Alta Mountain (Aug 4, 2018)

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alta_mtn_coverConditions: day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Snoqualmie Pass
Area: Snoqualmie Pass
Reference: Day Hiking Snoqualmie Pass
Stats: 10.43mi, 3211' gain (round trip)

Alta Mtn wasn't the original plan. Originally...we planned to head up to Yellow Aster Butte. I'd checked the weather and it looked clear but early the next morning Steve checked and yep...weather change. YAB was going to be cloudy/socked in and a 40% chance of rain. It wasn't worth the drive to see the inside of a cloud. So we fell back to Alta Mtn and it turned out to be a great Plan B.

The Rachel Lk trailhead (elev 2772') is large by most standards but I've never been there when it isn't packed. I told Steve we needed to get an early start to find parking. We arrived about 9am and managed to find one of the last spots.

The first part of the trail is pretty flat and seems to go on forever. We made pretty good progress and at about 2.7mi (3388') we finally started up. We reached the lake at 3.82mi (4667'). The trail is pretty much how I remember it. Rocky. Root exposed. In some sections the trail is a muck wallow. Often it's hard to tell if the trail is even trail because it looks more like a dry creek bed.

We followed the trail that heads right around the lake and then heads up a set of steep switchbacks as it climbs up to Rampart Ridge. At the top of the ridge, (4.21mi, 5116') we reached a trail junction (signed). Left heads over to Rampart Lks, right heads over to Lila Lks. We headed right and followed the trail along the ridge to the next trail junction (not signed). Going straight takes you to Lila Lks. We headed left and the trail eventually heads steeply uphill to a false summit of Alta Mtn.

My knees had been bothering me all day so I sent Steve off (5.13mi, 5932'). I've been to the top of Alta before so there was no need to push the knees. I dropped my pack at a nice spot and settled in for a nice lunch. Steve headed off and I could see him as he headed up the last open rocky slope to the high point. He didn't stay too long and then headed back to join me for his lunch. Before long, it was getting late, it was time to head down.

We decided to take a slightly different route down. There is a path that heads over to the lakes (not all the way to the lakes but it cuts off the steep slope we came up to the false summit, so it looked like a nice diversion. This alternate way down seems to get less traffic, the path is a bit overgrown in spots, but it's much more pleasant than the way we headed up. We hit the main trail over to Lila Lks (5.72mi, 5426') and then made a right to head back to Rachel Lk. Afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast and we heard a couple of distant booms on the way down from Alta. I wanted to head for more tree cover before the storm was overhead.

We were back at the lake in good time (6.66mi/4668') and we stopped so Steve could get some water. Then it was time for the long slog downhill and the long stretch of flat trail to get back to the car. There were a couple of loud thunderclaps overhead just as we left the lake but thankfully no rain. Steve dawdled a bit on the hike out (he spent some time investigating the creek). I was back at the car about 7:40pm.
 
Alta Mtn Slideshow

alta_mtn_map
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