Alta Peak (11207')
Alta Peak Hike - Sequoia National Park
Date: 08-09 August 2014
Duration: Camp + 1 day hike
Distance: ~14 miles
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate (~4000 feet elevation gain)
Trail: Wolverton Parking lot -> Lakes trail -> Panther gap Trail -> Alta Trail -> Alta Peak
Nearest food/ration is at Village market outside Sequoia. Getting there - see google maps.
Map: here *Copyright redwoodhikes
Elevation profile: here *Copyright redwoodhikes
Having played badminton on Thursday and no knee pain, I thought I’d be ok on this hike but I hadn’t decided to go for it till 4:30pm on Friday. I had about 2 hours to get home, pack and get ready to leave for the hike. Luckily I had all the necessary stuff including trail bars at home and it was just a matter of putting stuff into my backpack. At 6:15pm Jugal came over and we drove to Vishram’s place. From there we were off to Village Market just outside Sequoia to join up with the others.
There are two elements to a wonderful time well spent outdoors. One that is obviously the outdoors – nature & its beauty and the other is the company. My weekend was just amazing thanks to the cheerful and awesome people who were part of this group. Jai our star insane motivator, Jugul aka rocket man, Vishram aka the center guy, super cool Kelvin, Neisha aka Chapri, Andrew aka Drew our very own awesome camp chef, Ashy (& the bears) and I. Special thanks to everyone for putting up with me and my pace on the way down. :D
Now starting from where I left, we stopped for dinner at about 9pm at Black Bear diner in Los Banos (Pacheco Rd). The SF bay area group consisting of Jugal, Vishram and I had to meet the other group from LA area – Neisha, Kelvin, Jai, Drew and Ashy by 10:30pm but since the LA group were running late, we decided to goof around a bit. After dinner, we drove to Sequoia. We were at the park entrance at 12:15am and reached Wolverton parking lot at 1:10am. We decided to hike in and camp along the way but setup emergency camp right near the car and rode the night out (Can’t put down the details here). At 7am we were all up and ready to leave. At 7:50am we were at the trailhead starting our daylong hike.
The Wolverton trailhead at 7000 feet has a lot of parking but I assume it would run out of space quite often since it’s easily accessible and due to the large number of people visiting Sequioa NP. There are park shuttles that ply all around Sequoia. The hike starts with a couple of steps up the trail putting you into wilderness. The trail is quite shaded for almost all the way till we hit the tree line. Fern made the Sequoia’s and other tall trees their home. Sunlight pierced the vegetation providing a very beautiful, peaceful and serene scape for the onlooker. The beauty here rejuvenated me. In minutes, runners running the same trail were passing us. They were blazing up the slopes. I so wanted to join them running up the hill but my better judgment prevented me from doing that. Our group pace slowly caused the group to divide into three nuclear ones – Jugal, Vishram & Jai at the front, Drew, Ashy in the middle and Kelvin, Neisha and I sweeping the rear.
All along the way, there was the rushing sound of a creek somewhere in the vicinity. At 9:15am, the last of us reached Panther’s gap at 8550’ or so in altitude. After climbing numerous flower meadows and a steep climb to the ridge the picturesque sight of the valley in front of us delighted me. Now looking at the map, I can tell that we were looking at the middle fork valley and granite outcroppings of Castle rock in the San Joaquin valley. We took a break here for refreshments and pictures. I wasn’t getting any cardio and so decided to head up with Jugal for a while. We started from Panther’s gap at around 9:35am and steamed our way up the trail. I stopped around to take a couple of pictures. Jugal was fast and did not dilly-dally around for pictures. The trail now went through the conifers and was climbing steadily.
At 9300’ we crossed the intersection with the Alta Meadow trail. Just before this we also had some fun time trying to find the trail and trying to make trail markers. This I felt was quite funny. Thanks to Drew, we were back on the main trail. I slowed down from this point on owing to my knee pain that was slowly surfacing. Jugal and Vishram stormed up quite fast quite some time ago. They were trying to hit the top by noon. I was being accompanied by Ashy. Jai and Kelvin moved ahead to catch up with the two. Drew and Neisha took the rear. I
wanted to turn around after reaching something called the ‘lookout’. Jai told us that there was a lookout from where you would be able to see amazing views all around. Every single time we went up a hill there were more peaks above us. Within a while we were above the tree line. (Ashy will probably kill me if I mention tree line again :P). We had unrestricted panoramas all the way up but it was not a wide one. So I was of the impression the lookout was further up. When Jai passed us, she also had told us that the lookout was about 30mins out and from there the peak would be about 2 hrs. It was already noon and we were now almost above the tree line completely. There were few completely bare trees above us.
Moving on slowly, we were going higher and higher. I felt the height. I knew we were close to 11k feet. After a while, we saw a big flat mountain platform above us. I was sure that was the lookout point. Both of us decided to turn back from there. Ashy too was saying she would come back down with me from the lookout. 10 mins up the hike, I see all our folks sitting up what looked like a slanted surface high up. I wasn’t able to see anything beyond that so I wasn’t sure if that was the lookout and people had waited for us or we were actually at the peak. Haha. Hiking up closer to it I saw other people up there and that’s when I realized that it was the peak itself. I cannot forget Ashy’s expression at that point. We summited at 12:40pm (40mins past noon – not so bad after all)
We spent a while up at the peak. Neisha and Drew made it up to the peak too. They were up at 1pm. I finished my snacks up there and started the journey down by 2pm. I struggled a lot coming down and was quite slow. I took the rear all the way down. I was happy to have Drew’s company during the descent. Jugal started about 15mins behind me from the peak and was waiting at Panther’s gap for me to arrive (beat that :D). From the lakes intersection I asked Drew and Neisha to head down and I slowed even further. This reminded me of the few solo hikes I’ve done. It was so peaceful, serene and calm. My senses spiked up. I was able to hear even the small sounds of leaves fluttering, twigs breaking, the creek flowing along. It was indeed relaxing. I reached the trailhead at 6:00pm, which ended this amazing hike.
We stretched out and drove to the Lodgepole campground for the night. Drew cooked us some amazing food. Vishram treated me with Maggie too. We spent a while around the campfire. (Ooh, fun stuff where Kelvin solo carries a huge part of a log, Jugal tries his hand with the axe, the propane/butane confusion). Wow! This was an awesome fun filled weekend trip! Thanks all for such awesome two days. :)
More Pictures: here