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A spur-of-the-moment Enchantments loop trip, this hike was conceived only 3 days prior while at work. With the weather looking very promising, my friend Nate and I decided it was high time to get a lap in of this super-famous Washington hike. We opted for a bit of an unconventional route: exiting the Enchantments core via Prusik Pass instead of the much more common Snow Lakes route.

In the end, we traveled from the Stuart/Colchuck trailhead to Colchuck, up Aasgard Pass, through the Enchantments core, left to gain Prusik Pass, descending to Shield/Earle/Mesa Lakes, climbing up to Edward Mesa, and descending the Rat Creek drainage to Yellow Jacket Tower and then following a climber’s trail back down to the Icicle River and across to the truck. We were on the trail at 0430 and were back at the truck, quite ready to be done at 1628, just 2 minutes less than 12 hours.

The early-morning hike to Colchuck was excellent and due to the long summer days, we only hiked with headlamps for about 30 minutes before it was light enough to put them away. We reached the lake just as the sun was beginning to illuminate Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks. Another 30 minutes had us around the lake to the base of the trail to ascend Aasgard Pass. Nate set a perfect pace up and we achieved Aasgard at 0800, taking an hour-fifteen to gain the 1,300′ vertical feet over 0.9 miles. We made friends with a couple groups of mountain goats, along with some adorable little kids who were quite inquisitive.

The Enchantments basin was spectacular, as always. The clouds/fog burned off and lifted almost immediately after we crested the pass and bathed the whole basin in sunlight. I can never choose a favorite view — it’s all unbelievable.

Working our way east, we dropped into the lower basin area where the larch trees start coming back. There was still a fair amount of snow in the basin and in many of the smaller lakes and tarns. Surprisingly, even being a Saturday in July, we didn’t see a soul in the Enchantments basin, not a solitary tent or sign of a camp. Nothing. It was rad.

We dropped down to Perfection Lake and then headed up Prusik Pass. Shield Lake on the other side was to be our lunch spot. From the notch at Prusik Pass, we glissaded down most of the way to Shield. Glissading is about the best way to travel, and I highly recommend this method of travel. It’s essentially like jumping on the freeway of the backcountry. At Shield Lake, we enjoyed what can only be described as “the best-tasting sandwich ever constructed”. Nate re-created his sandwich the next day to verify if it was indeed a delicious sandwich or if we were simply extremely hungry. Verdict: delicious sandwich. You’ll have to email me for the full ingredients list, but I’ll give you a couple hints: fresh bagel + two meats + cheese + chipotle aioli, served at altitude. Perfection.

At Shield Lake, word got out in the local (and possibly neighboring) mosquito civilization(s) that lunch was served (us). We quickly made tracks down-trail to put some distance between us and a potential Zika infection. At this point, the trail became faint and then disappeared entirely as we began to ascend Edward Mesa. This exit from the Enchantments is true “dotted-line” hiking. I’d never done any of this type of hiking, so it was pretty cool stepping out of my comfort zone and doing some true way-finding.

This way-finding continued all the way across the mesa to the top of the Rat Creek Group and then down the drainage to Yellow Jacket Tower. We encountered soberingly steep snowfields (no glissading here — only very determined kick-steps), endless boulder-hopping, and scree-skiing. Finally descending to Yellow Jacket, it took about 30 minutes to locate the terminus of the climber’s trail that comes up the lower valley wall to the tower. Having seen it now, it would be easier to find it again, but there was about 4 or 5 ascents/descents up and down the canyon wall looking for that little trail.

The Rat Creek drainage exit definitely shaves some miles and avoids the “Snow Creek Slog”, but it is very steep and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a confident (and possibly slightly insane) hiker/climber. Needless to say, I had a blast!

 

ADDITIONAL:

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BONUS ADDITIONAL (unedited, from the eye of an iPhone):

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DOUBLE BONUS ADDITIONAL (video!):

Coming soon!