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Ascent of Little Annapurna on 2019-02-02

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, February 2, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Little Annapurna
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8440 ft / 2572 m

Ascent Trip Report

Enchantment Peak (8,520ft) and Little Annapurna (8,440ft)

Eric Gilbertson and Jake Robinson

February 2, 2019
3:40am – 7:40pm
28 miles, 8,500ft gain

We waited until Friday night and made a last-minute plan to head into the enchantments after the latest avy forecast unexpectedly called for low danger at all elevations and sunny skies for Saturday. I was working on winter bulgers and still had a few left in the enchantments to bag. I’d made previous winter ascents of Colchuck, Cashmere, Dragontail, and Little Annapurna, so we decided to climb Enchantment.

We left town at 8:15pm and were sleeping at the end of the plowed section on Icicle Creek road by 11pm. It looked to be a big day the next day, so we set our alarms for early.

By 3:40am the next morning we set out skinning from the car up the icy 8-mile creek road. It was packed down with numerous snowmobile tracks and we made it to the Stuart Lake trailhead 5:15am. From there we followed a good skin track up the trail to Colchuck Lake at 8am.

The views were amazing of Dragontail and Colchuck peaks towering above. I was surprised there were no other parties in there with the stable snow conditions. After crossing the lake we zigzagged a few turns up Asgard Pass before it got too steep and icy to continue. We switched to crampons and kicked steps up from there with skis on our backs.

The top of the pass was wind swept and bare of snow in places, and we crested the edge around 10:15am. Amazingly
there was very little wind, but the views were amazing. It appeared we had the whole enchantments plateau to ourselves, which is pretty rare on a sunny Saturday any other time of year.

Our primary objective for the day was Enchantment Peak, so we switched to skis and skied left making a high traverse towards the summit. As we turned the corner around the south ridge of the peak the snow turned to bare ground and we were forced to carry our skis. We switched back to skiing, but then back to crampons for a steep icy section.

We traversed under the southwest summit and then encountered three gullies leading to the true northeast summit. They all looked similarly difficult and we chose the leftmost gully. It was steep enough that I took out my ice ax to plunge in one hand, with my whippet in the other.

We took turns kicking steps up the gully, which soon leveled out below the final summit block. There we ditched our packs and skis and quickly scrambled up the final 3rd class step to the small summit pedestal. It was just barely big enough for both of us to sit. This was my 13th winter bulger and Jake’s 3rd.

Jake somehow got phone service and updated his facebook page from the top as we rested and enjoyed the spectacular views. It looked like all the mountains to the west were socked in with clouds, though Rainer stuck out prominently to the south. It was 12:45pm and we debated what to do next.

I had originally hoped to loop over Cannon and ski directly down to the trailhead, but all the snow up to Colchuck Lake had been breakable crust or ice, and it seemed risky skiing down that terrain if we hadn’t climbed up it. If we were returning via Asgard Pass we wanted to be skiing it in the light before it turned icy, so needed to be back to the pass by 4pm. This left us enough time to tag Little Annapurna on the way out, which was only a short detour.

After carefully downclimbing back to our packs we put the skis on and had an amazing run down to Prussik Pass and Inspiration Lake. There we transitioned to skins and skinned up the northwest ridge of Annapurna, topping out around 2:45pm. There we melted snow and enjoyed the view a bit more, before skiing back down. The snow made for excellent skiing on the descent down to Isolation Lake.

We then skinned back up to Asgard Pass, and started cramponing down at 4pm. The top section was a mix of bare rock, thin snow, and firm icy snow, which would have been treacherous skiing. After downclimbing 400ft the snow turned soft enough we felt safe skiing.

Jake led the way down and we had an amazing ski down to Colchuck Lake, with mostly soft snow and just a bit of ice at the bottom. We skate skied across the lake, then plunged into the woods on the other side.

In the woods we noticed some poor soul had post holed the whole way up to the lake and appeared to be camping out. This was unfortunate for us because the person had obliterated our perfect skin track with deep postholes we had to avoid getting our skis stuck in.

The ski out from the lake was challenging survival skiing. The trail was narrow, full of post holes, and the sides were icy up high changing to breakable crust down low. Soon the sun set and we had darkness to compound the difficulties. Luckily we didn’t fall too often, and eventually reached the trailead around 7pm. From there it was snowplow skiing on icy snowmobile cars back to the car by 7:40pm for a 16 hr round trip day.

We filled up at the McDonalds in Leavenworth before getting back to Seattle late that night.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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