The Enchantments: Round II

 Trail: Snow Lakes trail to McClellan Peak

Total Miles: 24

Level of soreness? Surprisingly less than last year, and with the gorgeous weather again today I was dreaming of going back.

Upper Snow Lake, May 2016
Upper Snow Lake, 2017

The differences between this year and last year’s hike into the Enchantments with a subsequent scramble of McClellan Peak were pretty apparent.

One: more snowfall and ice in general. All of the lakes were frozen over except for the edges, which meant significantly less sand (basically just warm snow anyway) and a harder time collecting water. At times, this ended up being extremely helpful when crossing gulleys within the first 5 miles and plunge-stepping our way down the mountain.


Two: there was pretty significant rock fall along the trail past Nada Lake, making efficient route-finding a pain. Having done the trail before and being able to see the saddle we were aiming for made it significantly easier than it would have been in low visibility conditions, but between loose rocks and post-holing it was not the greatest or easiest experience.

The weather was also much warmer this year, which meant a much more comfortable time at camp; I regret bringing a hammock to this occasion, although we managed to find a patch of dirt for the 8 of us to set up camp.

As everyone showed up, we made dinner, had some drinks, talked about life (what else?), and then crashed, ready to wake up early to bag McClellan Peak.

David, looking positively dapper in the afternoon sun 

Last year we didn’t leave camp until 7 o’clock, and didn’t hit the summit of McClellan until around 1 pm. This year, wanting to head out early and get back to the cars and the Snow Lakes Trailhead at a reasonable hour, we headed out (actually) bright and early at 5:30. McClellan Peak looked gorgeous in the morning light, bathed in a pink glow as we had our breakfasts.

Heading out for an incredibly long day

The entire way was to be made on snow, save for short distances of about 20 feet on solid rock outcroppings. Normally this is great when you want to follow a route to the top of a mountain; however, going through the dense forest with nothing to go off of but the footprints of past adventurers and the knowledge that you are supposed to stay to the right of the river, it is not as cut and dry as it should be.  As a result, and everyone else’s reliance on me, the fearless leader who is terrible at navigating, we got pretty off-track. Like half a mile in the totally wrong direction off-track.

No problemo, right? We added another few minutes and a lot of fatigue in order to get back on route, getting up to Lake Vivienne around 9 am. Our goal was a turn-around time of 10, which was later pushed to 11, and then 12. So much for a set turn-around time.


Scrambling up the summit block

Still, after making our way up through significantly softer snow than last year, allowing us to more efficiently kick steps and making the route much easier overall, we made it to the summit. After hanging out, enjoying the sun and taking some sweet summit photos (see below), we headed down, crossing out of the way of rocks and then glissading as far as we could to save time and energy. Ice fall could be heard in the distance, which is not surprising on such a hot day.

The trip back down was significantly easier than last year as well, thanks to my trusty Tevas. I may have wasted a few minutes switching halfway down the trail, but I managed to make it down in faster than 30 minute miles partially on snow with a fat pack on.


The friends. The slav squats. Bagging a peak and getting outside. I also learned a new term: booty insurance. When, no matter what, you know you’re putting miles toward a bigger and better booty (thanks for that one, Clare).


Pulling 3 ticks off of myself. Forgetting to take my food to the summit with me. Getting home at midnight. I’m thinking of moving closer to Leavenworth, just for sanity’s sake.

Overall, it was an incredible experience, and after doing the exact same trip two years in a row, I can see how much I’ve grown, both physically and mentally.  Despite the challenges and difficulties of this trip, fun was still had, adventures were made, and moments that will never be forgotten were stored away for rainy days.

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