A Beautiful Hike
20 miles, 4400 feet vertical, 10 hours
So I left home at 2 AM the second to last Wednesday in August to pick up friends and headed to the Colchuck TH. After a disappointing stop at the Leavenworth McDonalds (they were closed...so much for 24 hour service), we took the drive up the 4 miles of Washboard to the TH where many other cars were there with their Enchantments Backpacking permits. Not us...we had a 20 mile day at our hands, up AND down Aasgard. Got to the beautiful Colchuck Lake in an hour and half and found a great spot for a morning reflection photo. (See in pics at end of TR)
We all were feeling great and got up Aasgard in 1 hour (however we saw a man RUNNING up the pass from Leavenworth who passed us on his morning workout). It was a great time to climb the 2200 foot pass as the sun was still below the ridges. Upon cresting I was even more amazed at the beauty than I thought I could be, even after already seeing many other photos of the area. My finger couldn't leave the shutter button!! (I would like to send my apologies to Ira Spring as he always wrote that one should never eat the dessert before the entree. However I would also like to say that Aasgard pass was not bad at all. Spring did over-exaggerate about the ascent in attempt to urge hikers not to attempt that route.) I took it all in and was so awed by the beauty I left my trekking poles at the summit of the pass (picked them up on the return though).
We wandered through the upper basin generally following the Cairins and took in the beauty each individual lake or tarn had to offer. I didn't really care what they were named as different maps and guidebooks had different names. They are all so beautiful that they should be spared the hinderance of a name.
We took our sweet old time getting through the upper basin after a very fast pace getting to the top of Aasgard. After an hour (maybe more) we descended the small snowfield to the middle basin. We saw the first larch trees here surrounding the two large lakes (remember, they don't have names to me). The meadows, flowers, towering granite peaks and cool blue waters of the Enchantments explained to me why the permit system exists. I'm happy it's there but I will never bother with it. The area is very deserving of a permit system and also very worthy of a visit no matter how much of a peakbagger you are or how much you hate busy places in the wilderness (I consider myself both of the above but still really enjoyed it for the photogenic appeal and uniqueness).
Since we needed to turn around at 1 PM we decided to void the lower basin and headed up Prusik Pass and were glad we did. The trail only went up another few hundred feet and after taking in the initial views we scrambled up the ridge to get the climax views that included Prisik Peak, all the lakes in the middle and lower basin as well as Sheild Lake, Wenatchee and Yakima. Some haze obstructed views that far out though. I didn't care as I didn't come here to see cities.
I decided that I will come back to visit the lower basin in the fall sometime in the future as this is where most of the larch trees were and this basin would be better in the fall. I was sadened when 1 PM came around as we had to turn around but our day wasn't anywhere near half over. We saw just as we got back doun Prisik Pass what I initially thought was a cloud but we soon found out it was smoke from a brand new fire that was close by. We decided to head back quickly to Aasgard quickly to see where it was coming from. We headed faster than I wished but we didn't have much choice. I snapped the photos I could as we kept moving back up the basin and on to the crest of Aasgard.
We were thankful the fire wasn't coming from the Colchuck basin but were worried as it looked like it was coming from the next valley over; the Stuart Lake valley. To add more insult, the wind was blowing the smoke down the valley. We also appeared to be the only ones going back down that day as everyone else was backpacking. We were very concerned and thought maybe we would be burned alive as the fire ran down the valley passing the Colchuck/Stuart trail junction and burning the whole forest surrounding the TH and down to Leavenworth. I will admit though this was my first forest fire I saw up close. I didn't know whether to worry or not. Turns out after descending Aasgard very fast we found someone at Colchuck who knew the about the situation and we found out the fire was three, not one valley over and it was already in a burnout area so planes were able to easily put it out.
We spent our extra time swimming in Colchuck's very pleasant waters.
After getting back to the car it was streight to Olive Garden. Now I will post the photos. Although I strive to make these as high quality as possible, they still don't do justice. Find a way to go here and enjoy every second of it, whether or not you are chased around by fires, storms etc.
Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks from the end of Colchuck Lake