Monday, September 28, 2009

Alta Mountain - Standard Route - 09.28.09

Elevation Gain: 4000'
12 miles RT
Left car: 8:50 am
Summit: 11:10 am
Back at car: 1:50 pm
5 hours car to car

This was my redemption hike after sulking around the house this weekend with no climbing partners. I was going to do this on Sunday, but opted not to, thinking I may climb on Monday and wanted to be fresh. Oh well. I decided on Alta because it was reasonably close, and I did not want to mess with the 3rd and possible 4th class on Hibox if I was going to be alone.

I got off to a slightly later start than I would have liked, but was walking at ten to nine. I was hoping to make good time on the hike as I didn't want to be out too long. I just needed to get out. Not to mention there were threats of rain starting after 11am. I was wearing my new trail runners that my brother gave me as a birthday present when he was in town for the wedding. I figured I could give them a try and break them in (if that was even needed.)

I arrived in the parking lot and was the only car. There was lots of automotive glass in the parking lot. It must be a high prowl area.

The morning was cold, and I left the parking lot wearing my poofy and took it off after I gained about 300' vertical or so. Then I continued on. After the first 300-400' of vertical the trail is flat for a while. Right around where the trees start getting big, it gets down to business. Switchbacks galore and lots of gain. At the hour mark, I had already put 1300' behind me. The going got tough and then I got concerned that I may have been off trail. Or more appropriately, off route.

I got the book out and checked it. Everything seemed to be OK. After all, I had seen the Hibox cutoff, and I could now see Hibox from where I was on the trail. I clearly wasn't headed there. More gain finally got me to Rachael Lake. Things got a little confusing again with random trails all around the lake. I was able to stay right and managed to stay mostly on the trail after a short stop to look at the lake. Then the trail starts switchbacking up a hillside. After a few hundred feet from the lake, I consulted the book again. It was this time that I also removed my pant legs as it was getting warm.

Up to the top of the ridge, there were more random trails. One seemed to lead into a blueberry patch, so I picked and ate some. I took the right (and correct) path, and headed out. There were a bunch of false summit scenarios on this trail and I kept thinking I was close only to find out I wasn't. There were a few sections where the trail is more 2nd class, but nothing exceptional to note. I met a man coming down from the summit when I was about three minutes out. We exchanged pleasantries, and we were both on our way.

I arrived at the summit shortly afterward and changed my shirt and put my poofy back on. The wind was blowing from the west, but it was nice and sunny on the summit. I poked around a bit and took some photos, ate a lunch, and relaxed. I switched back into my now dry shirt and headed out. The fall colors were amazing! So was the blueberry snacking.

I made decent time back to the lake only to get on a side trail and have to turn around a bit. I got on the correct trail and continued down. Along the way I stopped to take some pictures of some interesting rock formations in the creek. Very smooth and looking glacier polished, but the ripples in the rock would suggest some other form of sculpting.

I passed a few people on their way in while I was headed out. I got back to the car exactly five hours after I left it. Even drinking around three liters of water, I seemed to have a dehydration headache. I chugged water at the car, and then drove out on the extremely washboarded road.

It was nice to finally get out before the rains hit. Hopefully there will be more days like this before I start waxing up the skis. I'm more than pleased with my speedy ascent as well. The guidebook states six hour from car to summit, and I did the whole round trip in under that time. (I was expecting more like three hours from car to summit.) And while I did not conform to race walking rules, I was never running, just walking briskly. With a pace like mine, I could have easily scrambled Hibox as well in the same trip and still got home before dark. In addition, it was an area of Snoqualmie Pass that I had not really been to, and gave me a new perspective on the area.

My pics are here.

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