Linna and I agreed that this will be the last time we hike this tough 20 mile hike thru.
Linna and I were fortunate to be asked to come a long on a two night backpacking trip in the Enchantments, near Leavenworth, Washington. Linna’s Chinese friends were lucky enough to win the lottery for overnight camping in the upper Snow Lakes near the core of the Enchantments. We met up with the other 6 Chinese friends at the Snow Lakes trail-head on Friday morning and started around 8:00 a.m. on a cool sunny day.
Our group chose the very South end of upper Snow Lakes, which was 8.2 miles from the trail-head with 4,700 feet gain. We were completely surprised how low the lake was, it was difficult scurrying down the lake bank for water especially after carrying a 40 lb. pack all day.
One of the Chinese guys brought a liter of Bai Jiu liquor and Linna brought a pint of Scotch, which encourage a lot of loud obnoxious singing that I am sure the other backpackers around the lake could hear but not understand.
We spent all day Saturday exploring the core of the Enchantments and taking a zillion pictures of the beautiful lakes and Larches. After a long day of accent and decent from the core, we were in our warm sleeping bags right after a hot bag of Mountain House Chili Mac.
Sunday was another long day with heavy packs on the decent back to the cars, but cold beers and hot bratwursts awaited in Leavenworth for us.Our home for two nights, my 10 year old REI Half-Dome tent.
We hit the fall colors at the right time.
The larches in peak season.
Rick Freeman standing tall in the core of the Enchantments.
Linna got a great shot of a local goat.
Linna standing tall on Crystal Lake.
Enchantment Thru Hike
Date: August 19, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 20 miles / 32 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 5,200 feet / 1,585 meters (total gain)
Time: 12 to 15 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers &
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Tao Song & Craig Schilling
I trekked this brutal 20 mile loop last year, so I have a full understanding of the physical requirements and mental determination to complete it. So…to do again this year makes me a glutton for punishment. Team Punishment consisted of my lovely wife Linna, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and Tao Song.
We dropped off Matt’s vehicle at the Snow Lakes trailhead and the five of us drove Craig’s vehicle to Colchuck trailhead where we started our torturous journey at 5:00 a.m. I was totally surprised how both parking lots were completely full. Of course we didn’t see much in the dark, but by the time we got to Colchuck Lake it was all blue skies. We stopped at the first big slab of granite opening which was directly across the famous Aasgard Pass for the initial bombardment of photos and selfies. We also took this time to scarf down some energy food before heading up to the pass which was nearly ½ mile away around the lake. You start to notice the cairns around the lake and soon you realize how important they are and become later in the hike. Somehow Tao didn’t pay attention to the cairns and found herself lost for about 15 minutes before we started up the pass.
What can I say about Aasgard Pass that you don’t already know…2,000 feet elevation gain in 0.75 miles is cruel and unusual punishment to your mind, body and soul. I am sure I was having Mailbox Peak flashbacks. Some sections you need to be careful you don’t dislodge rocks…especially when your wife is below you! We took a long break at the summit in a low spot on large boulders to stretch out our tired legs. During lunch, Matt had a photo shoot with us and a few goats. Matt Kerby is a professional photographer so you will see a lot of his photos on my blog.
The trail continues through the Enchantment basin / Upper Enchantments with numerous lakes and photo opportunities everywhere. We stopped and soaked our feet in the icy cold Leprechaun Lake before heading down to the Snow Lakes. Once you see the lakes at a distance, you realize that you still have a brutal descent down. For me, this is the most grueling section…but once you get down to the upper Snow Lakes it’s back on a half-way normal trail. Once you see the parking lot, you might think you only have 15 minutes left, but it’s a full hour yet.
Date: July 16, 2016
Difficulty: 9.5 out of 10
Distance: 19 miles / 30.6 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,500 feet / 1,371 meters
Time: 10 to 13 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry to Packed Snow
Hiking With: Linna Freeman & Yun Ling
This year my wife and I hiked Colchuck Lake and two weeks later hiked Snow Lakes…both of these hikes will lead you into the magical place called the Enchantments near Leavenworth, Washington. A bunch of our friends applied for a summer camping permit to the Enchantment Basin back in February but all of us were denied.
So my wife and I did the next best thing…a very long day hike through the Enchantments. You have three choices to experience the Enchantment basin in one day, hike there from Colchuck Lake which is probably the easiest, but you will have to ascend and descend the very steep Aasgard Pass. Or the ever long grueling Snow Lakes trail with 6,500 feet gain and over 15 miles of hiking. Since Linna and I already completed both hikes, we decided to start from Colchuck Lake trailhead and end our day at the Snow Lakes trailhead…a grueling 19 miles thru hike in one day.
We were joined by Yun Ling, he was looking for something bold for his 48th birthday (he found it). We dropped my Audi at the Snow Lakes trailhead and Yun Ling’s wife dropped us off at the Stuart Lake trailhead. We started around 7:00 a.m., a much later start time than I wanted and totally recommend starting at day break or earlier.
Hiking to Colchuck Lake was a breeze, we made it to the lake in 1 hour 45 minutes. When we were taking a photo break and chatting with fellow hikers we heard some thunderstorm type noise and when we looked up we witnessed our first avalanche experience. A river of snow aggressively running down from the top of the Colchuck peak wiping away huge boulders and finally stopping before it reached the lake.
The easy part was over and the toughest part of our journey was just beginning. Hiking up Aasgard peak is a steep lung busting scramble with loose rocks. This short ascent is less than a mile but you gain over 2,200 feet topping at the summit at 7,800 feet. We ended up stopping so many times for photo ops that we ended up coming down in the dark, it was 9:30 p.m. by the time we got back to our car.