Climbing up Aasgard Pass was slow going, taking us about three hours to get up to the top. For the first third of the trail cairns marked the path somewhat clearly. I was leading, and somewhere near the middle of the climb I started having difficulties following the trail as the path became more scree-like instead of boulders. It didn’t help that there were smaller cairns that sometimes lead in different directions. A couple of times we slid a bit, causing us to halt in our steps and steady ourselves.
Around the two-thirds-of-the-way mark I heard sounds but couldn’t see anyone. I looked up and to the left and found rock climbers hoisting themselves up the side of the mountain. Rock climbing is something that I think sounds fun and adventurous but then I find my sanity and realize that I’m perfectly happy hiking. I’m sure they had some spectacular views though!
Multiple times we found ourselves eyeing false summits, becoming too hopeful that we were almost there. Our first first mountain goat sighting came at a small creek and waterfall where a group of male backpacker had stopped to take a break, a green area in the midst of the rocks. It was a sign of goats to come….
On the last leg of the climb up we came upon a mom and adult daughter moving slowly. The mom was having a difficult time and sometime shortly after our encounter I heard the daughter tell the mother that we had somewhere around 500′ to go. That’s not 500 linear feet, that’s 500 vertical feet. If it was 500 linear feet oh how fast that would have gone, but 500 vertical feet is more time consuming. It was here we had boulders to climb up and around, pulling ourselves up to get to the next part of the trail.
Finally, finally, we found the top. The air was crisp and the terrain was something I have definitely not hiked in before. The rocks and peaks were jagged, glaciers and snow were tucked in the shady crevices, and below the peaks were chilly lakes, some still half frozen or with miniature icebergs floating around.
Chris found himself with a headache and we were both running out of water so we made a beeline for the first lake we saw which was Tranquil Lake. Beyond it was Isolation Lake with the peak of Little Annapurna behind it. Likely the closest I will get to anything bearing the name Annapurna. I dug in my pack for the ibuprofen for his headache and got the Aquamira drops ready for the water. I ate a snack, took some photos and Chris snoozed for a few minutes. The day seemed late but we still had several hours of sunlight left. The casting of shadows by the mountain helped create the impression of early evening instead of late afternoon.
Chris’ headache eased, so we packed up to find one of the designated campsites. Supposedly there were privies at these campsites and since there wasn’t a lot of cover for ducking behind a tree the idea of a privy sounded nice. We weren’t far from the first campsite and while it was a decent spot, we couldn’t find the privy despite a sign pointing in the general direction we searched for. Later we realized they are almost hidden in plain sight, which I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use a privy in plain sight.
Deciding to pass on the campsite we opted to continue walking along the chain of lakes until we found something suitable for camping. Many times we found ourselves walking through well packed but slick snow, and eventually down an area that I only guess was really a glacier. Snow melt and water from the upper lakes made its way down through streams that flowed beneath the glaciers, snow and ice. We got a peek here and there of the water where it has eroded the snow and several places I envisioned great photo vignettes, however I didn’t stop to take any photos.
The walk along the lakes is gently downhill from the top of Aasgard Pass. The trail goes straight across what would be lakes or streams had they been completely melted. At times we precariously put one foot in front of the other on the packed snow trail ahead of us, poles testing out areas in front of us as we made our way down. A couple late dayhikers were still heading from the other entrance to the Enchantment Lakes, working their way towards going down Aasgard Pass. I spotted at least two people on the other side of the lakes camping but still we continued on until we reached an area we thought would be good for camping. Part of the reason we stopped was because we saw two mountain goats crossing the snow and ice covered lake, heading towards our side of the lake.
They trotted over like they owned the place and knew what we had—salt on our clothes, packs and bodies as well as food. Despite being cute in appearance, they were still wild animals so we kept our distance safe. We watched and talked to the goats for awhile before deciding to stake out our place for the evening. Our stomachs were grumbling and it was time for dinner.
Next we had to figure out how to hang our food because alpine trees are kind of stunted. We found a decent tree but it took two of us to get the food pulled up high enough after we considered that the goats would easily stand on their hind legs and reach the food.
This male joined us for a long time during our dinner and post-dinner bedtime readying. Chris stayed up for awhile attempting to get some sunset shots and thinking about setting up the camera for nighttime star shots while I read in the tent for awhile. Something I really enjoy while hiking is that the only thing I can do creatively is to read. I can whip through books easily during our breaks throughout the day or spending an hour at the end of the day. It was something I really enjoyed while on the Appalachian and Florida Trails because I often don’t take that time in my daily life just to sit and read.