The Enchantments are a beautiful little corner of the Washington Cascades. For years, I’ve wanted to visit them on skis. A few weeks ago we finally made the effort.
We’ve had lots of snow and not much sun recently in Washington, so although we had a nice weather window, I knew “excellent” snow conditions were not likely. I still wanted a challenge, so a one-day ski through the Enchantments seemed like a fun outing. The “Enchantments Traverse”, from Snow Creek trailhead to the gate on 8 Mile Road, is a beautiful tour below high peaks, and across frozen alpine lakes. It’s also quite long; 17+ miles, 8,000+ vert, and book-ended by a few miles of dirt hiking on both sides.
Julia and I met up with Jeff at the trailhead in the early morning, after staying at our friend’s house down the road in Leavenworth. We began before sunrise, and reached snow sooner than I’d guessed — less dirt hiking, a good thing. Within a few hours we were skinning to Nada Lake, our first of the day. We kept moving, and stopped for lunch once we got into the alpine area of the upper Enchantments.
As I pulled out my sandwich, I noticed that a corner had tell-tale nibble marks from a small rodent. I tore off the contaminated bit of bread, and mentioned how I hadn’t noticed that when I packed up my pack last night, then forgot about it.
After skinning across Perfection Lake, and with our high-point of Asgard Pass in sight, we decided we had time for a little side-trip. The wind picked up as we skinned up towards the 8,500 foot summit of Little Annapurna. By the time we were on top, it was whipping, but the views of the Stuart Range and the rest of the Eastern Cascades were spectacular.
Hunkered down behind a rock, I reached deep into my pack and pulled out my puffy. A blur of brown and grey shot out of my pack and landed in the snow next to me. I yelped and jumped about 10 feet. It was a mouse! Evidently the little guy had made his way into my pack, feasted on my sandwich, then met an untimely death when I sat on my pack. I was relieved to see that I could blame my slow skinning on the extra weight of rodent carry.
Jeff captured the mouse on film:
We left the mouse to a sky burial, and made our way down the wind-hammered snow off the summit. The snow quality didn’t improve as we made our way down Asgard Pass to Colchuck Lake, where we found manky breakable crust. The ski out to the trailhead proved to be icy and very fast; we were walking down the dirt road to the car in no time.
The Enchantments are an incredible place. We truly enjoyed the challenge of skiing though them in one day; they are the perfect area for a long, beautiful day in the mountains.