Gnar Face: A Slip on Aasgard Pass

In this installment of Gnar Face, we read about an ill-fated day hike up Aasgard Pass and a reminder about the importance of pre-trip planning.
Hailey Oppelt Hailey Oppelt
Communications Associate
September 19, 2019

Our blog series Gnar Face documents the funny, painful, and unfortunate things we’ve done to ourselves in the outdoors. In this edition, we hear from Communications Associate Hailey Oppelt about poor planning on Aasgard Pass. Take a look at the last edition of Gnar Face for more tails of woe and misery.


Combining over-excitement and under-preparedness is a great way to make a fool of yourself. It was August, and my friend Matt and I were spooled up on the sunshine and our plan to hike Aasgard Pass. I’d chatted with a friend who had hiked it before, who cautioned me that it could be a little tricky to routefind once you’re headed up the pass. Matt and I were pretty zippy and hiked often, so I was confident in our ability to get up and back with time to spare, and planned for a fairly casual day hike. So casual, that I started up the trailhead in cheap nylon shorts and a small daypack with little more than spare food and an extra layer. 

We bopped along the trail, eventually coming the base of the pass. It was a scramble like we’d heard, but as we continued it became increasingly apparent that we had chosen the wrong path. It was a lot of loose scree and mossy rock at a steep incline, and felt like trying to climb a greased pig made of granite. Creeping upward, we slipped and slid the whole way, sometimes losing almost as much ground as we gained. The rock alternated from being wet from the river to being too loose to climb, and all of our energy was spent on staying stable and not tumbling down the pass. We were definitely not on-trail. 

At that point we realized we had to get to the top and find an appropriate path down, as descending on such loose terrain would be dangerous. We arrived at the pass after a couple hours of painstaking upward progress, only to see that there was a snowfield between us and where we were supposed to be - which we knew hid a river beneath. Time to descend the way we came.

The air was growing heavy and we could feel a storm somewhere nearby. We had no cell service, or thought we didn’t, until an emergency alert glared up from our screens: “LEVEL 3 EVACS – LEAVE NOW – EVERYTHING EAST OF RD P NE TO GRAND COULEE BOTH SIDES OF HWY 174.” Unsure of where “Rd P NE” was located and wondering if wildfire was to be added to our list of concerns, we started moving just a little more rapidly down the pass.

Valley below Aasgard Pass. Photo courtesy of Hailey Oppelt. 

We clung to shrubbery as we crept down, doing our best to avoid any tumbles. I crouched down with my feet flat under me, wondering aloud if I could slowly slide down while keeping my center of gravity low. I shuffled forward, slipped and suddenly gained speed, performing what would be a glissade if I’d had snow, an ice ax, or pants. I stopped before falling off a ledge, but not before I’d lost a 6x3-inch patch of skin off my back end. I passed my hand over the injury and came up with a palm full of blood, then burst out laughing at the situation we’d made for ourselves. Matt looked horrified.

We finally made it off the pass, but by the time we were rounding Colchuck Lake the sun was beginning to set. We broke out headlamps and our spare meals to fuel the final leg of the hike, but exhaustion, lack of familiarity with the trail, and the moonless night all contributed to several wrong turns. What should have been a short and simple 4-mile walk became almost three hours of bumbling back to the trailhead.

We eventually made it back to the car, many hours after we’d intended, with a renewed sense of humility and more than a tinge of embarrassment. Neither of us had ever bungled a straightforward day trip so substantially. I sat on a spare blanket in the car to save the upholstery from being bloodied as we drove back to town. I consider the day a cheap lesson – even if it's a simple itinerary, prepare for more than you expect. And bring a pair of pants. 

Matt celebrating with groovy tunes. Photo courtesy of Hailey Oppelt. 

HAVE YOUR OWN GNAR FACE STORY? 

Submit your misadventures via email and have the chance to see your story on our blog! 

SUBMIT NOW


Add a comment

Log in to add comments.