Sunday, September 06, 2009

[Hike] Alta Peak - Sequoia NP, CA

At 11,204 feet, Alta Peak is one of the best 11K+ hikes I've done!

Panoramic shots from the peak looking east Somewhere out there are the great peaks of Mt. Whitney and Mt. Langley (Eastern Sierras). These pics DONOT do justice to the feeling of being up there!
Panaromic shot, looking west/ south...
View of "Peak Lake" from the Summit...

------------ Hike Report.--------------
Alta Peak is a fairly challenging hike, even for someone is decent shape. It is a 14mi round trip hike, that makes you ascend about 4300ft (over 7miles). Looking at that statistic alone, doesn't quite make it feel that hard - what makes it hard, is that almost half of that elevation gain happens over the last 2 miles!!

The trailhead is located at the wolverton parking lot, and is pretty easy to find. To get to it, you drive south on Generals Hwy, from the Lodgepole visitor center and then turn left, where the sign says "wolverton". Drive for a couple miles to reach the (rather huge) trailhead parking lot (photo below)...
The trailhead sign is very clearly marked and is on the north side of the parking lot (right by the bear cannisters (yes, this is bear country!!). The trail system is quite complex and leads to several trails, but, it is very easy to stay on the correct trail, because, there are trail signs at all forks on the trail. There are 4 main forks on the trail - 1) The lakes trail 2) Panther Gap 3) Alta Meadow and 4) High Sierra Trail. The simplest way to remember these is "one right and 3 lefts" (you gotta stay to the right of the first fork, at the lakes trail, and to the left at the remaining three)The trail is very shaded for the first 4-5miles, after that it is completely exposed (this is a common characteristic with peaks in the western sierras) after you get above the tree line.

The first main intersection you come up to is called "Panther Gap" (~1.8mi from the start) and the views from here, are the first warning of how breathtaking the views on this hike are going to be. You get some very nice views of mountains (not sure if this is Mt. Silman) and the western divide from here (see pic above).
I tried to do a perspective shot of the peaks visible from panther gap in the pic below....
You turn left at Panther gap to continue on towards the peak. The next intersection you come up to is called the "High Sierra Trail" fork. I didn't realize I hadn't taken a pic of it, but anyway, it's not too hard to spot. The fourth and final major fork is "Alta Meadow Trail" and this comes up at about 2.1 miles from the peak.

(Above) view from Alta Meadow fork (alta meadow in the foreground)
From the Alta Meadow junction, the trail start to get STEEP, because, you have about 2000 more feet to climb and only 2 miles to do it (half the total elevation, in 1/3rd of the total distance). There are no trail signs from this point on and there really is no clear marked trail (it is loosegravel at this point, so you can go up any which way you like), but, it is almost impossible to get lost, because, the peak is always in sight. Below are two shots of the peak at about 1 mile from the summit, the second is a zoomed in (notice the "little people" in the first one?) version of the first...

The peak itself, is basically one big flat rock! and you have to scramble up to get to the hike register (yes, the "naturists" haven't stolen it yet). This is a little intimidating for those with a bit of a fear of heights and so, some choose to just sit by the main rock (notice the two people on the right side of the above pic?).

The views from the summit are ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING and totally worth the huffing you did over the last 2 miles. If you are familiar with the back country, you can easily identify most peaks of the eastern sierras from here (including the tallest peak in the lower 48 - Mt. Whitney).

The above pic was a rock that reminded me of Davie Jones (Pirates of the Carribean?!) a little bit :)