Distance: 20.0 mi.
Elevation Gain: 6500 ft.
Day 1: Snow Lakes Trailhead to Snow Lakes
Laura was lucky enough to get an overnight permit in the Snow Zone of the Enchantments! Day 1 was warm and we all had excessively heavy packs, so it was a slow slog with a few little creekside rests. Luckily the bugs weren’t bad on the climb. It was mostly dry trail with a little bit of boulder hopping toward the top.
After 4,000 feet of switchbacks we reached Snow Lakes. There was a nice campsite right on the south side but we wanted to camp closer to the core zone. We all took off shoes to cross the outlet of the lake, which had about an inch of water flowing over a man-made dam. (BTW don’t step on a log midway across because your feet are cold or you’ll start sinking into the lake… Not that I would have done something that stupid.)
We found a decent campsite about halfway around the lake with four flat-ish spots, so we threw down our packs. The mosquitos were irritating but not too vicious.
Day 2: Snow Lakes to Prusik Peak
Although I had done the Enchantments Thru-Hike the year before (in the opposite direction), I didn’t quite remember how much scrambling and elevation there was between Snow Lakes and the core zone.
We made it to Lake Viviane at 10:45 am and followed the trail over some flat snow fields and short creek crossings until we reached the sign marked Prusik Pass. This trail was pretty steep and we got off trail for a bit toward the top, but eventually found a flat area to have lunch just below the climb. We had seen that there was at least one group already climbing up the route.
For the climb, we left most of our belongings (including my GPS – oops) at the base of the climb. James led first and brought Virginia and I both up simultaneously on half ropes.
We started with a brief scramble, then were on a slab with a y-shaped finger-to-hand width crack. I did a successful hand jam (!) to get my feet up the slab, then did some more juggy moves to reach James at a ledge. James only placed three pieces of pro on the first pitch, three small cams.
The second (short) pitch started with a gentle slab with a good crack followed by a small roof, which was easy to protect. I got stuck there for a while with too much slack, trying to yell over the wind. James finally got the message by me yelling to Virginia and her yelling to him, so he took the slack and I got a high left foot on the blocky roof, doing a nice beach whale on top. From there I had to downclimb to a notch. It was a huge step down but Virginia had stayed there to talk me through it. She also had too little slack to get around a big boulder because the rope was on top of it, so I used my slack to bypass her and yell at James to give her some slack so I could flake the rope over the boulder. Fun shenanigans. Meanwhile James met two guys who were climbing up a harder route on the south face, so we now had two groups ahead of us. Luckily we didn’t end up waiting for them anywhere.
The third pitch was tricky because it started with a traverse on decent slab followed by a really delicate, unprotected slab with tiny holds (the 5.7 crux), then a little traverse to the opposite side of the ridge and a big swing if I were to fall but a nice ledge for the feet, so I moved along the traverse gently. It wasn’t difficult; just really sketchy. I got back on the other side of the ridge and did a brief downclimb to James’ belay. Then we did a short scramble to move the belay.
The final pitch started with a high foot rockover, then walking over to a left facing dihedral. It was a big step with a large rock to hold onto on top (but it wobbles!). Then had a fun flake traverse right onto a ledge, with another big step over the ledge but some nice chicken heads to grab onto. Next came a slot chimney that Virginia wriggled up but I went up along the outside edge and it wasn’t bad. Finally, the summit!!
We walked along the summit block to the midpoint which had the rappel station. We did three rappels on 60 m half ropes tied together (one long, one short, one long) reaching almost the end of the rope on the third rappel to reach the scramble back to our bags.
We got a little off route on the way down but just went down some rocks and snow in the correct general direction until we found some tents and were back at the main trail. The way back to camp was uneventful but pretty tiring and we didn’t reach camp til after 9 PM. The snow had firmed up a bit but the trail itself was soggier from melting snow.
Day 3: Zero day!
Day 4: Snow Lakes to Snow Lakes Trailhead
It was a straightforward hike out, but worth noting that the mosquitoes were much worse on Days 3 and 4 when the weather warmed up a bit. Consider spray and a headnet.
(Download the free Gaia GPS app on your phone to view tracks and then get a Gaia GPS membership if you want offline access. Discount below!)
Recommended brew: Miller High Life! (really!)
- ATC device
- Backpacking tent
- Climbing shoes
- Glacier glasses
- Locking carabiners
- 60 m Half Ropes x2
- Sleeping pad
- Summer sleeping bag + silk liner (still slept a little cold)
- Small trad rack
- Trail runners
- Trekking poles
- Water drops/filter
- Whippet (not necessary)