Asgard: The home of the Norse gods.
In Norse mythology, the dwelling place of the gods. It consisted of 12 or more realms, including Valhalla, home of Odin; Thrudheim, home of Thor; and Breidablick, home of Balder. Each Norse god had his own palace in Asgard. This heavenly region could only be reached from earth via the rainbow bridge called Bifrost.
‘Asgard’ has transformed into ‘Aasgard’. Maybe because the god’s homes were not meant to be conquered. And more recently Aasgard Pass was renamed as Colchuck Pass by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). For us hikers, it is a boulder filled terrain designed to catapult you 2200 feet high above Colchuck Lake to the upper Enchantments basin in one tiny mile. And even with a prefixed ‘A’, I like to think maybe the rainbow bridge is somewhere there to be crossed in ‘Aasgard’.
Or so was my mode of being as I was waking up in our tent around 6 o’clock in the morning. We planned to start early to beat the summer sun. After a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast, we packed our tents and sacks, and we were ready to begin our day’s adventure. First up finding Bifrost, the rainbow bridge. Oddly enough, I felt a bit chilly and I had to put gloves on.
Last evening I was a bit surprised when I heard from my group that it usually takes about three hours to cross this one mile stretch. In hindsight, it was a nice reminder that when it comes to outdoors, it is more about the elevation than distance considering it actually took me three hours to get to the top of the Pass. We started around 8 AM. There was barely a visible trail as it’s very hard to etch a trail on granite. The route though was guided by cairns. Rennie and Andrey went ahead. Chuck and I hopped from cairn to cairn stopping for breaks, pictures and snacks. I didn’t see any rainbow or palaces on Aasgard, but I did run into a mountain goat as it stared right into my eyes a couple of feet away blocking my path. I paused for a moment to determine my next step after this startling discovery. I think something similar was going on in it’s head too as we gazed at each other for a few seconds. I made my move first taking a detour to avoid any potential blow from it’s pointy horns, and it carried on it’s path down on Aasgard. As day’s first sun light fell upon us, we reached the top of the Pass and we were welcomed by a few more mountain goats. If I was still waking up in our tent, I would have thought it had something to do with the Norse god.
I was hungry and I wasn’t sure how much further our camp site was going to be. So I took my stove out and had lunch as others took a welcome break soaking up the views of Colchuck Lake 2200 feet below and the bare, rocky panorama of upper Enchantments. Yes, we were there at the upper basin of the Enchantments, albeit at it’s edge and still in adolescence of our journey. After getting re-energized and refreshed, we would hike another couple of miles before deciding to pitch our tents at the other end of the basin. About 20 yards away from our camp site, there would be a cliff with 600 feet vertical drop to the stunningly blue Crystal Lake (this would be one of our destinations on day 4). But before that, we would hike past the Tranquil lake to our left, the Isolation lake to our right, few snow patches, numerous streams, tarns, falls and of course the omnipresent white granite. One thing strikingly missing from this wilderness would be the presence of greenery, maybe because the Norse gods didn’t like them around their dwelling palaces or maybe just because harsh climate conditions for most of the year in this 7800 feet elevation does not allow growth of vegetation except for the few larches. Beset among all these natural wonders, one man-made item established the Enchantments as more beautiful. Yes, Enchantments has man-made toilets. And I bet no hotel or real estate back in civilization can match the breathtaking views from these strategically located outhouses. Maybe somebody stole Norse god’s design of his throne or maybe hit by a brilliant satiric plan. But one thing is for sure that Enchantments’ toilets give two reasons to use them instead of one.
After setting up our tents we decided to relax a bit, chit chat and munch snacks before we went crazy with our cameras and rampaged the 360 degree panorama consisting of McCllelan Peak(8300 feet), Inspiration and Perfection Lakes down in lower Enchantments, Enchantment peaks, Crystal Lake (mentioned before) and the centerpiece of all, the Prusik peak(8000 feet). Oh, and the Little Annapurna.
As a cherry topping on a blissful pie we finished our day by climbing Little Annapurna. It was rather a 800 feet upward hike to 8400 feet elevation with another gorgeous 360 degree stitch-worthy panorama. Here is an impression of how it was – the whole upper Enchantments and beyond towards North, lower Enchantments and it’s lakes and even snow lakes towards the West, the Stuart range towards the East, and on a clear day the crown of the Cascades, Rainier towards the South. Unfortunately, smoke rising from a wild fire down South kept the Rainier view hidden from us. The hike seemed like a small scale Aasgard with similar features, like cairns guided navigation, steep rocky ascent and yes, mountain goats.
As we hiked down, my legs were rebelling not to move any further. We dined on a flat white granite top, a fitting dining table for the occasion. As the slave to my legs, I called it a day and evaporated into the comfort of my sleeping bag. But before that, we had to take more pictures of the goats as they obliged us by posing for their portraits (they seemed pretty accustomed to doing that) on their way home as daylight dimmed. A star studded sky engulfed our dreams so we could be ready for the lower basin of the Enchantments the next morning.