Visiting Colchuck Lake and Travelling Light

Visiting Colchuck Lake and Travelling Light

Facing a really busy July, it was time to get out a bit for a challenging overnight. My friend and I chose Colchuck for a nice outing. We had some new ultralight gear to try out. The trail is in great shape and snow free but not bug free. We found a great campsite near the boulder field and set up for the night. Encountered many other hikers and climbers. Impressed with the massive packs and loads others were carrying. A few borrowed our water filter system and others stopped to chat about conditions. Rained all night but sunny and 80s the next day. An amazing adventure. Sony a7r was a dream with the two lenses I brought: Zeiss 18mm and 50mm.  My tent was a Tarptents Contrail and my sleeping bag was a Mountain Hardwear Speed 32. The Contrail was especially impressive after a night of rain and winds.  It was still standing and dried quickly.  My Granite Gear Vapor Trail also did very well with its 25lb load and most of the time I was unaware of it on my back.

Shires Contrail

Mysterious Horseshoe Lake, or Beyond Lake Stuart

Mysterious Horseshoe Lake, or Beyond Lake Stuart

I hadn’t seen enough Northwest alpine larches changing color so a friend of mine and I headed up past Stuart Lake to Horseshoe Lake. We had heard it was much like the Enchantments Lakes Basin and it didn’t disappoint. The “trail” past Stuart is an unmaintained combination of more than 100 blowdowns and routefinding, then 1100 vert feet of scramble to the Lake. However its an amazing spot once you get there and we had it to ourselves. Canon 5D2 and Zeiss 21/50mm.

On a side note, climbing back down from the lake, my front teeth impacted my hiking pole with sufficient force to break one of the lower ones. So I am on the mend this week and contemplating implant dentistry 😦

Enchantments – Learning to Love the Snow Lakes Approach.

Enchantments - Learning to Love the Snow Lakes Approach.

Second time doing this in two weeks, I am learning to love the Snow Lakes approach. Its 6000 feet of elevation gain on what’s been called the 8th toughest hike in the country. The Aasgard approach is “easier” but totally snowed over at the moment. The first time we hit overcast snowy weather at Upper Snow Lake and decided to not push onward. No photos 😦

Since this place tends to haunt you until you get up there, I set off to solo hike it and overnight as far as I could get amongst the Lakes. I met a nice pair of guys heading up for the first time and spent much of the trail telling them how awesome it was going to be. It took me about 7 hours to reach Viviane and start to look for a spot to camp. The snow was minimal until you reached Viviane and then it became 3-4 feet of crusty topped powder. I didn’t have snowshoes so I went in deep every so often. I never used my microspikes, but poles were handy.

Got up early the next day for photos and then packed up to head down. You can get a nice Verizon signal near the edge of Viviane so I was able to send some texts telling people I wasn’t in trouble. I also had a new toy: Delorme’s InReach 2 way satellite device that sends your location to friends every ten minutes and allows you to send pre-determined messages via email as well. It worked great and gave my gf peace of mind.

Coming down I ran into Cory and his merry band of elevation seeking crazies. His report should be up here soon and I hope he mentions his recipe for Lake Viviane-caught fish with bourbon sauce. Definitely trumped my cold peanut butter and honey sandwiches. We hiked back to the parking lot together and I learned a lot from them including how to tell a good Salsa dj from bad. Thanks guys for having me along 🙂

Now to go get another handful of Aleve…

Hiking into the Enchantments

Hiking into the Enchantments

Decided to celebrate my gf’s 50th birthday by an overnight in the Enchantments. We left Seattle very early to get to the ranger station for the permit drawing by 745am. All was good until we hit a road construction roadblock in Tumwater Canyon. So we were late for the drawing. We still managed to score a Snow Lakes permit and decided to camp there and venture up to the Lakes from there. The hike was beautiful; Fall colors were just starting to come on. This is the 8th toughest day hike in the country according to Backpacking magazine. Even so, I always remember this as the “easier” route into the Enchantments. A mistake I wont be making again soon 🙂 Its basically a nonstop climb with a few level spots to tease you. My pack was about 35lbs and hers was about 20. Lots of pondering about how to drop even more weight in the gear.

We got to the dam between the Snow Lakes and saw a group of goats with babies wandering about. Closeby was a group of 20somethings making a lot of noise. I figure the goats were there hoping for salt. About an hour later we reached the last camp before the bridge at the west end of Upper Snow Lake and set up camp there. We were soon asleep after she unwrapped a small birthday gift in our tent.

I set the alarm for 5ish to get up and hike up to the Lakes. I peeked out and the weather looked ominous. Socked in and damp. A half hour later it was snowing. That was our clue to pack up and head back down. We talked with the kids and their plan was to head up to the Core area. Eyeing their gear, it seemed like a bad idea. We also ran into several cheery parties heading up the trail. Knowing the weather forecast and being where we had been, we hoped they had packed well. Back at the trailhead, it was time for Starbucks, Icicle Brewing and Alpen Hamburgers 🙂

Definitely going back up in a week or two for larches and hopefully better weather.