Colchuck Lake Hike, Enchantments
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Thursday September 15, 2011 at 11:04 am)

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Bridge crossing soon after junction

I write earlier about our climb of Prusik Peak and about the logistics of getting to Prusik Peak.

Here I’ll describe the easiest part of out trip: the hike to Colchuck Lake.

We started up the well-maintained trail to Lake Stuart to the junction at 2.5 miles, then turned left at the marked junction to Colchuck Lake. Past the junction, we crossed the log bridge above and then navigated through the boulderfield beyond it.

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Logs for creek crossing

After the junction with the Stuart Lake trail, the going got rougher and steeper. Instead of on bridges, we crossed streams on logs.The trail became steeper, requiring occasional use of tree branches to pull myself up.

The ranger at the Leavenworth Ranger Station had told us how hot it had been, and how much hotter they expected it to be.  I foolishly believed them and hiked up in my running shorts.

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Near the first campsites at Colchuck Lake

As we neared the lake, and saw the snowfields beyond, I began to suspect that my clothing was not adequate for the trip.

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Colchuck Lake, Dragontail Peak, and Aasgard Pass to left
The hike to the lake tired me: not only were we carrying camping gear such as a tent, sleeping mats, and sleeping bag, but additionally we had our climbing gear - ropes, nuts, boots,  and harness. (Note the omission of cooking gear - we didn’t bring any.)

We dropped our packs at the first possible campsite and continued partly around the lake to see whether we’d find closer sites, or better ones. After walking for five more minutes, we decided that our little spot was just fine for one night, and put up our tent.

Once the sun set, I got  really cold, and quickly jumped into the sleeping bag while eating. Having very little food (four bagels, some left-over lemon cake for lunch, and four energy bars), our dinner of a bagel apiece was quickly done.

It was too cold to get out of my bag, there was nothing left to eat, so, about 8 p.m., we decided to call it a night and try to sleep. I wore everything I’d brought - my thin top under my light-weight fleece top, and my down vest; plus my fleece pants with long underwear over them!

I hoped that this would be enough clothes for climbing the next day, telling myself that, after all, we’d be in the sun.

Prusik Peak logistics
Posted by sibylle in Uncategorized, Canada and PNW (Wednesday September 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm)

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Hiking toward Prusik Pass; Prusik Peak in back

My last post describes our climb of Prusik Peak; here I will describe the logistics of getting in to (and back out from) Prusik Peak.

One can access Prusik Peak from either of two trails: the Snow Lake trail, which gains 4,100 feet in 6.5 miles;  or the Stuart Lake trail to Colchuck Lake, which gains 2,100 feet in 4.75 miles.

Realistically, we picked the  trail for which we got a permit - hike in to, and camp, at Colchuck Lake, often described as one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Washington.

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Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass

From our campsite at Colchuck Lake, we circled around the lake (1.75 miles) and proceeded up Aasgard Pass,  gaining 2,200 feet in about 8 tenths of a mile …  all before breakfast!

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West ridge and view toward Aasgard Pass

Atop Aasgard Pass we shared one of our two bagels, re-filled our water bottles, and headed to Prusik Pass. After 2.5 miles, we reached Perfection Lake and then headed up Prusik Pass.

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Snowfield on the way to Perfection Lake

I  fell when descending the  snowfield  to Perfection Lake in my lightweight running shoes, and right after that, Andy slipped and proceeded down the next section his derriere.

Any earlier in the day, when it’s still frozen, might require instep crampons to safely negotiate this slope.

Either approach, Colchuck Lake or Snow Lake requires about 10 miles of hiking before climbing Prusik Peak. Some parties prefer a 3-day trip, with one day for the climb, and the other two for the hike in and out. However, we had a permit to camp one night, and four bagels between the two of us, so a two-day trip it was!

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Perfection Lake
West Ridge - The Climb:

The route follows the ridge. See Mountain Project for a description with photos.

Trails:

Take trail 1599, Lake Stuart / Colchuck Lake trail, for 2.5 miles to a junction. Turn left toward Colchuck Lake up switchbacks for about 1.5 miles. Proceed around the west side of the lake toward Colchuck and Dragontail Peak. The trail then ascends to the left of Dragontail Peak to Aasgard Pass at 7800’ after 2 miles. Descend into the Enchantment Lakes for almost 3 miles to the base of Prusik Peak.

Permits:

Get permits for overnight use, June 15 - October 15, from the Wenatchee Ranger District.

A recreation pass for day use is available at the trailhead.

Dogs and campfires are prohibited.

Prusik Peak adventure (Enchantments, Cascades)
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Friday September 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm)

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Prusik Peak

The  dictionary defines adventure as:
That’s my definition of adventure: it involves risk and success is uncertain.  Most  of my adventures  included some discomfort or pain;  many were spontaneous.

Our Prusik Peak trip qualifies: it was unplanned, we weren’t sure we’d reach the summit, I was the coldest I’ve been years; it was my longest day in over 20 years, we ran out of food, and we hiked out at night.

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Iceberg on lake near Asgard Pass

I was  climbing at Squamish when my climbing partner, Andy, suggested we drive to Leavenworth to climb Outer Space on Snow Creek Wall.
The next morning we stopped at the Ranger Station to buy the required parking permit.
“Do you have any permits for Prusik Peak?” Andy asked.
“We have a Colchuck Lake permit for one night only - tonight.” the ranger replied.
“We’ll take it!”  Andy responded.
Apparently, people wait for years camp at Colchuck Lake, finding a permit was like winning the lottery.
We quickly re-packed, adding a tent and sleeping bags.
We did not a lightweight backpacking stove, so we brought four bagels with cheese (four bagels total, not each.)  Andy suggested we hike in that afternoon, camp at Colchuck Lake, and the next day hike up Asgard Pass, then down and over Prusik Pass, climb Prusik, and hike out.
Hiking in went well. The ranger had told us how hot it was, so I hiked in my shorts.

It gets cold at night.  After putting on  tights and  lightweight fleece, I crawled into my sleeping bag to eat my bagel for dinner.

In the morning, I shivered while eating cold cereal with powdered milk.

We hiked around the lake, got lost once, and  started up Aasgard Pass.  The mountain goats made up for the rubble on  Aasgard Pass. Two hours later, we headed down the other side of Aasgard, across the Enchantment Basin,  and over Prusik Pass.

“We should try to be back to the tent by 8 pm,”  Andy suggested.

This was the first I’d heard of the length of the climb.  I  estimated: 13 hours of daylight  leaves 6 hours up, 6 hours down, and one hour to pack. We’d started at 7:15 am, and would need to turn back by 1:30 p.m.

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Goat overlooking Asgard Pass

Near the icy lake, we stopped to eat one of our two remaining bagels, and then hurried  up Prusik Pass, jogging on the flatter sections.

We reached Prusik Pass to find two other climbers  about to start up the West Ridge.  We passed them on the approach, and they let us climb ahead. We arrived at the summit by 1:00 p.m., within our original parameters.

Rappelling took longer than expected, putting us a little behind schedule. We ate our second bagel near the pass. Our bridges burned (no food left) we were committed to making it out (as well as no permit to spend another night).

By 5 p.m., sliding and stumbling  down Aasgard Pass (even worse than scrambling up through the precipitous scree) I was hungry enough that when I saw an almond on the ground, I  picked it up, ate it, and looked for other nuts.

At Colchuck Lake,  at 6:30, I explained toother  campers  that we were hiking out that night since we had no food.

“No food!” they exclaimed. “You want some food?”

Yes, we  happily ate their leftovers.

About 8 p.m., we started our hike out. Luckily, we brought headlamps. Hiking down a steep trail, full of scree, tree roots, and  boulders is not easy, even by headlamp.

We reached the car at 11:20 p.m., tired, sore, but successful. We’d gotten a rare chance to climb a jewel of the Cascades.

And, experienced  classic adventure  hallmarks:
I was very cold
we ran out of food
hiked out  in the dark
got lost

I don’t think  “Adventure Companies” will  sell  many “real” adventures.

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