West Ridge of Prusik Peak
June 27, 2021
Daniel and I had...
always wanted to climb Prusik Peak. It is THE iconic peak in the Enchantments, how could a climber not want to experience that stark ridgeline?! However, Prusik Peak sits deep in the Enchantments, practically half way through, and is a really hard peak to access easily in a day. Ideally, we would then do it in two days, yeah? However, due to an incredible influx of people to this area of the state, a very-difficult-to-aquire permitting system is in place for most of the climbing season. This is all fine and dandy, in fact, I'd rather have the area to be permitted to help manage the damage done to the area. And it does make climbing Prusik peak a very enticing challenge of endurance!
Looking down Aasgard with a beautiful sunrise
Prusik Peak from the core
My spring this year had been completely eaten up by a series of life events (primarily a new job!) and I hadn't been in to the alpine for a while. The only day that lined up for Dan and I to adventure together in June happened to be one of the hottest days in the state, with temps of 100+ degrees in Seattle! To try to keep us heat-weenies from melting, we decided that we needed to do most of this climb in the dark. Since I worked the day before, that meant getting off work, driving to the trailhead, and without sleep leaving at 1:30am to get up in to the core of the Enchantments.
And so, with a 5 hour energy in hand, we took off from the Stuart Lake trailhead to make our way up to Colchuck lake. Now luckily, we had done our research and slimmed down our climbing gear a whole lot to keep the weight low. What we decided to carry was one 7.5mm half-rated 60m length rope which we climbed with doubled in half. We also had a small single rack of 6 cams between the sizes of .3-2, a set of 6 nuts, and a handfull of alpine draws. We each carried 1L of water and were able to filter at a ton of spots along the way.
We ascended Aasgard pass at about 5:00am as dawn was peeping out, and were treated to a beautiful sunrise in the core. After about 12 miles and 5k of gain, we got to the base of the climb when the sun was up, but luckily with this route being on the west side of the mountain, and the rappel being on the north, we were still in the shade all climb. The climb itself is about 400 feet, and we were able to simul all but two short pitches. The first one we pitched out was the slab pitch, which was very butt-puckering and elvis-leg-inducing for the leader. After backing up the piton with a .3 cam, we cruised on up and continued simuling up the mountain. The last pitch was the second one we pitched out, and while there are many options to top out, we decided to do the right side flakes. This had lots of placements for the leader and defineitely felt within the 5.7 rating of the climb. We wiggled up the chimney to the top and celebrated!
At the top - woot!
Looking up at our route
Descending Aasgard pass
Like any climb, however, the top is only halfway. So we didn't spend too much time in the sun up there, and rappeled the north face after a water break. The raps are not all that tricky as long as you take time to use your eyeballs and find the stations, and we got down in 5 raps, though we probably could have done 4 and scrambled the 5th. We had brought ice axes and crampons to do the snow traverse after, but we didn't end up pulling them out as there wasn't a whole ton of snow left, and what was there was soft and easy to traverse on.
We got to Prusik pass, applied more sunscreen and deet (the mosquitos were RELENTLESS the entire day), and took off to ascend roughly 1,000ft back to Aasgard pass. Coming down Aasgard at around noon, we found a couple dozen people ascending the pass in 100 degree heat. We thought they were either crazy or bold, but according to the helicopter rescue we saw once we were down at the lake, it may have been the former - ha! They were okay, just needed a lift out of the range.
Not too soon after, we found ourselves finally back at the car and on our way to cold beer and pizza with our friends - what a great way to end a long day! We ended up staying awake for about 40 hours to do this mostly in the dark, saw 1 helicopter rescue, changed 1 tire (on the way down the trailhead in 100 degree heat), drank about 3 litres of water each, and had about 2 hours (yes, that's not a typo) of a heart-to-heart conversation at the base of Prusik. Somehow those pop out right when it is least convienent, doesn't it?! Worth every minute.
Total mileage of the day - Around 24 miles
Total elevation gain - Somewhere between 6,500 and 7,000ft
Total time - About 15 hours
Type of climbing and time spent on wall - 5.7, 5 pitch climb. Aproximately 2hr 45mins spent on the climb and rappel.
Approach GPS via Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/5546096004
Descent GPS via Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/5546099327
Song that was stuck in my head all day - "Avant Gardener" by Gordi and "Here's to Now" by Ugly Casanova