Thursday, May 29, 2014

Alta Peak - Sequoia National Park

Alta Peak Trail
Sequoia NP
Mileage - 14
Time - 3:58
AEG - 4,221ft

Alta Peak is the highest summit accessible by a maintained trail from the main part of the park. Alta reaches a height of 11,204 feet, offering an expansive view into the Western Sierras. Getting there is a challenge for even the strongest hikers, especially in snow pack.  My 14-mile round trip hike/trail run began from the Wolverton trailhead at an elevation of 7,000ft.  Living at sea level doesn't fair well when starting an ascent like this as my breathing was labored within the first few hundred yards.  I continued on, running at times when the grade was mellow, passing a few backpackers along the way.

The trail was nice and try until 9,000 feet, then mostly covered in wet snow the next four miles.  I questioned whether or not I would be able to reach the top if conditions worsened.  They did.  Alone I traveled up the mountain, ticking off miles at a slower rate than planned, considering turning back a number of times.  Summit fever had a hold on me and the closer I got to the peak, aborting the hike became less of an option. At the junction for Alta Meadows I had two miles to go, wet feet and a decision to make.  I think it's obvious what I decided.  A mile later I caught up to two guys making the final approach through a boulder field. We chatted a bit and when the trail completely disappeared beneath the snow they opted out.  The rock outcropping that I believed to be the summit was in sight less than a quarter mile away and 500 more feet of vertical gain.  Sounds easy enough, except it was a quarter mile of post-holing to get there. My heart raced for a combination of reasons. Elevation, effort, fear of the unknown all came into play.  I crawled the last few feet on to the highest rock and declared my victory!

The return trip was a breeze, slaloming down the snow field and bounding back to solid ground.  I re-hydrated, took a gel and away I went.  Before long I was in the forest running the last three miles back to Wolverton.  

Never a bad view in the Sierras

Two miles to go

High alert
One of my favorite views

Snow field - trail below to the left

Alta Peak - 11,204 ft

Breathing hard at the summit

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