August 19, 2012

Prusik Peak - West Ridge (P in a D)

Fed up with the prospects of trying to obtain a permit to camp in the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we decided to climb the West Ridge of Prusik Peak in a day (or P in a D).  In this instance, "we" refers to Kris, Evan, Ava, and me.  Prusik is typically climbed in two days as the approach is about 10 miles and gains close to 5,000 ft in elevation.

After spending Friday night at the Stuart Lake trailhead, we left at 4am.  We made it to Colchuck Lake in two hours.  Two hours after that, we arrived at the top of Aasgard Pass.  Aasgard gets a bad rap because the trail gains 2,200 feet of elevation in 0.8 miles, but it really didn't seem that bad.  The trail is easy to follow and in good condition considering the terrain it ascends.

Beautiful views in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Seems I've been seeing a lot of these guys lately
Once over Aasgard Pass, you enter the upper Enchantment Basin, which is much less steep than the other side of the pass.  We descended about 700 feet on the other side of the pass before climbing back up to Prusik Pass and the start of the technical climbing.

Evan, Kris, and Ava about 9.5 miles into the approach.  Prusik Peak in the distance.
Six hours after we started (10am), we were roped up and climbing.  Kris and Evan climbed as a team, and Ava and I climbed as a team.  Since the terrain was relatively easy as far as 5th class climbing goes, we "simul" climbed.  And by "simul", I mean that we pitched out the climbing but basically climbed side-by-side (Kris and I lead close together and Evan and Ava followed close together).

Starting out on the final pitch
After 5 pitches of climbing, we all arrived at the summit in fantastic spirits.  The weather was beautiful and not as overwhelmingly hot as we thought it was going to be.  I won't do a pitch-by-pitch, but suffice it to say that the climbing involved a bit of crack climbing, some face climbing, a little slab climbing, a chimney, and a super positive and fun lieback on a flake - all in only 5 pitches on fantastic rock in a picturesque, alpine setting.  We also didn't see anyone else on route, which we all found surprising given the popularity of the route.

High-spirited summit shot
After 4 single-rope rappels down the north side, we traversed back to where we started climbing on the west ridge and started retracing our steps.

Prusik Peak from the southwest (the West Ridge route follows the left skyline, often just off the crest on the opposite side)
We stopped for a short time at one of the many lakes in order to refill our water vessels and splash around.   Other than this, it was pretty much all business getting back to the car.  Fifteen hours and 20 miles after we started, we arrived back at the Stuart Lake Trailhead and the car.  We proceeded to drive into Leavenworth for a much-earned pizza feed before Mario Andretti . . . no, Bowser. . . wait, I mean Kris, drove us home to Seattle by 11:30 pm.

Although a long day, it was so enjoyable and beautiful it seemed to fly by.  There's really not much that can compare with an outing like this with great weather and even better company.

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