I have to admit that I have a slight obsession with the Enchantments, but it seems that is not uncommon for most of the PNW outdoor community. While the all the lower lakes are extremely beautiful, the Core is truly like something out of a fairy tale. Yet again another year passed without winning the annual permit lottery so I knew a thru hike was in my future. Last year I had done it in 2 days with a friend but by the time we got to the core it was sunset and we hiked into the night, missing parts of the scenery in the dark. But still that gave me my first taste of it and since then I have been dreaming of exploring the entire area and all it has to offer. Earlier this year when Michelle and I climbed Dragontail Peak I had a revelation: a thru trail run. This way I could cover more ground in less time and have plenty of time to roam around the core. My only problem was finding someone willing to do the 20 mile trek with me.
My prayers were answered when my workout buddy and co-worker Alaina said she would be up for the adventure. We left Seattle around 10pm, drove the two hours to the trailhead, slept for a couple hours in the car, then got up at 4 am to hit the trail.
The weather forecast wasn't ideal, it called for a few light showers until about 8 am then was supposed to clear up and be beautiful for the rest of the day. That didn't deter us, we figured we would get the less scenic part out of the way and get to the core by the time the sun came out. We made it to Colchuk Lake quickly, it was just becoming light out as we made our way around the lake and prepared for the most challenging section, the ascent of Aasgard Pass.
Just as we began climbing, the rain started to fall. The terrain up Aasgard is unforgiving. Climbing 2000 ft in less than a mile up a gulley with no tree coverage we were completely at the mercy of the elements. After putting on our rain jackets we decided to push on as the rain was supposed to stop in about an hour, we figured we could just suffer through.
As we climbed higher, the wind started and mixed with the rain the climb became increasingly miserable. We still pushed on as there were small glimpses of blue sky and rainbows indicating that sun was trying to push through.
We couldn't have been more wrong. As we reached the top of the pass at just under 8,000 ft the temperatures had dropped. We were freezing and the rain had started to soak through our gortex. And that's when the hail started.
Taking cover under a rock we quickly discussed our options. We could either turn around now and attempt to descend Aasgard Pass which due to its steepness is dangerous in good weather, so trying to keep our footing on wet rocks and mud would not be easy. Or we could keep going, which meant after this there was no turning around as we would be past the halfway point and just had to finish it. We were a few hundred feet from the core and I knew the remainder of the trail was all flat or downhill. We had come this far and neither of us were ready to give up. Emerging from our rock cover we took off running to get warm again.
Despite being pelted relentlessly with rain, wind, hail, and snow (yes, snow!) The magical landscape of the core did not disappoint. It was beyond breathtaking.
We had to continuously run to stay warm, stopping only for a few seconds to take pictures and taking in all our surroundings as we moved.
Nothing can take away from the sheer beauty of this place. Around every corner is something even more enchanting than the next. Nature has carved one of the magnificent places of this world--an alpine paradise of granite worn smooth by glaciers, larches manicured by wind and cold, and crystal blue lakes strung together by a creek that tumbles between them.
It felt like a dream that ended too soon because before we knew it were leaving the core and beginning our descent to Snow lake and Nada Lake. And then the sun came out.
We ran the remaining 9 miles, stripping our layers as the sun dried them and warmed us up. The day ended so warm and beautiful you would never be able to know that it was hailing and snowing just a few hours before.
It's amazing what a difference being in the presence of another strong and positive individual makes when you are faced with challenges. This adventure could have easily turned into a nightmare. We could have missed the entire experience and turned around when the rain started. But because of Alaina's strength willingness to keep going we accomplished what we set out to do, finishing the 20 miles in just under 11 hours. Most importantly we now have those memories forever. Not once did she complain, just stayed positive and took whatever was thrown at us with a smile.
Sharing these adventures, especially ones with challenges, bonds people together in a way that is hard to do under any other circumstances. We came out on the other side slightly delirious, covered in dirt, smiling ear to ear, and on a total high from all that the last 11 hours had given us. We both agreed that our only regret was that because we had to run through the core to keep our body temperatures up, we didn't have enough time to truly take it all in and be more in the moment. We are already planning our second time through for next summer, on a very sunny day, with no chance of rain.
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Before attempting the Enchatnments thru-hike, please visit WTA.com for hike difficulty, gear requirements, and recent trip reports.