Sometimes small ideas take on a life of their own and suddenly be grand plans. That’s kind of the way this past weekend began. Since Damien ended up getting sick last weekend and only doing part of the Enchantment Traverse we planned another trip into the area for this weekend with a peak or two along the way. This simple planned morphed into the following: drive to the trailhead Friday night and begin hiking, climb Assguard Pass at night to avoid heat, summit Dragontail via the East Ridge followed by Witch’s Tower and Little Annapurna. Sleep for the rest of the day somewhere, approach Enchantment Peak and set up a tarp camp. Sunday climb Enchantment Peal and McCellen Peak. Then hike hike out.

Here’s what really happened;

Damien and I left cars at Snow Lakes Trailhead and Stuart Lake Trailhead and began walking at 11:00pm Friday night. So far so good and on schedule. We were full of energy and happy to be hiking in the coolness of the starry night unlike last weekend’s head extravaganza. The trouble began at Colchuck Lake when we found ourselves walking in circles and passing the same rock and bivy-camper 4 times. We seemed to be in a maze of campsite trails and couldn’t find the main track. at this point we decided to wait until we had a bit of light to go by and we cuddled up under a rock outcrop and went to sleep for and hour. We began moving again at 3:50am as the sun peaked over the mountains. We found the main trail again easily and began climbing up Assguard Pass as the sun kissed the summits of Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks. We climbed in the shade which was marvelous unlike last weekend! There are a few small snow patches high on the pass; a lot smaller than last weekend and I think they will be totally gone by the end of this week.

We reached the top of the pass and entered the wonderland of craggy peaks, blue lakes and mystical goats. There was still snow in the basin, but more rock was exposed for certain. The boot path leading to the East Ridge of Dragontail is very clear in the snow and easy to follow to the right of the top of the pass. We put on crampons since the snow was still hard from the night and followed the tread. There were few mixed moves over some exposed rocks on the way to the saddle, but mostly it was an easy climb up snow. From the saddle we can see a few different summits and tracks leading to several of the peaks just below the ridge. We ended up following tracks on the west ridge before realizing we were heading toward Pandora’s Box. The East Ridge is actually located directly left at the saddle and follows a faint trail over class 2 dirt and rock to the summit of Dragontail Peak. Here we were greeted by a marmot and spectacular views!

We descended back to the saddle and down the slope trying to gain the boot-track traverse of the south side of Witch’s Tower. However, the snow had softened considerably by then and we began to experience some issues. Our crampons kept balling up causing us to fall ever few feet on the steep terrain. I ended up somehow stabbing myself in the thigh with one of my points. I’m still now 100% certain how that happened. We took our crampons off, but then we had no purchase in the snow whatsoever and the route to the base was only going to get steeper. I had a bad feeling about the climb and the snow conditions didn’t looks safe we we abandoned the peak and glissaded down into the basin.

We decided to take a 2 hour nap on a flat rock above Isolation Lakes. When we woke up after two hours we found that the cloiuds had rolled in… some were kind of dark. Alpine weather strikes again! As we packed our our sleeping bag little balls of hail began to fall and a cool wind blew. This weather hadn’t been in the forecast and was another stark contract from last weekend’s cooker. We relished the surprise! We traversed the side of Isolation Lake and began climbing the exposed rock up the left ridge of Little Annapurna. No crampons, but we had our axes out. About halfway up we turned and found that Stephen from the mountaineers was climbing behind us. Damien was in a much friendlier mood than me at this point. I was drained and any energy I had was devoted to kicking steps and climbing. I didn’t have the extra energy stores for socialization. The plateau was a bit more melted out than it had been the week before and equally as beautiful. I took a quick nap in the rocks there before we descended.

From Little A we followed the boot track over snow and rock to the edge of Perfection Lake. We found a stand of trees in the perfect formation and hung our tarp from there in case the hail returned. Dinner and water filtration were quick affairs. Exhausted from only getting three hours of sleep since Friday morning we fell in and out of the sleep in our double sleeping bag. Once Damien woke up to see a hiker with a fishing pole starring at us. Damien greeted him and the man moved on. I slept through the night without waking once.

We were up at 3:30am and 7 hours of sleep. I felt good at camp, but by the time we had walked to the other side of the lake and began climbing Prusik Pass I felt crushed. Its a good thing Damien was chipper and ready for action. At the top of the pass we headed right over some snow following tracks to a rock ledge. From here we followed a combination of rocky terrain and snow slopes to the to the top of the ridge. There are several blocks on top of the ridge that looked like they could be summits. We followed the boot tracks in the snow to the Middle Summit (which we thought was the NE Summit). We quickly found out that we needed a rope to attain the top and headed back the way we had come to the NE Summit…who should we see standing on the top by Stephen of course! The scramble was easy with the exception of the final two moves that appeared to sketchy for our liking without a rope so we opted to stay 2 feet below and enjoy the sprawling views. I took a dose of caffeine pills here and Damien took a lb of my weight… I began to wake up finally as we descended.

McCellen was originally on the agenda, but we had decided the night before that snow conditions being what they were meant we could only climb one summit since after the snow softened the routes seemed to be troublesome.We instead enjoyed a glorious morning passing through the Middle and Lower Enchantment Lakes. A lot had melted over the week and it was amazing to see how much of the scenery had changed. We realized at the enchained rivers where were now totally melted out unlike last week and enjoyed the waterfalls cascading down the smooth slabs.Then we left the shores of Lake Vivane and the trudge began.

My caffeine was beginning the wear off and I felt destroyed as I crossed over the rocky slabs and uneven terrain on our way down to Snow Lakes. I twisted my ankle again (the recently sprained one) and had to sit down while the pain subsided. After that I moved even slower for fear that I would break it if I took another misstep. I wanted to make it to the dam of Snow Lake, but only made it halfway around before I could barely stand anymore. We stopped to nap on a rock, but the mosquitoes were bad even with deet so I took my caffeine pills again and we moved on.

The caffeine kicked in, and I walked as fast as I could down the mountain trying to take advantage of the energy while I had it. We made it to the camp at the base of Snow Creek Wall in record time. My caffeine had worn off about an hour prior and I only got down as fast as I did on shear willpower. We rested here before heading out to tackle the final 2.5 miles… and I took more caffeine. Lower down now it was hot and as rounded the switchbacks. I was terrified of heat exhaustion and the caffeine wasn’t working anymore. I was beyond exhausted and I’m not really sure how I made it down from the camp in exactly an hour.

When we got to 59er Diner it was 8;15pm. I was sleep deprived and on a massive calorie deficit. I drank a milkshake before my eggs got to be and barely felt like I had consumed more than a cup of water. The drive home was torment. Damien followed behind me to make sure I stayed awake (The caffeine I took at the 59er wasn’t working). We stopped together at Index for a 20 minute nap. By the time we crawled into bed it was 11:30pm. I was destroyed…

So destroyed that I had to go home from work today and spend the day sleeping. I felt like I had a hangover (or what I imagine a hangover to feel like) all day. I chalk it up to the grand total of ten caffeine pills that I took over the course of the weekend…8 of which I took yesterday. I don’t even drink coffee so my body didn’t know how to handle that kind of load. Having 17 hours of sleep since Friday morning didn’t help either nor did the lack of food and hiking 30 miles. All of these things contributed to one of the best sufferfest I’ve ever had… and would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat!

Oh and meanwhile Damien felt great all day!

 

 

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