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img_14721Photo: Freeman Keller nearing Aasgard Pass.

Words and pictures by Tom Janisch

Perhaps this should be dubbed the special-place-special-people ski tour. Little Annapurna graces the cover of Chester Marler’s book, East of the Divide.  In the Cascade Alpine Guide Fred Becky states this 8,440-foot, pyramid-shaped peak is so named because of its fancied resemblance to Annapurna in the Himalayas. It is described as a most prominent feature on the south rim of the Upper Enchantments and one with a panoramic view spanning from Mount Baker near the British Columbian border to Mount Adams near Oregon. The southern slope drops precipitously–there are airy views of the Nightmare and Knitting needles; accessible only to real climbers and birds. By contrast, the northern slopes are a nice hike or ski tour from the Upper Enchantment Lakes.

In about 1970, Wenatchee Valley’s Jack Owen introduced Freeman Keller to this special spot in the Enchantments. Over the years, Freeman has returned for inspiration or to share this unique place.

So it was on June 18, 2010 that my wife Patti, daughter Juli, and I accompanied Freeman on a ski tour of Little Annapurna. During the preceding weeks we had contemplated a volcano ski tour. But the weather had not cooperated. There looked to be a good window between when the freezing level had lowered and when the next systems would arrive.

On a sunny, Friday morning, we shouldered skis at the Stuart Lake Trailhead. On this day we enjoyed beautiful trilliums and lady slippers alongside the nearly snow-free trail to Lake Colchuck. Patches of snow started at Lake Colchuck. It was far too melted to ski across the lake, but shortly after walking around its perimeter we entered boulder fields covered with snow and started skinning.

The granite walls and ridges of Colchuck and Dragontail are impressive. We were able to skin a while before the Aasgard slopes steepened and it was just as easy to carry skis. We stopped for a rest just below Aasgard Pass and savored the views. In the high country there is still plenty of snow, so skied on from the pass. Across Isolation Lake and the remnants of the Snow Creek Glacier we went. It was an easy ski to the plateau  capping Little Annapurna.

Here, we savored the views as Freeman shared stories and memories of past trips. And then it was time to ski. Freeman schucked the first cob then, one by one,  we each enjoyed the excellent corn leading to the Upper Enchantment Lakes.


Photos: Tom and Juli Janisch eating up the good corn snow.

Photo: Patti Janisch touring across the Upper Enchantments enroute to Aasgard Pass. 

The snow conditions from Aasgard Pass to Lake Colchuck provided good spring skiing conditions as well. The tangerine afternoon light as we walked the trails from Lake Colchuck back to the trailhead was a fitting end to a day of skiing special places with special people.

img_15081Photo: Patti Janisch touring across the Upper Enchantments enroute to Aasgard Pass. 

Detail, Details : Skiing Little Annapurna 

Approach: Once the Eightmile Road opens (mid to late April), skiing from the Mountaineer Creek Trailhead, to Colchuck Lake and over Aasgard Pass is the quickest approach. In earlier season when the Eightmile Road is still closed, skiing 7 miles up Ingalls Creek and skinning up Crystal Creek into the Enchantments is a good alternate approach.

Access: If approaching the Enchantments from Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass, leave Icicle Junction at the west end of Leavenworth and drive the Icicle River Road for 8.5 miles; then turn left on the Eightmile Road and follow this 4 miles to the Mountaineer Creek Trailhead.  If approaching from Ingalls Creek and Crystal Creek, drive Highway 97 south from the Y-Junction about 7.5 miles and turn right onto Ingalls Creek Road. Cross the bridge, turn left, and drive about a mile to the trailhead.

Maps. See map below for more information.

Print our topographic map on 8.5” x 14” paper in landscape mode.

Permits and Passes. To ski in the Enchantments before June 15 does not require an Enchantment Area Wilderness Permit. The different trailheads to access the Enchantments, however, do require a Northwest Forest Pass.

Leave It Better Than You Found It: This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…

Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.

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