Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Challenge, Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Top Trips

Enchantments in a day

You know that goal I set for myself this summer? I generally don’t set goals anymore because they tend to just stress me out and leech whatever joy I would normally get out of a project, but this one, this one I loved and looked forward to (if somewhat nervously) all summer.

Aasgard ahead

JK and I met up with three other friends and caravaned to Leavenworth (the sort-of-creepy but mostly festive faux-Bavarian village east of Stevens Pass), left one car at the Snow Creek trailhead, and hoped we were starting early enough to hit Aasgard Pass in the shade.

Certain members of the group set off at a grueling pace right from the trailhead, leaving certain other (more portly) members (ok, membeR) of the group wondering what the hell she had gotten herself into. Thankfully my thought process changed when we reached Colchuck Lake – I knew that the remaining miles (minus the last six down to the car) would be beautimous enough to encourage a more ambling pace.

“Ambling” is a much faster pace than what I hiked up Aasgard though – that pass you see in the photo above which gains 2200 feet in 0.8 miles. Ugh. I will say that it felt amazing to hike up it with a light running pack instead of a multi-day backpack. We hit sunlight in the last quarter of it, but I still felt energetic when I reached the top, which is something I would never have imagined.

Upskort photo

Huffing and puffing up Aasgard Pass

Cresting Aasgard and walking into the Enchantments gave me a huge rush of emotions. It was so beautiful. I felt so good. And it opened up a whole new world to me to realize that places like this are accessible to me in a day now instead of as a long backpacking trip (with an impossible permit system).

Also, goats! So many! So cute! So fluffy!

I don't have to pee right now, but thanks for your concern

Spot the goats in this one?

Welcome committee

We mostly saw mamas with their kids. All the menfolk must have been off somewhere watching football.

Kidding around

After a long lunch break in the Upper Enchantments, we made our way through this granite kingdom, which geologist Tom informed us is “not actually granite, but close enough”. He also taught us about inclusions, but I wasn’t really listening. Tom’s a gneiss guy and all, but I don’t give a schist about rocks.

Heaven is what it is is what it is

Ok, so I do care about rocks, because look how pretty they be. The Upper Enchantments are very stark, dramatic, and Sierra Nevada-like.

Witches Tower

Every time I come here, I can’t help but play the Lord of the Rings soundtrack in my head.

Through the upper basin

I didn’t think a side trip up Little Annapurna would be in the cards for me, but I really wanted JK to go – he hadn’t been there before, and it’s a really cool summit. As it turned out, my legs still had some elevation gain left in them, so I went up as well.

I made it!

We had another long break at the summit for second lunch, ’cause a hobbit’s gotta eat.


Unfortunately, we had brought our old, unreliable Rebel with us since the 60D won’t fit in the outside mesh thing of my pack, and now it informed me that it was almost out of juice. Nooo! I had to conserve the battery, so I don’t have many photos from the Lower Enchantments – you’ll just have to believe me (or look at Tom’s photos) when I say it’s a veritable wonderland of lakes, peaks, and goats.

Looking back up at Little Annapurna from Rune Lake:

Little Annapurna

“Draw me like one of your French chipmunks…”

Draw me like one of your French chipmunks

The goats bade us farewell as we dropped down towards the last lake of the Enchantments (there would be more lakes, but they’re just not as enchanting). Thank you for letting us visit your home, furry ones!

Thanks for letting us visit your home

Lake Viviane holds a special place in our hearts; it was our first campsite on our first trip to the Enchantments back in 2008. We spent a lovely afternoon there all alone, just reading and swimming. You obviously miss out on experiences like that when you’re only passing through in a day, but I think the dayhike experience is just as rewarding – in a different way.

Lake Viviane

The lower basin is more vegetated than the upper basin (less not-quite-granite-but-close-enough), but there are still some steep, rocky bits where you don’t want to slip. Egads!

Above Lake Viviane

This is the last photo we took, of the rebar steps leading down to Lake Viviane. From here on, we followed the steep route down to and interminable trail around Snow Lake, the rocky switchbacks down to Nada Lake, and the never-ending grind down to the Snow Creek trailhead, where our second car was waiting with a cooler full of delicious liquids.


My legs were starting to feel it on the way down, but, spurred on by dreams of Latin food (more importantly, non-“Bavarian” food) at South, I jogged the last miles – changing my gait really does make my legs feel fresher, even after a long day like this. I finally reached the trailhead, downed half a Vitamin Water in one gulp, and reveled in the fact that I actually felt pretty good. Sweaty and dirty, but good.

Two days later, my calves told a different story…but never mind that.

– Enchantments & Little Annapurna | 20 miles | 6000 feet gain (8000 feet loss) –

Big thanks to my Hike-a-Thon sponsors, Michelle…

Thanks, Michelle!


Thanks, Tom!

…and Jo!

Thanks, Jo!

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  • Reply mary September 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    A gneiss guy, good one!

    I plan to do this hike next year, can’t wait. I think we are going to backpack to below the permit area and basecamp. I can’t wait after seeing your pics.

  • Reply GeoTom September 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm


  • Reply cory September 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    whatever, you aren’t portly… that isn’t a very gneiss thing to say.

  • Reply Ingunn September 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Mary, you’ll love it! It’ll be like a mini JMT. :D You need permits to stay Colchuck and Snow/Nada Lakes too, but they’re much easier to get than the core permits.

  • Reply Allison September 4, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I have done this a couple of times the first week in October to see the tamarack in their orange-yellow glory. We always start out and end by headlamp. I think it’s time to do this in August! Great write up and photos!

  • Reply Ingunn September 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Allison, we were talking about maybe going back for larch season, but now that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks being lazy (and then sick) and growing portlier by the minute (sorry, Cory!), I’m having doubts…

  • Reply Mark Griffith September 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Awesome job! Well done! This is truly a great accomplishment. ;)

    PS. I have a location that is supposed to have an even better display of larch and color than the Enchantments, though I don’t think the setting of mountains and rocks are impressive.

  • Reply Jan September 7, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Wow! That’s quiet the day hike, sweet photos.

  • Reply Marissa September 9, 2013 at 8:58 am

    This looks amazing! I really need to make it happen next summer! Also, Leavenworth isn’t creepy (I’m from there so maybe I’m a bit biased).

  • Reply Ingunn September 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Heh, I actually did think Leavenworth was creepy the first time I visited; I was expecting beautiful, authentically Bavarian buildings and wasn’t prepared for the fake craftsmanship that was painted on the walls! I’ve grown to love it though, and it would be an amazing place to live – hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter. Aahh!

  • Reply jill i October 8, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Wow! Oh this is a hike I should have done in my motor mouse days, but now my tender tendons and knees wouldn’t allow. Been up to the lakes on either side (Snow Lake, Colchuck, etc.) but never actually in the Enchantments. Amazing. Was permitted to go once in 1995 but had to cancel and that was the weekend there was a huge forest fire that came up past Nada Lake/Snow Lake and forced all the hikers to the tippy top together. Scary! A friend was there and they had to be evacuated. I digress. Thanks for the lovely photos and sharing this amazing day.

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