Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Enchantments and Prusik Peak

We snatched up a hard to get permit to backpack through The Enchantment Lakes area in the Cascades near Leavenworth, Wa. Only 60 people are allowed in the area per day, so usually people make reservations in February for summer trips. I don't think I can plan that far in advance for a camping trip! Fortunately, someone made a reservation back in February, but ended up not being able to go by the time September rolled around and they posted the permits online. Lucky us - with no kids and good jobs - we fit this opportunity into our schedules.

And let us just say...the Enchantment Lakes really are enchanting. I'm glad we could go and see what all the fuss is about!

So, the Enchantment Lakes area is a high elevation granite basin surrounded by awesome, jaggy, granite mountains with about 20 small, glacier melt lakes - some just a few feet away from each other! The two trails up to the area are steep and long (about 10 miles of constant upward switchbacks and 4,000 ft elevation gain/loss). It is also a Larch (Laryx sp.) forest area which means cute trees and cool fungi :)

With one day's notice, we planned to hike in with our gear and climb Prusik Peak (above photo).
When it came down to it, though, we decided not to climb because we are not ready. It is a simple trad route (you place all your own protection using cams, tricams, hexes, nuts, etc.) but it is exposed, with an "airy traverse." I was syched to climb, I was really determined to not freak out and to make it to the top. But Adam pointed out that we shouldn't "try" to climb Prusik, we should be confident, well practiced, and well prepared to make it to the top.
I agreed, so we didn't climb :(
I really wish we would have, but only if we would have made it to the top! We need to be a faster climbing team so I'm glad we didn't do something out of our skill level.

Here is how the trip went:
We started at the Stuart Trailhead off Icicle Road
and hiked up to Colchuck Lake
where we camped and prepared to hike up the steep, rocky Asaagard Pass the next day
On our way up Asaagard Pass,
there was a beautiful rainbow over Lake Colchuck
and several incredibly dangerous rockfalls coming off Dragon Tail Peaks
We made it to the top of the pass and saw our destination (Prusik Peak) shrouded in mist...
We hiked through the Upper Enchantments area
meandering around many beautiful lakes.
This was our neighborhood for two days
We set up camp under a giant boulder for our second and third night. It was just off the trail to Prusik Pass, where another trail breaks to the right for Gnome Tarn. It was the closest place to camp for climbing Prusik.
Here we are at Gnome Tarn with our mountain in the background
Climbing day dawned sunny and beautiful, but we were starting to accept that we shouldn't climb. Adam woke me up in the night to say he felt like we shouldn't, but I really wanted to so I thought we could walk up and "see" one more time.
We walked up to the balancing rock where the 5 pitches start.
Here is the basic route:
And took reconnaissance photos of the route (you can see the white areas along the cracks where people have accidentally scraped off the black lichens as they climb). We climbed this first pitch un-roped and it was s i m p l e.
The white horn (far right), and two blocks to traverse before the chimney to the peak (far left)
detail of white horn.
detail of blocky traverses.
It is a very simple climb, I really wanted to do it - but I know I can get uncontrollably frightened when climbing, so it was a wise idea to prove ourselves in some practice routes before we meet Prusik again.
Then we practiced building anchors, explored around in the valley, and Adam decided to aid climb a sapling.
A great opportunity to teach me to Prusik (a type of aid climbing where you ascend a rope by using loops of cord attached to your rope in a Prusik knot). Prusik Peak got it's name from the prusik knot. Fred Becky (the Cascade climbing legend) made the first asscent by lasso-ing the summit and ascending the rope (aid climbing) using prussik knots. Legendary.
The next day we packed up and left our neighborhood. I loved that place!
Then we walked 10 straight miles down steep switchbacks to Gutav's
for dinner!!!!!


Ani said...

What a gorgeous place! Thanks for sharing!

(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures said...

Wow Tess good job! I love the pics of the upper lakes, all the jagged rocks, it really does look like an enchanted place!