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Prusik Peak - Enchantments, WA
June 20, 2009
I missed out on bagging Prusik Peak on the last weekend before permits were required due to impending bad weather - which wasn't that bad after all. On Saturday, Brian and I decided to take a chance on the forecasted slight chance of showers. We got to the trailhead late Friday night and threw the bivy bags down for a few hours of sleep.

The headlamp slog through roots up to Colchuck Lake went fairly quickly. A quick stop was required at the end of the trail for application of some benzoine tincture stuff and heel bandages. I'd think after three years, these Asolos would break in. We crossed the boulder field heading up towards Aasgard Pass shortly after the sun peeked out, stopping long enough to take the same picture of the lake with Cashmere in the background that we seem to take on every trip into the area. The hike up to the pass with slightly heavy packs wasn't as bad as feared and before long we were stomping through consolidated snow down through the upper Enchantments. The lakes were all frozen and defined by melted and bright blue edges. The cruise down was on easy snow with the trail popping out here and there. Clouds surrounded us but Dragontail Peak and Little Annapurna held them at bay - we kept our fingers crossed. The slope above Talisman hadn't softened up much so careful steps were taken on the descent.

At Prusik Pass we maintained the ridge towards the base of the west ridge climb. Dark puffy clouds and an ominous goat greeted us at the balanced rock. We knew our stashed gear would be in peril so we took pains to plant it under heavy rocks. I took the lead and followed the worn path up a nice crack then wandered left about halfway to the ridge. With the rope mostly gone, I set a belay at the crest and brought up Brian. As I was bringing him up, the goat appeared below and started rooting through my pack. I did some yelling and swearing then rained down some havoc towards him. He got the message and bolted. I figured he'd be back so I started to think of ways to replace/repair shoulder straps and hip belts.

I'm not sure if we were off route but gaining the beginning of the crux slab required crawling through a narrow tunnel. Brian crawled through while I laughed then he set a belay at the base of the crux then laughed as he tried to pull my fat ass through the tunnel.

The slab and the traverse beyond it were easier than expected. Other than the short slab, the pitch had plenty of pro so the exposure above the south face was enjoyable. Brian trailed the rope up through a series of benches on the north side, placing a few pieces here and there. He brought me up to a large bench where we tried to determine the next pitch. To the right was a left facing dihedral with a narrow finger crack. Brian thought he saw a larger crack to the east. I opted for the finger crack, which lacked feet but took a few pieces of solid pro. The crack led to another bench. Off to the left, I spotted a rightward rising flake with a stuck cam. I tried to free it but couldn't. Wanting to avoid rope drag, I didn't clip it either. The flake had bomber hands but no feet. I managed to keep my feet smeared long enough to place a one inch cam before topping out on a ledge just below the summit. Brian took the last pitch (a narrow chimney) then pulled up me and the pack.

If you can't see the Enchantments in October, go see them in the early summer when the lakes and summits are still decorated with layers of snow. We enjoyed the views for a half hour or so then rapped off the north side. The rope hung up on the last rap but some hard pulling managed to free it up.

From the end of the rap route, it's a short traverse back to the base of the climb. The traverse was clear of snow except for one easily negotiated patch.

We arrived at the balanced rock and our gear in time to see a totally oblivious marmot ravaging my pack. I hollered and yelled then had to rain down some more punishment before getting its attention. Thankfully, it only managed to tear up one small bag and the electrolyte wafers that were in it. Of the 4, he left me one that had a bite taken out of it. We gathered out gear then headed down the hill to Gnome Tarn for the classic shot of Prusik before slogging back up to Aasgard Pass.

The snow had softened by this point and good steps made the going very easy. Even after an already long day, gaining the pass was relatively easy. Descending back down Aasgard to Colchuck Lake was another story. With the sun setting and clouds swirling about, it seemed like we were in one of the stages of hell. We managed to get down and through the boulder field with falling.

Negotiating the trails around the lake by headlamp was challenging and we made a few course errors that were quickly caught and corrected. The rutted trail to Mountaineers Creek slowed us both down and time slipped by ever so slooooowly. Our pace quickened once we reached the creek though, and after a million hours we arrived at the trailhead. Brian managed to crawl into his bivy for a few hours sleep while I collapsed face down in the middle of the parking lot.

What a great trip and a fantastic climb.

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