Enchantments Thru-hike 2017
This hike has been a family mainstay for a number of years now - and for good reason. The scenery is absolutely incredible and it offers high rewards for its equally high challenge. It covers 18 miles with nearly 5,000ft of elevation gain - all done in a span of about 12 hours. If that doesn't sound difficult enough, the weather in the upper Enchantments is terrible - you can count on it. That being said, we do this hike in the beginning of October, so bad weather is par for the course anyway. The reason we choose this time of year is for the fall colors, and (at least for me), the views up there are worth all the suffering.
We awoke to our 5am alarms, grabbed some breakfast and headed out. The road to the trailhead involves a several mile stretch of dirt road. With about a mile left to the trailhead we had to drive underneath fallen log, which was hanging maybe 6ft above the road. Fortunately, we have a small car and fit under just fine. There were a lot of other people, however, that could not fit, and were forced to walk the remaining mile before they even began their hike. We soon arrived at the trailhead and threw on an extra layer as it was quite chilly - more so than normal.
At about 7am we left the trailhead to begin our long journey. It was quite cold at the start, but soon got warmed up and after about 10 minutes, we stopped to shed that extra layer. We were fortunate so far with weather - no wind or rain yet. The views were gorgeous as usual and we were making good time. Before too long we had reached Colchuck lake. This would be the turning point for my wife and mom. Dad and I are the only ones who dare venture up the intimidating Aasgard Pass and beyond. But the girls are plenty content to turn here. They've gotten a nice hike in with some great scenery to enjoy.
My dad and I make our way around to the other side of Colchuck lake, crossing over a large boulder field on the far side before reaching the foot of Aasgard pass. We've seen quite a few people so far on our journey and Asgard Pass is no different. From the base we can see dozens of people all along the face of the slope. We begin making our way up and are soon forced to don our ice grippers, as the snow is no longer a light dusting and we encounter patches of ice. We cross paths with many people and one group even offers us some delicious banana bread.
The hike up Asgard Pass may seem intimidating when looked upon from afar, but it's fairly straightforward and not too difficult except for a couple of rock scrambles. Soon we've reached the top and begin looking for a sheltered spot to fire up the stove and get some hot drinks in us. Easier said than done.... It is very windy and cold. We find a big rock that seems sheltered at first and spend a couple of minutes eating some snacks and drinking water and then decide that we want to keep moving so we can stay warm. It is much colder and windier up here than either of us have experienced before. The wind seems to cut right through us, making it hard to stay warm, even with puffy jackets on. We keep moving and looking for a sheltered spot to heat some water, but the wind never seems to let up, so onward we go! The nice thing about this route is that once you reach the top of Asgard Pass, it's all downhill from there (albeit a very long downhill). It's hard to keep our hands warm with such unforgiving winds, and Dad has to stop once to warm his numb hand by sticking it in his armpit.
After a while, we finally reach a reasonably sheltered spot next to a lake and get some water heated. We both brought chairs, so we get to sip our hot drinks while sitting in comfy chairs and enjoying the views. We encounter a very persistent - and seemingly fearless - chipmunk who simply won't give up trying to get some of our food. It climbed all over Dad's backpack before being shooed away. "Go get a life" Dad tells it.
We continue past lakes, rivers, and mountains as we continue our journey downward. It's supposed to get warmer the further we go down, but it never really seems to get any warmer. We continue to see a lot of people and all of the tents sites we pass by are occupied, which is very unusual. Normally none are occupied. It hadn't rained on us so far, and it seemed like we might have a dry hike! But soon enough our luck ran out and it started snowing. First it was little flakes, we figured it may just pass, but then it turned into big, fat flakes. We decided it probably wasn't going to stop, so we put on our rain gear. Eventually the snow stopped, but the precip didn't - it just became regular old rain. After another half an hour it started to get dark, so we put on our headlamps and trekked onward, decked out in rain gear and anxiously awaiting the chili dinner that lay ahead. It was about 7:30pm before we finally reached the car, where my wife and mom were waiting for us. We had been hiking for 12 hours.
Even after such a long day, my feet felt pretty good. It was the very first time I had used my trail runners, and they turned out to be an outstanding addition to my Enchantments gear list. I also mysteriously had tons of energy afterward and just felt great! We got showered had and some delicious chili and apple pie. After that combo, the tiredness really hit me and we pretty much went to bed right after dinner.
Overall, it was an outstanding Enchantments adventure. We had fairly clear weather - which is unusual - resulting in some outstanding views. The weather was cold, but not unbearably so and we made pretty good time. I look forward to next year's hike!