22.5 miles, ~7,000 feet, 13 hours 43 minutes
What an adventure.
I took the train up to Seattle from Portland. I met up with my buddy Matt and we drove to Leavenworth—two hours east of Seattle. We arrived late and set up shop—tents, chairs, the works.
Many decades back, the town was renovated to look like some old Bavarian town with every building and facility looking as German as Germany. So naturally we got beer and brats. We had some wine then went to sleep.
Four and a half hours later we were putting our campsite away and preparing for the adventure that lay before us. At 6 am we got into the van that would take us to the trailhead and had a friendly chat with the driver who started this shuttle business for people like us. We got to the trailhead and set off.
The first four miles were quite difficult. Lots of steady uphill. There were sections that were steep. It opened up into pristine green lakes, something you’d see in paintings or films. Then we saw the mountain — Asgard — shooting straight up and staring us in the face. We were going to climb that? Yes.
It was full of boulders. We couldn’t quite get to the foot of it so we started climbing. In the distance we saw the ridge up and to left at a steep angle. We realized we were too far over and decided to cut against the massive boulders and shrubs. It was grueling and I was pouring with sweat. We finally got to a section directly under the ridge but it was the steepest. We climbed slowly taking breaks every minute and were drenched in sweat. I told myself to keep going and I did. Inch by inch we crawled toward the summit.
After what seemed like hours we made it to the top and were more than relieved. That had been one of the hardest ascents I had done. Looking back there was the beautiful lake, soft green hills, and dark mountainous scenes cascading into the distance. Up top were snowy peaks and the sun beamed against the snow.
We walked another mile and decided to eat lunch. Water and food never tasted to good. We rested for an hour, maybe more. After filling up our water bottles with a filter from the pond, we then set off to what was the most beautiful leg of the journey, walking through snowy terrain overlooking half-frozen lakes and stunning mountains that shot up into the heavens.
The terrain became even more bouldery and shrubs were drier. There were mountain goats that seemed oblivious to people. The silence calmed the mind. After walking against lush streams, the terrain opened up into a majestic valley that was softly lit by the sun. It was one of the most beautiful images I have burned in my mind. It felt like we had discovered the West for the first time. After viewing it with awe we walked downhill on massive boulders billowed up against a steady waterfall that fell more horizontally than vertical—like a river. This lasted for miles.
Sections were steep and dangerous and we made it to a more green, dusty forest. We continued walking. At this point we were ready to done and walked and walked and it was never-ending. We finally got to a section that we knew was near—switchbacks and and loose rock. A bear cub was climbing it’s way up as we were headed down. I was gripped by an unspoken feeling that nature can connect you to.
After watching the bear cub slowly climb up the hill we decided to continue. It would not end. We were now delirious and decided to skip and run and we came to a valley and realized that we were on the homestretch. At the end of the valley, it opened up and we saw the parking lot. Switchbacks, hundreds of them, left and right, left and right—we were running not speaking to each other, skipping down the hill. We finally saw the car. “Keep pushing, keep going” I told myself. We crossed the last switchback and made it to flat ground.
We had another half a mile and walked vigorously. We crossed the bridge, went up the hill. We arrived. After 13 hours and 43 minutes we made it. We trekked 22.5 miles and climbed nearly 7,000 vertical feet. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and an accomplishment of a lifetime.