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
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.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Suzanne & Rachel
Near Lila Lakes
Along The Ridge
Photo Page 2