For the past three years living in Washington, I'd heard stories about the Enchantment Lakes Basin hike in the Central Cascades, a difficult, permit-only traverse through some of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness' most spectacular scenery. The stories I'd heard tended to go along similar lines, it was brutal but beautiful, and due to the National Forest Service's restrictions on access, almost impossible to get a permit to backpack through. Typically, to backpack through the Enchantments, one must take part in a permit lottery in February, something I never trust and rarely take part in, not wanting random chance to dictate my ability to hike somewhere. Though I'd had success in other lottery-style permit situations, namely the Wave in Arizona and the Subway in Zion National Park, I didn't want to risk missing out on the Enchantments because I didn't score a permit.
Time was against me as soon as I reached the summit of Asgard Pass. Already six hours into my Enchantments Death March, I still had 13-14 miles to go and only seven hours of usable daylight remaining to me. Normally, I'd have no trouble making the mileage, but the amount of time it had taken me to get up to the pass was already telling me that this was no normal trail. I didn't know what was ahead of me, but I knew I had to move.