Enchantment Lakes

Prusik Peak - West Ridge

August 13 - 15, 2003

Dave Svilar, Erik Larson

 

Back in May I scratched a few days off my daily planner for mid-August in order to join Erik who had a permit for the Enchantments.  As the time approached and details were being discussed, Erik disclosed the fact that he really didn't have a permit for the Enchantments.  According to Erik I wasn't to worry about it.  After all, he was 'Lucky Larson' and he'd just go and win a permit in the Leavenworth permit lottery.  Erik set off on Monday morning to win the lottery and score us a permit while I stayed home and doubted.  Sure enough, 'Lucky Larson' was the only person who didn't win a permit.  With nothing better to do I made the trip back to Leavenworth with Erik on Tuesday, this time securing a permit.

With permit in hand Erik and I set off up the trail that now ascends through forest fire remnants, past the Snow Creek Wall, around the Snow Lakes, and over a saddle to the first of the Enchantment Lakes.  I had been to the Enchantments with my dad, but staring out at the emerald blue waters of Lake Vivian it was like seeing it again for the first time.  We continued to hike through the wonderland of granite, stopping every so often to marvel at the beauty that surrounded us.  I also took time to size up Prusik Peak, which would provide our entertainment for the following day. 

Erik hikes over clean granite slabs above crystal clear waters.

We chose Inspiration Lake as our base camp for the next two nights.  As I scoured the lakeshore for the perfect campsite it was obvious as to why permits are necessary for this area.  Nearly every campsite was already taken, so we settled on the same site my dad and I had occupied 10 years previously.  That evening I took a stroll to the upper Enchantment Lakes in search of good sunset photo opportunities.  The sunset was blocked by surrounding hills, however opportunities for great photos were in abundance.  It's hard to imagine a more serene place.  A stream slid down over smooth granite and meandered through boulders strewn about the meadow.  Light from the setting sun was cast in such a way that each boulder seemed whiter, and the water from the stream bluer providing a beautiful contrast.  The next day's objective, Prusik Peak blended in with the rest of Temple Ridge in the distance to reveal what it really was - just a spire on a rocky ridge.  Best of all, this particular spot didn't host any campsites, so I actually felt alone for the first time all day.

Self-portrait near sunset in the upper Enchantments.  Prusik Peak and Temple Ridge can be seen in the distance.

Wednesday was set aside so we could use the rope and rack I had carried 10 miles the previous day.  Erik and I were planning an excursion on the west ridge of Prusik Peak, one of Washington's classic alpine rock climbs.  Knowing the climb wouldn't take us all day we let the sun wake us.  We leisurely ate breakfast and watched a group of over 10 almost-tame mountain goats wander through camp to lick our piss off the rocks.

This goat wants to lick my pee.

Erik and I had taken the Mountaineer's Basic Climbing class in 1995, but since then school, marriage, mortgage bills, and other stresses of every day life had robbed him of time in the hills.  As we made the short approach down from Inspiration Lake, up and over Prusik Pass and across to the base of the west ridge I wondered how Erik would handle his first multi-pitch climb and exposure he hadn't seen in years.  Some of his comments made me doubt that he was up for the challenge: "We're climbing the east ridge?"  No, we're climbing the west ridge.  "So, this is the west ridge and the opposite side would be the east?"  Yes, that's correct.  "If that's east and this is west, which way is north?"  I was a little apprehensive.

However, my apprehension was for not.  Although this was his first multi-pitch climb it was obvious that Erik had read up on knots, belaying, etc.  Furthermore, he seemed to be one step ahead of me the entire climb doing things such as cleaning gear perfectly with little instruction.  The first two pitches were easy 4th/5th class to gain the ridge crest underneath the first horn (ridge has two rock horns).  From here the route just follows the tread over a short 5.7 unprotected slab.  Wanting to help Erik through any difficulties I belayed from the top of the horn where I could coach him along.  Erik handled the supposed crux with ease, joining me at the belay.  The next pitch makes an easy but wildly exposed move around the horn and then behind the second horn and onto sandy ledges.

 

Above: Climbing the slab while the west ridge falls away steeply above and to the right of Erik.
Below: Erik makes the exposed move around the first horn.

The next pitch climbed a short right facing corner that I was able to just reach over with my gangly arms.  The final pitch was a low 5th class beauty, up a flake, back onto the ridge crest and up a short chimney to the summit.  I peered over the south face trying to determine where the last pitch of that climb would go.  It looked hard, but with the high quality of climbing we had encountered on the west ridge I immediately added it to the tick list.  With no reason to hurry we ate lunch in the summit sunshine and looked down into the sparkling blue lakes, which from our vantage seemed to spill one into the other as the water made its way from the snowy mountain tops down to the Icicle Canyon and Leavenworth several miles away.

 

Above: Dave standing on the summit.  Inspiration Lake is to my left.
Below: Erik finishes the first rappel from the summit.

Two rappels using the 50 meter rope put us on the sandy ledges.  From here I wasn't sure if we should continue to drop straight down or traverse back to the west ridge.  We decided to traverse (un-roped) back to the second horn where we found a nest of slings that eventually led us to the base of the climb three rappels later.

My lovely and relaxing day soon ended upon reaching camp.  I had hung my food in a tree that morning thinking it was safe from the varmits.  Apparently I was mistaken as my food was strewn about the dirty ground.  Anger boiled into rage as I was yet again blatantly singled out by the varmits.  The devious little creatures had dug into all three of my trail mix bags, while Erik's food which he had casually just thrown on the ground remained where he left it - completely untouched.  It appears that I'm not the only one who enjoys my mom's food.

Our camp with the aqua blue waters of Inspiration Lake appearing through the trees.

I was finally able to supress my hatred towards the varmits long enough to enjoy a trip to an un-named pond for dinner and sunset.  This un-named pond is actually famous, as almost every published picture of Prusik Peak is taken from this spot, which provides a reflection of the peak that is symmetrically pleasing to the eye.  We carried our stove, food and camera gear and enjoyed watching the light slowly fade off the west ridge.  I managed to waste an entire roll of film.

Perfect symmetry.  Erik (yellow shirt) stares up at the west ridge of Prusik Peak which more or less follows the left-hand skyline.

The next morning found me in a familiar and not-unexpected situation.  For some reason Erik didn't think that toilet paper would be necessary for a three day outing.  When pressed for an explanation, he admitted to thinking he would be able to use leaves.  Unfortunately, there are only pine needles in the Enchantments, so he was forced to borrow my toilet paper.  I told him, "No problem.  I'm fairly regular, just leave me enough for my Wednesday morning routine."  The fact that Erik was using my toilet paper that morning to blow his nose, suggested that there would be plenty of stores for my duty.  I was more than a little upset when I looked at what Erik assumed would be 'plenty' of toilet paper.  For those keeping track at home, that's 4 squares of 1-ply toilet paper.

The 10 mile hike out was uneventful, but I was glad it was finally over for obvious reasons.  Another memorable outing with my old buddy Erik who seems to have have rekindled his desire to climb.

More symmetry.  This time it's Inspiration Lake.

 

Water slides over one of the many granite slabs found in the Enchantment Lakes.

-written September 2003

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