I have to reach into my memory banks here a bit to write this one. It has been a very full summer. This trip came at the end of a three weekend push before I was to take a rest week and then head off to Europe for a month. Fern and I had just tasted (brutal) success on Maude two weeks earlier. The following week I climbed and skied the SW chutes of Mt Adams and Mt Hood back to back. These were both completed by the standard southern routes. Tons of info is available for these so I’m not going to include that trip. However, Hood holds a special place as my first skimo trip so I will be sure to share stories to come of the more advanced routes to her summit.
Pete and Fern’s collective mission is to climb the Bulger List. An informally formalized list of the highest 100 peaks in Washington State. There are variations on the list based on prominence cut offs and such that change up a few of the selected summits but I won’t go into detail here. Summit Post, Peak Bagger and other sites have clear descriptions and complete lists if you are interested. The Bulger List is a mighty fine goal and one that takes most people years if not a lifetime to complete. They range from simple walk ups to long, technical climbs. Many are remote. If there are a couple in close proximity and you have the endurance, weather, motivation, etc. not a bad plan to link them up and bag a two-for.
The Enchantments area holds ten Bulgers. These peaks, part of the Stuart Range of the Wenatchee Mountains, include, Mount Stuart (9,420 ft), Dragontail Peak (8,842 ft), Colchuck Peak (8,705 ft), Cannon Mountain (8,638 ft), Sherpa Peak (8,605 ft), Enchantment Peak (8,520 ft), Cashmere Mountain (8,501 ft), Argonaut (8,453 ft), Little Annapurna (8,440 ft) and McClellan Peak (8,364 ft). Cannon and Enchantment hold positions 38 and 51, respectively on the list. Their relative close proximity to each other on the north side of the Core Zone made for an intriguing potential, “double Bulger day.” It sounded like fun and a good challenge. The objective was set.
There are a few different ways we could have approached the mountains. Ultimately, we decided to follow the standard Stuart Lake trailhead to Colchuck Lake. Alternatively, you could enter the core zone from the Snow Lake trailhead at the other end of the Enchantment Loop. But Aasgard Pass is far more interesting. The third option is more of a winter approach for the Cannon Mountain couloir. In this case you take a left from the road well before reaching the Stuart Lake Trailhead and cross Icicle Creek. The climb is a bushwhack up the Northwest slope of Cannon, gunning for the lookers right of the obvious couloir when filled with snow. It is a north-facing aspect so this landmark is visible most of the year. I have made a couple failed attempts with at this objective over the past few years with much less experience. It is on the list yet again for this year so look out for that story.
Fern, Pete and I slept at the trailhead and got started at first light. We had a big day planned. The trail to Colchuck Lake is engrained at this point. Our feet carried us through the well versed steps to the south end of the lake. Dragontail, Colchuck Peak and its glacier looming above us. Dragontail really is one of the most aesthetic mountains in the state. It’s Serpentine Arete and Triple Couloir routes are on my near term short list. We made the slog up Aasgard after a brief snack and gained the day’s first view of a still snow-covered core zone. Our path from here followed the standard through hike route to Perfection Lake. Prusik Peak to our northeast. Along the way to Prusik Pass we met a couple other climbers headed out to its west ridge.
The top of Prusik Pass is where the trails diverge. To your left, a distinct ridge line rises west and eventually drifting southwest to the two Enchantment Peaks. Straight ahead drops abruptly to the Shield Lake. We carried on with a northwest trajectory towards Cannon. A snowy side hill dropped down through a creek bed and then back up through a couple steps of wet scrambling. These could be avoided by following the snowy ramp to the right. One more scramble of a couple hundred feet gained Druid Flats. Those who have been here will appreciate its character. A perfectly flat plateau set into the mountain covered in medium to bus sized blocks of granite. It warranted a foray to its edge and speculative conversation about its origin that deteriorated into some impromptu science fiction. The summit of cannon is not far beyond.
Cannon’s summit block is a class 3 scramble. You could probably call it class 2 but to gain the true summit there are at least two to three fairly exposed moves up the final boulder. Make it here and you are rewarded with a truly epic view of the surrounding peaks. The guys had climbed many of these at this point, but for me this was a new and truly awe-inspiring moment. Words cannot aptly capture the grandeur of these peaks so I direct your attention to the included pictures. Hopefully this gives you a sense of my feelings towards this view of the Stuart Range but I highly recommend you experience it for yourself. It had already been a sizeable walk to get this this point so a brief summit nap predicted our move on to Enchantment.
We retraced our steps through Druid Flats and plunge stepped down a couple snow gullies to Prusik Pass. I will note that the first snow ramp off the ridge below Druid Flats was a bit steep. No problem if you are comfortable with this technique and the snow is soft but keep it in mind. Back at Prusik Pass our sights turned to the ridge up to our west. Cruiser granite scrambles most of the way up. A bit steeper towards the top with again, a few moves of class 3 to gain the northeast summit. As Summit Post describes, there are two summits of about equal height. The other, southwest peak is apparently not to be taken lightly. It didn’t look like it either. With no ropes, protection or really enough experience, we opted to tag the northeast high point and call it good. The question from here is which way back to Aasgard.
There is some limited beta available on a way back down to Aasgard following the ridge past the southwest peak. We thought we could sort it out and started to probe around for a way through. The imposing summit up to our right, we opted to descend a few feet to our left down around that jagged ridge line. It seemed to go through a gully back under the southwest side of the ridge. Fern dropped down into this feature and got a bit of a scare as a large rock moved out from under him. We were tired, it seemed sketchy and there wasn’t a clear direction to follow through the exposure after the gully so Fern backed out and we set off back north towards Prusik Pass, disheartened by the additional mileage this would tack on to our day. We trudged through the snow.
Back at Prusik Pass the weather turned. Temps dropped, wind picked up and it even started snowing. In hindsight it wasn’t too bad. We retraced our steps through the core zone and took a few years of life out of our knees down Aasgard. The wind at this point bordered on impressive. The slog from there back to the car was, as always when leaving the enchantments, a pain in the ass. Zombie mode engaged we eventually reached the parking lot. All told my gps read just under 22 miles, 8000 feet of gain and 18.5 hours. It was worth every step. It set a new bar for what I could cover in the mountains and was the first double Bulger day for Pete and Fern. On to Europe!