at the car as we spoke to people leaving the trailhead said the snow is melting and becoming quite slushy.
Day Two: Our trek up Aasgard started at 8 AM with scrambling across a boulder field prior to crossing the stream of melting water everybody warns you about. As you climb be sure to pause and take photos as you go up, the views are spectacular. After you cross the creek, the route will continue to steepen becoming a bear crawl up loose rock and gravel among the larches. As you enter the false summit, you will rest your eyes on the final jaunt to the top; which seems easy after you tackled the first portion. However, you will have to traverse across a snow field which has melting snow underneath you. We had to be cautious for our team and remain on the foot path created from the backpackers traveling ahead of us. Once you climb the final boulder field you reach the top of Aasgard at 7,800 feet, entering the Upper Enchantments. At 11 AM we arrived at the top of the summit, feeling as if we stepped into another world.
We continued the Enchantments Trail to our next camp site at Leprechaun Lake. At this time, the trail is mostly covered in snow making every step count. Trekking poles and proper footing helped me maintain by balance with my 35-pound pack. Most of the lakes in this area were snow covered, but the beautiful icy blue water among the ridged rock provided beautiful views.
Once we got to our campsite, we noticed three goats making laps around us. Although the goats are quite friendly, be cautious of them as they are after your pee. As I peed I would make eye contact with a goat as they would wait until I was done to go lick my pee off the rock. The ranger’s advice is that you pee on rocks to avoid the goats digging the vegetation to get to your pee.
Right outside our tent; be sure to hang your food as they will enter camp when your asleep. Chipmunks are also looking to stuff their faces with your food the moment you step away.
Day three: We woke up around 8 AM to eat, caffeinate, and pack up for our final campsite at Nada Lake. As we descended we saw the vegetation change and the amount of snow decrease. We headed down towards Lake Vivian, which was breathtakingly beautiful with the contrast between the snow and the dense forest heading towards Snow Lake.
The journey down is no doubt rough on your knees, so remember to take time for breaks and soaking in the views. We continued down as the trail wraps around to the right of Snow Lake towards Nada Lake.
We got to our final campsite at Nada Lake at about 2PM, where we swam in the cold water and relaxed, celebrating our final night. It was extremely relaxing to swim in the water and enjoy our last night at a warmer, lower elevation. Our last day included a 5.5-mile descent down 3,500 feet back to the trailhead, which is full of switchbacks and wildflowers. ProTip: pack a cooler of cold beer for the car to celebrate your accomplishment after!
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This blog was written by Oregon Ambassador Logan Dralle. Don't forget to pick up your Mountain Chicks patch and other gear below!