Damien had family obligation this weekend so Melanie and I decided to do the Enchantments Traverse with a side trip up Little Annapurna.  Melanie had never done a backpack with this much elevation gain or a scramble before so I figured this would be a good intro for her, plus she always wanted to do the traverse. The weather seemed unstable all week fluctuating from sunny to rainy to snowy. In the end it seemed like Saturday would be partly sunny with bad weather pushing in Sunday night and a washout for Sunday. This the plan was to get as far as we could on Saturday and camp at Leprechaun or Vivian Lake. That way it would lower down and the descent would require less navigation in low visibility since its pretty straight forward. I knew I needed to treat any decisions I made on this trip as though I were going solo since I was the only experienced one. I didn’t want to be in anything sketchy so this seemed like the best plan.

We thought we would have to walk the road, but it turned out of be open allowing us to bypass walking the 4 miles up gravel. I was elated since I’ve walked up the road about 5 times already in the past 6 months. The skies were cloudy, but no precip. The trail was much drier than expected almost no snow until we reached the Junction of Stuart and Colchuck Lake Trails. From here and up to the Colchuck Lake we encounters a few larger patches of snow, but nothing to significant.

Once at Colchuck Lake the snow cover increased. It was mostly snow around the lake, but there were still dry patches. Some were even rather large. There is a good boot track with the only tricky navigate being on the peninsula before the smaller lake. Below the talus field of Colchuck Col the ground was blanketed in snow, but there is a good boot pack. Aasgard Pass is pretty much 98% still under a thick blanket of snow.

We took a break before heading up the pass. The weather was still cloudy, but seemed okay and no storms that I could see were heading our way. After reviewing ice axe arrest to Melanie and deciding that the snow was much to soft for crampons we headed up. The summer route had no tracks on it. Instead the staircase of kick steps left straight up the center of the Pass. They was excellent  secure steps and I so easy to ascend I got a bit bored. About halfway up near the narrow gully to the left several route up branches away from the main steps. I opted to stay out of the gully and go straight up ascending a few areas of talus/scree that were melted out. Around 7000ft a cold wind suddenly came down the pass and several minutes later snow poured out of the sky. Hail was soon added to the mixture. With a few more layers on we continued up the pass hoping that maybe this would pass quickly. We hadn’t seen the system coming since it up from the Enchantment Core area where i could not see the sky. The system passed over in about 15 minute and things seemed to ease briefly, but then another wave came followed by another. We could see the storm system passing over us and then onto Cashmere and they all looked menacing. Melanie was getting her first taste of how unpredictable alpine weather could be. The bad weather had basically come in early at 2:00pm.

We finally reached the top of the pass. I felt surprising good after ascending 2200ft in 3/4 miles. Melanie was pretty spent though, more from being unfamiliar with how to mentally manage alpine elements than the physical exertion. It was much colder than forecasted at the top. About 30 degrees and visibility was low in the snow.  The ground was fully snow covered and snowshoes would be a good idea (which we had). We layered up, ate and considered the options. We could press on with the plan skipping Little Annapurna to make sure we got to Vivian. But the unexpected cold made me wary with our ultra light three season tent, 30 degree bags and medium weight puffys. Route finding in low visibility and searching for tracks that were filling up with snow at that moment also raised a red flag. With an experienced person to assess decisions on direction with me I would have felt pretty confident about moving forward in the storm, but I had to treat this with I was solo. The right thing to do was to descend to the lake were it was warmer and I could easily find the way out back the way we had come in the morning.

This turned out to be great opportunity for Melanie to learn some alpine climbing techniques. We plunge stepped down the first 3rd of the pass and then glissaded the rest of the way down. Melanie did great and successfully self arrested to stop her glissade too! The glissade itself was pretty awesome. Prefect snow conditions and a fun ride down.

We camped at the edge of the lake below Colchuck Col in what remained of the severed trees from an avalanche last this winter. Luckily we were able to camp under three trees that remained standing to shield us from some of the rain. We stayed relatively dry that night, though the rain pounded pretty loudly on the tent. I was glad to not be on the high plateau.

We woke to a still rainy morning though it wasn’t a downpour anymore. We broke camp and headed back to the TH. The miles went by pretty quick once we got around the lake. We got  abut turned around on the tricky peninsula, but found our way back on track. And of course just as we reached the TH the sun started to come out just a little… but blue skies never revealed themselves. Not quiet our original plan for the weekend, but still a fun experience.

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