Alta Mountain

     Alta Mountain is one of my favorite summits. The route has a nice flat forest walk, a steep hike up to Rachel  Lake, and a fun ridge ramble to the top. I seem to get up here every 4 or 5 years. The summit gives a great view of the peaks in the Snoqualmie Pass area. For this hike I went along with John, George, Vebjorn, and Suzanne. We were on the trail by 8:40. There were already a dozen cars in the lot. It is 4 miles with 1800' of gain to Rachel Lake. The first 3 miles gain only about 500'. The last miles gains 1300' on a poor, rocky, and rooty trail. With the lack of rain the trail was dustier than I ever remember. On the positive side, the bugs are nearly all gone. We made good time and reached Rachel Lake in 1:40. The day was warm but not yet hot. The lake was as beautiful as ever

     After a nice rest at Rachel, we were back on the trail. From the lake it is a fairly short but steep climb up to the ridge top. Along the way are nice views down to the lake. At the top is an intersection. Left goes to Rampart Lakes. Right goes to Lila Lakes and Alta Mountain. We turned right and continued on a nice trail. The route goes along a short way with minimal elevation gain to another intersection. Straight ahead goes to Lila Lakes. A sharp left turn quickly reaches the ridge where it turns steeply uphill. The first part is the worst. The trail goes more or less straight up the slope. Normally this would be through fields of berries. This year the berries are nearly nonexistent. At higher elevations there is the first hint of fall colors. This should improve rapidly over the next 3 to 4 weeks. The route eventually moderates and becomes a fun walk on or just below the ridge top. There are a number of false summits before the real top comes into view. Suzanne and I moved out ahead on the ridge. The trail continues all the way to the top. Unless one is afraid of heights there is no great difficulty. It was becoming quite warm however a nice breeze was blowing along the ridge top. We finally topped out on the summit just in time for lunch. The others were in sight farther down the ridge.

     The view is outstanding. Nearly 9 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail are visible. Across Gold Creek is Kendall Peak, the Kendall Katwalk, Snoqualmie, Red, and Thompson Mountains. Chikamin Peak is just to the north. To the east are Three Queens and Hibox. All this and still in sight of Interstate 90. We had a nice stay on the summit. One thing I did notice is that the summit register is gone. It was there on my first visit many years ago and still there on my last one in 2001. The trip down was fun. Rampart Lakes were brightly reflecting in the sunlight. I was disappointed to not have blueberries to graze on. On the hike down from the ridge to Rachel Lake we passed some really interesting folks. First was a backpacker wearing a heavy black jacket as he slowly hiked up the steep trail in the hot afternoon sun. I'm not sure how he was able to keep moving. Next came a youth group on a backpacking trip. They were mostly wearing blue jeans and assorted cotton clothing. They didn't seem to realize that rain was forecast for the night and next day. Many had non-compressable cotton sleeping bags. Not a good idea with rain in the offing. One person had a huge cotton pillow strapped to the top of her pack. It would become a sponge in the rain. One person had a huge sleeping bag tied on the side of the pack. It stuck out several feet to the side. In total, it looked like an advertisement for how not to go backpacking in the rain.

     We regrouped at Rachel Lake and enjoyed cooling off along the shore. The hike down from there was descending the steep mile and then an easy walk out the last three miles. This was the last day of warm dry weather for awhile and it was a great hike. The totals were 12 miles and 3600' gained.

Hibox Mt
Hibox Again
Rachel Lake
Hibox Mt
Suzanne & Rachel
High Meadow
False Summit
Near Lila Lakes
Lila Lakes
Along The Ridge
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