Trip Report: The Enchantments

Last year, one of our staff went on a climbing/backpacking trip to The Enchantments in Washington State. When he got back, we wanted to hear all about the gear he used and what worked the best (and also to see the sweet photos). Four days, 47.2 miles of trail, 15,600 feet of elevation gain/loss, and countless hours of swearing while post-holing in waist-deep snow.

Lake Vivian (Photo: I. Golden)

Why The Enchantments?

If you haven't been there, you should go. It is one of the most beautiful places in America. But, permits are hard to come by. I'd tried for years when I was stationed at Fort Lewis, but I never won that lottery. So, when my friend called me up to say her group had snagged a core zone permit that perfectly coincided with a business trip out west, I jumped at the opportunity.

What gear did you bring?

Throwing my gear together, last minute, for a four-day trip where I'd be backpacking, mountaineering (sort of), and climbing was a daunting task. I like to keep things simple, so I focused on fitting everything into a 45+10 L pack. I took a Battle Board Leaf in black, a new color for this year, because it's small and lightweight, and I could easily store it in my crampon pouch while on the move. Below is a layout shot before a long day adventuring and climbing in the core Enchantment area.

         Day Hike Gear Layout: Leaf, 2L Osprey Hydration Sleeve, OR Gloves & Beanie, Black Diamond Ice Axe, CAMP USA Crampons, Adventure Medical Kit, Petzl Bindi Headlamp, Baby Wipes, Sun Screen, and copious amount of cheese, salami, and other snacks. (Photo: I. Golden)

What did you forget?

Booze. Well, I didn't forget it, but I definitely didn't bring enough of it. 

What's your drink of choice? 

Good old fashioned bourbon. I brought a liter of Makers Mark. A litter was not enough. Not by a long shot. But it pairs nicely with hot spiced apple cider packets.

Why did you choose the Leaf?

It's lightweight, nearly indestructible, and I can plot routes on the polycarbonate for every day or side trip we were out there. We would plot out the next day's route while waiting for our food to heat up every night.

Did you do much land navigation?

Once or twice. It's one trail in, and it's hard to miss the signs and cairns. Once we were up in the snow, though, it was a different story - cairns and any trail markers were completely covered in snow. 

The Leaf saw the most use with folks who were day hiking up to Lake Vivian. It still shocks me that folks don't take a map with them when they are out in the wild. Taking the ten essentials with you is always important - especially when cell phone coverage is spotty or non-existent. 

What was the best part of your trip?

Hiking in on a Thursday - before the weekend rush. That first night, camped beside an alpine lake. There is nothing like being able to enjoy the outdoors with a little bit of solitude. 

View looking back at Nada Lake (Photo: I. Golden)

What's the permit system like?

You don't need a permit for day use - but to get to the core area and back in one day is a serious undertaking. Only fifteen groups can camp in the areas around the core enchantment zone - and only 24 people are allowed to camp in the core on any given day. 

There are three ways to get a camping permit for The Enchantments. 

  1. Advanced Lottery: You may apply during a two-week window that opens up, usually, on the 15th of February and ends on the 29th. Winners are announced by mid-March.
  2. Snag an unclaimed date after April 1st. These are generally mid-week or in the very early season like May or June when there is still A LOT of snow in the core area and the pass. (This is when I went). 
  3. Make friends with someone who still has room on their group camping permit and reward them with snacks and/or booze.

You can check out next year's lottery/important dates at recreation.gov.

What was the hardest part of the trip?

The first two miles were the hardest. You leave the trailhead and just go straight up on a ridgeline that is fully exposed to the sun. It's just a sweat fest. 

What was the weirdest part?

Supposedly there are a lot of mountain goats in that area. But, we didn't see a single one for three days. It wasn't until the afternoon before we hiked out that we ran into the first one. It was a baby mountain goat defiantly blocking the trail on a steep rock face you had to scramble up/down. That little guy forced everyone to take a wide, and slightly unstable, birth around him. 

Baby Mountain Goat (Photo: I. Golden)

But, this wasn't our last goat sighting. We woke up out of our tents the next morning to this guy:

Errant Old Mountain Goat (Photo: I. Golden)

So... goats like urine. Yep. Urine. This guy knew that when we woke up, one or more of us was going to have to make a call of nature, and he was ready and waiting to lap it up.

We shooed him off enough to have a little solitude while making our morning constitutionals, but he was back soon after. He kept charging back and forth, just outside our campsite. Over and over as we tore down our tents and packed up. Mind you, this was all happening at about 0530-0600.

How was the photography? 

Stellar. I don't bring a full-frame DSLR camera backpacking as they are too heavy and bulky. All photos were shot on an iPhone XR. 

Parting shot below. 

Dawn at Snow Lake (Photo: I. Golden)

About Ian: 

We don't do titles at Battle Board. Everyone has to chip in where they are needed. But, he tends to focus a lot on our digital presence, inventory management, and product development. 

Ian served as an Infantryman in OIF and was a paratrooper and sniper.

He's now an avid backpacker, climber, orienteer, and traveler. As well as a perpetual abuser/destroyer of gear. When a
sked what he misses most about the Army: "Free ammo and jumping out of planes."

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