The gang right before we started
Dragontail Peak on the left covered in clouds
Dragontail Peak center, the pass to the left of it is Aasgard, we went up that!
Campsite Day 1, we even had an area to eat and hang out at
The calm before the storm
About to go up Aasgard Pass
Cody going up Aasgard
View of Colchuck from Aasgard
Hillary facing Dragontail Peak
The storm's coming for us....
Quick stop to pull on rain covers
Hillary hiking up Aasgard in the hail
The weather turned quick
The things I drag Cody through....
Trying to find a place to camp
Where's the trail!?
Storm was clearing slowly
Camp spot night 2
Our version of tent city
The sun's coming out!
The unnamed lake we camped next to
Sunset night 2, Mt Temple I think
After hail & snow, the next morning we woke up to this!
Crossed a couple of snow fields
Scott and Chrissy going down the trail
Plenty of log crossings
Sarina and Ryan going pass Viviane Lake
Glad we went down and not up these
Upper Snow Lakes looking up at Mt Temple
Oh yah know, just hanging our food bags
Hike back down to Snow Lakes trail head was a long one
The home stretch!
Victory meal! Prost!
Leavenworth, WA a Bavarian town
Dates backpacked: September 3-6, 2016
Miles hiked: 20ish miles
Elevation gain: 4500 ft
Number of people on this trip: 7
This story actually started when I first met Sarina. I met her for the first time on our hike to Franklin Falls this past March. A couple of days after I met her, she found out she had won the lottery for the Enchantments permit, particularly the Core Zone. There are 5 zones in the Enchantments, Core, Snow, Colchuck, Stuart, and Eightmile. Core being the best permit to score, so you can actually camp at the alpine lakes, and not just have to day hike up and then back down to the lower zones.
Map of the zones, we started in the blue and hiked thru to the green section
When I say winning the lottery for the Enchantments, I am talking about how you score an overnight permit. Permits for certain areas are not that easy to get now a days. You have to submit an application online for a permit in February, then you wait to see if you actually get it or not by random selection, and announcements are made in spring. Other permits that use the lottery system that I know of are Mt Whitney, Half Dome, and Wonderland Trail, the list goes on, but you get the gist. What is different about the Enchantments, is that for day hike permits, you do not need to submit for a permit ahead of time, you can just grab a permit at trail head. You need a lottery permit if you plan on camping at any of the 5 zones though.
Anyways, back to my story. Shortly after she found out she got the permit, she asked me if I would like to join. Uh, yes of course! Thank you for the invite! She had 7 spots to fill, a couple of people dropped out here and there, but eventually the group came together! (Sarina, Ryan, Cody, Hillary, Scott, and Chrissy) At this point also, Sarina and Ryan had no experience backpacking and didn't have the gear, but by April, our first backpacking trip together, they slowly dialed in their gear, and were well prepared by Labor Day weekend. We did a lot of backpacking this summer to get prepared for this!
Day 1: Friday 9/2/2016
The plan was for the group to car camp Friday night so we could get an early start Saturday morning. Cody and I drove out to Leavenworth first to stake out a campground. It being Labor Day weekend, we were a little worried about getting a first come first serve spot. After driving down Icicle Creek Rd and passing numerous campgrounds with the sign "Campground FULL", we were losing hope. We eventually found a spot though, 7 campgrounds later, at a Blackpine Horse Camp. The only catch to camping at a horse camp was that, if someone showed up with horses and wanted your spot where your tent is pitched, you have to give it to them. (Per the ranger we spoke to though, it's never happened before) Here's the link that we used to find walk up campgrounds off Icicle Creek Rd.
After we set up our tent and paid the fees, we headed back into Leavenworth for some dinner, and to make some phone calls since there was no service at the campsite. Also because of the gravel road and how far down we went on Icicle Creek, it took us 45 minutes to get back into town. After calling Sarina, we grabbed some dinner at Leavenworth Sausage Garten, then headed back to our campsite a little after sunset to wait for the rest of the group to show up. Ryan had to work late. Sarina, Ryan, and their friends pulled in around 10:15 pm. We went to bed shortly after they arrived.
Day 2: Saturday 9/3/2016
The next day, we woke up early, broke down camp, and headed to Stuart Lake Trail head. Since we were thru hiking the Enchantments, we left a car at Snow Lakes Trail head, and shuttled ourselves back to Stuart. Hillary met us here, and 7 of us total hit the trail to Colchuck Lake. We made it to Colchuck Lake in the early afternoon, we found a spot to set up camp, ate, and took a nap while it rained. We wanted to push on further, but due to weather, we decided to stay here. So glad we did! Colchuck was one of my favorite lakes we saw! (We saw 10+ lakes on this trek) The weather cleared, we wandered around the lake before dark, snapping some gorgeous pictures, headed back to our site to make dinner, hung out and called it a night.
Miles hiked: 5 miles
Day 3: Sunday 9/4/2016
The following day, we woke up, made breakfast, broke down camp, and went on our way. We mentally prepared ourselves for a strenuous day. We tackled Aasgard Pass, 2000 ft elevation gain in less than a mile. I was surprised that there was somewhat a trail to follow, even though some parts of it were scree. We took our time going up the pass, taking lots of breaks and soaking up the views. What we did not expect was to be hailed on, which was what happened 2/3 of the way up. It took us a few hours, but we eventually made it to the top of the pass even with bad weather conditions. The hail eventually turned into snow. Now we were up in the Core Zone. We didn't go to far in before we decided to bunker down. We were all getting soaked from the snow, and didn't know want to trek further, so we found a spot somewhere near Tranquil Lake and Isolation Lake. We cleared the snow with our feet and pitched our tents. The weather eventually cleared up right before sunset. We wandered around the area little bit but had an early night due to how cold it was (dropped to the 20°s that night).
Miles hiked: 2-3 miles
Day 4: Monday 9/5/2016
We woke up to clear skies! What a relief! This was probably the best day of weather we had on our entire trip. It turned grey later in the afternoon, but we spent most of the day hiking in sunshine. We woke up, ate breakfast, broke down camp, and got going. We went past 7 alpine lakes in the Core Zone that day (Crystal, Inspiration, Perfection, Sprite, Leprechaun, Viviane, and Temple Lake). We took our time, ate lunch on the shore of one of the lakes, got chased by goats, and forged on to Upper Snow Lakes. It would've been cool to stay another night in the Upper Enchantments, but knowing we still had 8 miles to go once we reached Snow Lakes, I am glad the group decided on camping at Upper Snow Lakes this night. We scored a sweet spot on a sandy shore too. We set up camp, hung out, played around of Uno, made dinner, hung our food bags, and went to bed.
Miles hiked: 4-5 miles
Day 5: Tuesday 9/6/2016
We woke up around 5:30 AM to the sound of rain on our last day on the trails. We knew we had 8+ miles to go still to the end, so we got an early start. We ate a quick breakfast and packed up our wet tents and were on our way before 8:00 AM. We had 8.8 miles to go with 4000 ft+ elevation decline. I mean, elevation gain is usually slow going and sometimes dreaded, but 4000 ft elevation decline is also just as dreadful lol. We made it back to Snow Lakes Trail head before 1:00 PM. Woohoo! We just completed the entire Enchantments! And Cody's car was there waiting for us still! After shuttling part of the group to the other trail head to fetch their cars, we headed to Leavenworth for our victory meal. We got beers, pretzels, and sausages from Munchen Haus and it was the best tasting meal we had had in days lol. (Also Munchen Haus was wayyyy better than Leavenworth Sausage Garten) Anyways, after our meal and a quick walk around town, we were all ready to get back to Seattle.
Miles hiked: 8.8 miles
Total miles hiked: 20ish miles
Overall, it was a great 3 night/4 day backpacking trip! Even though the trail was tough physically and mentally, the 7 of us got along great, and we survived in the wilderness with no major mishaps! Would I do it again? HECK YES! Pretty sure Sarina and I plan on submitting for the permits every single year from here on out lol, anyone want to join?
Here's the link to Sarina's write up.
Until next time Leavenworth!