For three years we failed to win a core enchantments lottery permit for Friday-Saturday summer dates, even with more than 10 applications. After the third time I lost any hope I had in the lottery and decided to go for a route in which I had more control and that does not involve applying for a walk-in permit. This is the not-so-secret secret: those lottery permits that are not confirmed on time by the fortunate winners are thrown back into the pool. They are then made available online at a certain time. You only need to wake up early on the given day, find the permit that you want and click the “reserve” button right on time.
Our permit was for Colchuck Lake, starting on the second Friday of September. The plan was to sleep as close to Aasgard Pass as possible to enjoy most of Saturday on the upper enchantments, and hike out on Sunday. Given that this area is full of high peaks, we were ready to scramble up Little Annapurna and Dragontail, which are very close to each other.
This is how it went:
The forecast for the weekend could not have been sunnier, but perhaps a little bit less cold. We started hiking from the Stuart Lake trailhead at 11am and traversed what seemed like a very long approach.
This was one of the first views we got of Colchuck Lake. The white beach at the other side is where we camped. The absolute best spot around the lake. The views are great and it is at the base of Aasgard Pass.
This is a closer view of the lake’s south side, where you can clearly see Aasgard Pass in all its grandeur. Aasgard Pass can be thought of as the faithful guardian of the beautiful upper enchantment basin. One has to climb this rocky and steep slope 2,000 feet up for 3/4 of a mile. It sounds short but is not easy.
Just before getting to base camp we passed through the most interesting part of the trail that surrounds Colchuck Lake. It is a large boulder field that awaits your hops and bounds.
Once settled in on the beach this is the view that we had, with our wine bottles chilling on the shore.
And this is the sunset view:
Just before darkness falls, the alpenglow makes its appearance:
A night sky moment:
We woke up at around 6am and started the scramble up Aasgard Pass at 8:20. At 10:30 we were about to get to the top when we were greeted by two amazing mountain goats, who are as cute as they are white. They seemed to be quite used to human company, but nevertheless we got out of their way.
Turquoise all around you. That’s what the upper enchantment is all about.
I had to take a picture of one of the unmistakable cairns. Cairns are a clever way to use nature’s resources to mark the trail without introducing landscape noise.
Looking northeast towards the lower enchantments:
After exploring the basin for an hour we walked towards the base of Little Annapurna and hiked up to its summit in another half hour. It is a very easy walk-up, with really nice views at the top. My fifth Washington Bulger peak. We enjoyed a well-earned lunch here. This picture shows the North view with Rainier in the distance.
We did not have time to take the Southeast Ridge route up to Dragontail’s summit, so we decided to explore a bit more before heading back down Aasgard Pass.
We got back to camp at 6:30, and thinking that we had enough time to make it back home that same day we packed everything and headed back to the car. We reached it at 11pm with terribly sore feet. I was not capable of driving, so very tired that I could not even fulfill proper co-pilot duties. But it was all worth it.