South Slopes Ascent
This climb was a real fun one loaded with beauty. It was the middle of October and the Larch foliage had just past peak but there was a dusting of snow in all of the Enchantments. Our group consisted of Rob, Fletcher and I and Rob drove us out to the Ingalls Creek trailhead just off Highway 97. We started up the trail which was very gentle and the maple trees lining Ingalls Creek were all in peak foliage with bright yellow and orange leaves all over. As we got higher, the Western Larch trees began to appear which were also bright yellow. After about 6 miles on the trail we left it and began straight up the south slopes of McClellan Peak towards Fantasia Pond. This was a long painful ascent up continuous steep slopes which started up through tall grasses and continued up grassy slopes until we reached a rib. Once we reached the crest of the rib we followed it up until we were above the waterfalls to our right and we met the creek draining Fantasia Pond just above the waterfalls. The next part of the climb followed moderate angled slabs along the side of the creek and since the slabs were wet and icy in places we had to be careful as there were large cliffs in places below us. Had we tried this ascent the day before we may not have made it due to how wet the rocks were. Beyond that area, we cut right and to the east of Fantasia Pond and found ourselves into a small flat basin just east of the pond. We never actually saw the pond though. We located a steep gully leading right towards the summit and ascended loose rock an additional 1000 feet to the summit ridge. From here we saw the final summit block and the scramble to the summit. Since it was getting windy I continued on to the summit making the scramble up the west side of the summit block. I stayed close to the steep cliffs going down the north face and made a couple class 3 moves up some slabs and made a steep move to gain the summit. There was an easier way up on the southeast side but I was too lazy to walk all the way around lol. Once on the summit I admired the views on the rest of the Enchantment Peaks and all the lakes were clearly visible. The air was crystal clear though and this was one of my favorite climbs of the year. After a few minutes with the summit to myself, Rob and Fletcher made it up and we took a nice group photo and since it was getting pretty lake we started heading down.
Crystal Creek Descent
We decided to descend the standard route though to avoid the wet and steep south slopes. We descended the summit block, and located the correct place to descend north down into the Enchantments. We passed by a small spire along the way called the Prong and saw a small path leading down just around its base. However, halfway down we ran into bullet ice which was remnants of the last seasons snowpack that hadn't melted yet. Some of it was covered in some fresh snow as well and it took me quite a while to negotiate a safe way down. Once I got across the really ice section I was able to plunge step fresh snow the rest of the way. We made a cut to the left and traversed talus and snow to Crystal Lake. We took a nice break at the lake as the late afternoon sun began hiding behind Little Annapurna. We were so close to it but were running out of time and wanted to get back to the trail before dark. The larches around Crystal Lake still had some color which was a pleasant surprise. We continued down Crystal Creek which was a massive talus field at first but we reached a nice flat area a short ways down where we noticed a great camping spot for people coming up Crystal Creek. We continued down as the terrain got steeper and simply picked the easiest way sown the steep slopes. I made sure we avoided the creek itself as much as possible so I went off to the left and made a slight descending traverse to try and cut some distance off the trail hike back. Eventually, just as it got dark after much knee-banging and some bushwhacking we hit the trail again. We had an 8 mile hike back out the trail which was longer than the hike in and this hike out took forever. Once back at the car I think I might have actually fell asleep on the drive home. Greg you should have come!