Cover Image: Colchuck Lake looking towards Cashmere Mountain
I last did the Enchantments Through Hike August 2020 solo. Since then I did a winter snowshoe from the Icicle Creek road to Lake Colchuck in December 2020 which was spectacular, and later in May 2021 climbed Colchuck Peak and Pandora’s Box on Dragontail car 2 car from Icicle Creek as well. Earlier in the summer, I had an old North Thurston High school friend, Shannon McMillan, reach out to me to share that she had been following some of my hiking posts from my HikingwithHadland blog and that she had attempted the Enchantments Through Hike earlier in May, but did not complete the trip. Shannon and I got to talking about hiking, things she could do to be better prepared physically, mentally, skills, etc. as hiking has become a newfound hobby for her. Shannon had a wedding to attend later in the summer near Leavenworth and a short window from which to attempt the Through Hike again and inquired if I could maybe join her, given it is on her bucket list. I agreed depending on my schedule, and it turned out that I was able to join her on this outing. The week prior to this trip, I summited Cashmere Mountain, just across the valley from Aasgard Pass with climbing partner Enji Cooper, which had similar stats to the Through Hike, so was feeling confident that we would be in good shape to attempt and complete the hike and help an old friend complete a bucket list item! How exciting!!!
Hike to Colchuck Lake
I met Shannon in Leavenworth and we dropped off my car at the Snow Lake trailhead then drove to the Stuart Lake trailhead. It was a Sunday and not too crowded. It took a while to get organized and we finally hit the trail just after 4AM. We hiked in the dark for about an hour waiting for the daylight to illuminate the valley.
We made our way across the bridge over Mountaineers Creek, walked through the boulder field, and made our way up the trail to Colchuck Lake. As we ascended, the peaks above Colchuck Lake slowly came into view as did the view of Cashmere Mountain to the West. Dragontail was looming and Aasgard pass slowly revealed itself.
We made it to the lake in 2:40, pleased with our pace and time, took a short break to capture some photos of Colchuck and the surrounding peaks, and assess Aasgard Pass. We continued on towards the opposite of Colchuck, navigating the infamous boulder field, and found a large flat from which to take a proper break, refuel, and get ready to conquer Aasgard Pass!
We slowly made out way across the far end of the lake, clearing the boulder fields, and traversing a path carved out of slide alder. In reality, Aasgard Pass is not all that difficult. It is steep, but the path is well defined, well-marked by cairns, and has many larger rocks to help stabilize loose scree and dirt. It’s very important to keep to the left of what I call the rock Island, the large central mass of pronounced rock and trees. In the early season, water under the snow forms deadly openings to the right, the site of past fatalities.
We continued to climb and with each step, Colchuck lake became smaller, Cashmere Mountain become more visible in the distance, we rose above some of the surrounding peaks spotting climbers on sheer cliffs, Dragontail looked less formidable, and soon the crux of the hike would be conquered.
We made it to the top of the pass, a long-fought battle with the endless gauntlet of stone. Upon cresting the pass, the upper Core Enchantments is revealed, the first of many chapters of this enchanting land, so many areas to explore and discover.
We took a lunch break at Tranquil Lake, visited with some folks we met on the ascent and began our trip down the core. With some newfound friends in tow who were interested in joining us on the through-hike, we set out and traversed Isolation Lake and the Enchantment series of lakes.
I had my sights set on summiting Little Annapurna, which I did, planning to rejoin Shannon and the others at Lake Vivane, where we would regroup and make the steep descent to Snow Lake.
Summiting Little Annapurna took me a bit longer than I anticipated, so I quickly made my way down to Inspiration Lake.
I then wound my way around to Perfection Lake, enjoying the views of Prusik Peak and looking back at Little Annapurna.
I wound my way down past tiny Sprite Lake towards Leprechaun Lake.
Making my way down to Lake Viviane.
I traversed down from Leprechaun Lake, across some rock slabs, across the outlet to Lake Vivienne, and across the famous round slab with rebar steps for the added traction to make my way to Lake Viviene for my rendezvous with Shannon. Upon arriving, I did not spot Shannon, and wondered if she was here – that path down to the lake is a bit more technical, and I then began to wonder how I could ever have passed her as I remained on the core trail? I stopped to take care of myself by filtering waster and eating some calories. Becoming a bit concerned, I began to shout and also stopped to talk with everyone I came across – It was getting later in the afternoon, the sun sets earlier these days and I was beginning to factor in time and darkness into my next steps.
Shannon and I did not pre-program our respective contact information into our Garmin InReach devices (a lesson learned for future trips) something I will never overlook and had no way to contact each other as a result. Shannon and the other hikers decided to part ways at Perfection Lake, as they were camping at Stuart Lake and were concerned that completing the through-hike would mean hiking back the four miles to camp in the dark. Shannon told them to let me know she was going to go ahead and hike out as she was slow, but feeling good and wanted to finish in daylight. I misunderstood the other hikers and thought Shannon was going down to Lake Viviane. Fours later of running around up and down the core lakes, many miles and thousands of feet, I was able through my Garmin, my Mom, FaceBook Messenger, Shannon’s friend, and delayed Garmin messages, I confirmed that Shannon was indeed headed down and not in harm’s way. Fortunately, she joining a group of six other hikers who led her down. It was after 7 PM and daylight was waning. I had a long haul of about 12 miles to get out, and most of it would be in the dark. My only objective was to make it to Snow Lake prior to darkness fully set in, and the trail down crosses many steep rock slabs and has a lot of roots, steep dirt, etc – something I did not want to descend in the dark. The upside of my additional time in the Enchantments near dark was the opportunity to get some great photos with decreasing light – something folks only typically gets while camping and I have not yet won the lottery to date – so I took advantage of the additional time and got some really great photos.
It was about 7:30 when I made my descent to Snow Lake from Lake Viviane. I was running down the trail as fast as I could and made it to the bridge crossing Snow Creek just above Snow Lake just as total darkness had set in. I filtered some more water and began to slowly job in the darkness, careful not to trip.
The Dreaded Trail of Despair aka Snowlake to the Trailhead
I continued down, making decent time, although I was tired, and getting the heebie-jeebies hiking our solo in the dark. I made my way past Nada Lake and the gushing plume of water used for irrigation. Campers along the trail must have been wondering why this crazy guy was still out. I have hiked this trail once before and it is simply endless. Shannon was waiting for me at the trailhead in the dark and cold as I slowly made my way down. By now my feet were sore and hurting, slowing my progress. Finally, I emerged around midnight, glad to be off the trail and super excited for Shannon to have successfully completed the Enchantments Through Hike.
As always, thanks for reading HikingwithHadland !