Hiking Alta Peak

Friday morning we got up before the sun. After a quick breakfast we went to the Wolverton trail head to tackle the Alta Trail, which ends at the very top of Alta Peak (elevation 11,208 ft). The hike was 7 miles out and 7 miles back. It had an elevation gain of ~4,000 ft. Soon after starting out on the trail we encountered two hikers beating a hasty retreat. A bear on the trail had thwarted their hike. Since black bears are less dangerous than texting drivers, we convinced the hikers to join us and walk past the bear. Evidently the bear knew it was now outnumbered 4 to 1, and when we reached the spot where the bear had been blocking the trail it was gone–rather anticlimactic.

When we reached Panther Gap the views on the trail became very impressive. The Great Western Divide stretched out beside us. Rugged ridges lined the near side of the canyon. Here are some pictures from the trail, not necessarily in order of appearance.

Looking up at a ridge we would later look down upon.

Looking up at a ridge we would later look down upon.

I liked this face on the ridge.

I liked this face on the ridge.

The face up closer. . .

The face up closer. . .

The Sierra Mountains, looking stately.

The Sierra Mountains across the Great Western Divide, looking stately.

The final stretch of the trail was challenging. The air was thin and the trail was steep (and slippery), but the peak could not stop us.

Standing in the snow on Alta Peak with Pear Lake far below.

Standing in the snow on Alta Peak with Pear Lake far below.

Emerald Lake, Aster Lake, and Pear Lake (clockwise from left) viewed from Alta Peak.

Emerald Lake, Aster Lake, and Pear Lake (clockwise from left) viewed from Alta Peak.

On Alta Peak, with Tharp's Rock in the distance to my right and Moro Rock in the right background.

On Alta Peak, with Tharp’s Rock in the distance to my right and Moro Rock to my left in the background–the Central Valley is behind me (hidden by the haze).

At the very top of Alta Peak.

At the very top of Alta Peak.

But all the triumphant pictures you’ve just seen are not the true pinnacle of Alta Peak. Reaching the top involves scrambling up some large boulders onto a large slab of granite.  I stood by the benchmarks (yes, there are two) and signed the register. I also took a selfie at the very top. The panoramic views from the top were staggering (though I did my best not to stagger, since falling to the canyon floor was not part of my plan for the day). From the very top of Alta Peak a glimpse of Mount Whitney is possible. It is the only place in Sequoia National Park where you can see Mount Whitney (unless you have a killer vertical leap). I added some titles to a picture to point out Mount Whitney since it is a bit camera-shy.

Mount Whitney viewed from Alta Peak (yet Mount Whitney is not very noticeable).

Mount Whitney viewed from Alta Peak (yet Mount Whitney is not very noticeable).

Maybe this will help. . .

Maybe this will help. . .

A panorama shot from Alta Peak.

A panorama shot from the very top of Alta Peak.

During our trip out and back we filtered water from springs, which were plentiful. I know it might have been purely psychological, but the water tasted heavenly.

A spring on the Alta Trail.

A spring on the Alta Trail.

The plants we encountered on the trail were impressive. I enjoyed seeing how the plants capitalized on small niches. The vibrancy of green around the springs was also very cool. I did not expect to see Dicentra and Mertensia in the high Sierras–hello relatives of old friends. The plants in California continue to surprise me.

One-seeded pussypaws (Cistanthe monosperma).

One-seeded pussypaws (Cistanthe monosperma).

Sierra wallflower (Erysimum capitatum).

Sierra wallflower (Erysimum capitatum).

 

 

 

 

 

 

After completing the hike we stopped by Hospital Rock on the return to the campsite. At first glance I thought the Native American murals were graffiti, the color was still so vibrant.

After supper we closed the day out by reading “Kaweah’s Run” from Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (Clarence King) by lamplight. It was a very full and very fun day.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Hiking Alta Peak

  1. Anonymous

    I never thought i would run into you online.That was an awesome hike. We wouldn’t have even made it to the top if it wasn’t for you two so thanks.
    P.S. I’m one of the hikers that you mention in the beginning with the bear.

  2. Anonymous

    Wow. looks beautiful even in pictures.

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