JULY 18, 2020
The first time I went into
the core of the Enchantments, I was doing it as a ski traverse with my husband Daniel and our friend Haylee. It took us hours and hours longer than we thought it would due to the lack of snow on the exit down snow lakes. By the time we got down to the parking lot to try to hitch a ride back to our car, which was parked at Bridge Creek campground, it was so late that there was literally no one on the road. We had to walk ALL the way back to our car on the road, and finally made it to the car at about 2am. After that, I swore I would never try to descend down the Snow Lakes trail again.
Yet I found myself at the Colchuck parking lot at 4:30 in the morning, getting ready to do the same thing all over again. It is funny how after time, our brain forgets some of the pain, and focuses on the good things. This time though, my friend Elle and I were going to go light and fast and try to run most of the trail.
Elle heading up to Colchuck lake.
Looking over at Aasgard Pass from Colchuck Lake.
I was excited to get back to this area. It is strikingly beautiful in the winter, but the summer holds a bounty of beauty here as well. Elle and I made our way in the dark up the trail, and just before we got to Colchuck lake, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise coming up the valley. We already knew it was going to be a fantastic day. Up at the lake we filled up our water and looked over at Aasgard pass looming in the distance. This pass is notorious for being steep and unrelenting, and for some, the scree and boulder conditions can feel like a lot. Luckily we had been doing a lot of alpine climbing this spring / early summer, so we were used to steep and unrelenting Washington gullies. We grabbed a quick bite, drank some water, and started making our way around the lake to the base of the pass.
When we got to the base of the pass, we stopped to fuel up again. We wanted to be well energized for the climb, as Aasgard pass gains a little over 2,000 ft. in a little under 1 mile, and I was curious how quickly we could make it up. We packed up our bags, checked the time, swatted an INSANE amount of mosquitoes away, and started on up. We found a pace that was tiring, but still sustainable and trekked on up.
We got to the top and looked down at my watch. "3:22" it read. "Woah!" we said as we looked at each other. Starting up the pass about 2 hours and 20 minutes into our day, we had made it up in an hour. I showed the time to Elle. "Woah, I didn't even know I could do 2,000ft an hour!" Realizations like this are what I love about the sport of trail running. So many things I do in this sport are things I had never done before, and it is so satisfying to accomplish hard things like this. We felt like kids in a candy store travelling through the core of the enchantments. So much beauty everywhere, with lots of pikas, marmots, goats and even a martin to say hi to! We rock hopped on thru the core and made our way down towards Lake Vivane and Prusik peak. We said hi to Prusik, staring up at it's striking form, and continued down to Snow Lakes. Now, if you've ever been up in the Enchantments before, you know the thought that everyone's had at some point while travelling down to these lakes, which is usually: "Sweet, it's all downhill from here!" But what that thought forgets to take into consideration is how FAR downhill you have to go! It never fails to catch me off guard somehow. We took a swig of water, took a deep breath, and started trotting down. Not too far down towards upper Snow Lake, I heard a *slip* and an "oof!" coming from behind me, and I turned to see Elle grabbing her ankle. Luckily, it wasn't too bad of a sprain, but bad enough so that we couldn't run the rocky sections that we had been running. We stopped, Elle took a look at her ankle, and we grabbed some water before starting to slowly descend down.
Both of us being climbers, and both of us having climbed at Snow Creek Wall a couple of times, we knew how long it would take to get to our car from the turnoff to get to Snow Creek Wall. Around every corner, we'd crane our necks looking for the wall. "Ugh" I'd think, "how far down can this thing be?!" Finally, and gloriously, the Snow Creek Wall came looming around the corner, and Elle and I looked at each-other in excitement. We were nearing the end! Elle's ankle was hurting, but not enough to keep us from going at a moderate hiking pace. We trudged along, now in the heat of the summer Eastern Washington sun, and made our way finally down to our car. We got to Elle's car, guzzled down the rest of our water, and drove back up to the Colchuck lake trailhead to get my car. We had done the run in 9 hours and 44 minutes. Not to shabby considering the guy who, at the parking lot the night before, told us it took him 18 hours! I am excited to go back and try to beat that time.
All in all a beautiful day in a beautiful area of the state. On a weekend where we thought we'd see a lot of people, we found very few. Likely because we just got up and out early. Going into this area always leaves me with a conflicted feeling, as it is strikingly beautiful, but oh so obviously overrun by people. What do we do if we're loving something to death? I am unsure. But for now I have committed myself to respect the rules put up by the people who manage that land, and do my best to take care of it well. (My trash pocket on my running vest came in handy for picking up trash on the ground!) Ultimately, I try to limit my time there, and if I do decide to go, which is maybe once a year, I make sure I treat the land and animals there well. Hopefully we find a solution to take care of this place better!