We awoke to ice crystals that had formed on the ground, and hurry to break camp, knowing that the effort of climbing the next 1500 feet or so to the upper Enchantments, will provide the warmth we’re desperate seeking.
The sun is shining, and that is welcome news, as we watched clouds blow over the top of the pass all night that lead to the entrance to the Enchantments. The climbing began in earnest, as we basically are left to scrambling, as the trail all but disappears over the hulking slabs and blocks of tumbled granite, with only rock cairns to mark the way.
…Absolutely beautiful! It becomes a digital addiction, and I find it hard to quit snapping photos…
There are a few places that we are literally climbing on, finding hand holds to pull ourselves up, and they fill us with a sense of dread, knowing we will have to climb down this same route. Oh, if only the weather holds, as I have no desire to do this over slick rock! Finally, we crest the top of the pass, and our first spectacle is Lake Vivian! A wonder to behold, a clear, cobalt blue lake, sparkling like a gem in the sunlight, surrounded by great walls of white granite, all gleaming in the sun, decorated with a smattering of yellow from the fall foliage of the Larch population.
Absolutely beautiful! It becomes a digital addiction, and I find it hard to quit snapping photos, from every different direction, hoping that I will somehow be able to capture the beauty of the place, and not miss that one picture that could capture this fantastic essence.
Reluctantly, we pull ourselves away from the spectacle, and continue on, knowing that more is in store. We have to stop every couple of minutes, as I cannot pull myself away from the camera’s eyepiece, and I’m sure by now that I weary my companions…Camp for the night will be Leprechaun Lake, the next lake on the trail, and we find a spot that is on a small promontory poking into the heart of the lake, amidst tumbled boulders, and yellowed Larch.
We would make camp here, in what to us felt the heart of a truly magical land, fully expecting to see mythical creatures and legends roaming the landscape. A Disneyland for backpackers, soaring granite spires, with such names as “The Rat Creek group, Three Musketeers ridge, The Temple, Yellowjacket Tower, Monkeys Head, The Mole, Black Pyramid, The High Priest, The Chessmen, Merlin’s Tower, Dragon Tail, and Prusik Peak”
The lakes of course, were also named with fantastic and mythical names, such as the two aforementioned lakes, and such monikers as “Valkyrie, Lorelei, Pixie, Gnome, Brynhild, and Sprite” Words help convey the sense of the place, but it is best experienced, in person, as picture and film cannot impress the feeling of awe the way the area itself does.
After camp was secured, (and I do mean secured as the wind was becoming a steady complaint at the time), we decided to strike out for Little Annapurna, at 8400ft, a gradual in appearance mountain, that should afford us huge views of the surrounding area. Since there are no established trails to its peak, we would have to scramble again, seeking our own path.
Words help convey the sense of the place, but it is best experienced, in person, as picture and film cannot impress the feeling of awe the way the area itself does.
Along the way, we pass several small tarns, and larger lakes, with names like Perfection, and Inspiration. The place is full of water, but because of the abundance of ice polished granite, there are only a few places with enough soil to support plant growth, which only furthers the whimsy of the place…J.R.R. Tolkien would have been inspired by the place, as it looked as if it could have been a set for “Lord of the Rings”.
As night approached, we had to reluctantly give up our bid to see the top of Little Annapurna, and return to our camp at Leprechaun Lake. By the time of our return, the wind had increased its bluster, and as the sun began to hide behind the mountains, the cool returned, and the combination of the two made for another night of being bundled in all we owned.
Soon, the wind no longer just howled, it clutched and tore at us, trying desperately to hurl us out of it’s domain, as if we had somehow trespassed on it’s premises. We all decided that we needed to find some way to hide from the wind, and found a small rock outcropping, that if we sat on the ground, and leaned against it, we could avoid the pounding.
They were as clear as the frozen nose on my face…
So, there we sat, having abandoned the area around our tents, and watched the clouds race across the sky, all to the accompaniment of the wind, and starlight. It made for a surreal show, and at one point we all could see the block letters spelled out in the clouds above, “ O H I S”….No, I kid you not! They were as clear as the frozen nose on my face, we could all read it clearly!
Before long, though, the starlight pretty much disappeared, and the clouds really rolled in. By now, we are closely watching the gnarled trees around us, defiantly holding ground against the tenacious wind, but still being bent in the direction of its force, leaving no doubt as to reason for their twisted, and gnarled state.
The final straw came, though, when we started to see small snow flakes being blown around, so we all retreated to our tents. The wind has now blown relentlessly since early afternoon, and we judge some of the wind gusts to be around 60, at least! It’s enough to knock you off balance, as you walk. Hope we got those tents staked down properly!
“OK, this is the one! This is the one that’s going to flip us right into the lake!”
Several times throughout the night, laying awake with my heart pounding, listening to the wind howling like a banshee outside, I thought, “OK, this is the one! This is the one that’s going to flip us right into the lake!”
You could tell, as it built up steam, roaring across the bowl, sounding every bit like a freight train, that it was going to be a particularly nasty gust, almost causing the ground to tremble in front of it. When it hit the side of the tent, you could feel the pressure difference around you.
…Even after a howitzer like blast from the screaming wind, I could still hear the unfazed snarking coming from the other tent…
Twice, that I could remember, air actually got under the floor of the tent, and then lifted us off the ground!!! I don’t remember sleeping much, but I do know that some among us got some sleep, as, on the few moments when the wind died down, I could hear the faint refrain of log sawing coming from the other tent. Even after a howitzer like blast from the screaming wind, I could still hear the unfazed snarking coming from the other tent…