THE ENCHANTMENTS is a chain of lakes in a protected zone of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. An area accessible to hikers only through a permit lottery, the chance to win one is rare.
In August 2014 our group of six acquired the appropriate permit, packed up, and headed to the tough-to-reach basin of Goats, Lakes and Tarns (special name for very cold lake). Our insider info told us it was grueling, which turned out to be right. They also told us it was "crazy beautiful", which was also correct.
Enter the Core Zone via Aasgard Pass
Soak in Isolation Lake
High dive off The Temple
Exit via Snow Lake
There are two ways to enter the Core Zone. The first is to enter from the Snow Lake trailhead, climbing 6000’ over 12 miles you’ll reach the bottom of the basin, as climbs go, this one is long and tough.
The second is to enter from Stuart Lake and climb 4400’ in six miles. Half of that elevation is Aasgard Pass, a 2300ft climb in less than a mile. While not as long, this route really pushes the boundaries between “hiking” and “crawling up shale while your lungs try to escape out your eyes.” Here a couple hours of tough climbing pay off with three days at a steady decline for max relax mountain time.
MEDIUM LIGHT, ULTRA FUN: THOUGHTS ON PACKING
Packing for a longer trip can be tough. We think that under 30lbs is pretty light and over 45lbs is pretty heavy. Its totally relative based on your body and what makes sense for you. You do you on this.
Some things we've learned: Buy clothes you only need one of, like a performance wool tee and quick dry shorts. A titanium Snow Peak stove is the real deal for being easy and light. A green titanium anodized spork is very much what’s up and you need those points on your REI card anyway, so it basically pays for itself dude. It’s okay to bring stuff that makes you smile. Why would we shave grams by cutting the handle off a tooth brush if we didn’t pack a Snow Cooled Rainier for the summit? It’s okay if you buy camp stuff so fresh it crosses over into your instagram shots, you’re living that #sporklife now. It’s okay if you bring a camp pillow, you’ve got nothing to prove up here.
THEY CRAVE THAT MINERAL
Mountain Goats are gonna drink your pee. You can't change that. Meditate on it like a samurai meditates on being torn apart by arrows or thrown off a cliff. Take the center urinal or bring a friend to prepare yourself if you feel shy. Salt is the rarest nutrient in their environment, and you are in their environment. Ranger advice: Go on the rocks so they can get that tasty treat without ripping up the delicate plants.
If you meet a goat on the trail, that’s the goat’s trail now. If a goat is in your area, it’s the goats area. If a goat wants your pee, it's the goat’s pee. It's the goat’s world.
TEVAS ARE DOPE
FRESH ON THE STREETS FRESH ON THE STEEPS. You gotta take care of yourself in outdoor situations. It’s easy to picture ourselves being all action all the time, but humans have a natural lean toward chillin’, playin' cards, and shootin' dice. There is still domesticity up here. Respect your body and cultivate respect for relaxation. Continue to ball at all elevations, in and out of the water.
CALORIES PER OUNCE. This is no Kinfolk kitchen, this is no game up here. Your body needs to take in at least 300 or 400 calories an hour while you’re hiking; if you don’t listen to that body you are in danger of Bonking. A single Sin-O-Dawg has 2000 calories in it. Try peanut butter that has chocolate swirled into it. Don't be afraid of preservatives that preserve food. Carry a little squeeze bottle of olive oil to add some power to your meals.
Tips: Peanut butter chocolate tortillas fortify the body and mind against bonking. Mary Jane's Kitchen backpacker meals are organic and delicious. Patagonia Provisions is real food. It’s 2015 and dehydrated food can be delicious. It's legal now. REI sells those little silicone squeeze bottles that you can fill with Tapatio or Cristal or whatever.
In his allegorical novel Mount Analogue (1952), Rene Dumal writes these cool words in French: “You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
Dumal’s mountains were symbolic (or literal but made of nitrous oxide), but there’s no lie here. It can be a bummer to drop down into the real world, even after just a few days. Resist real life bumming. Begin and end the last day with mountain yoga. Practice Aparigraha (that’s like, non-grasping). You cannot restrain these moments, man.
We had decided to maximize our chill time in the Core Zone, which left us with an 11 mile hike back to the cars at the Stuart Lake trailhead winding around all the lower lakes and camps. Tip for low energy last day motivation: Leave Doritos in the car.