Alta Peak Via Alta Meadow WTC Experience Trip Meadow-Tacular!

  • Updated: August 25, 2013
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

August 24th & 25th, 2013
Alta Peak (11,204')

After the last few hard haul trips I was looking forward to taking it a bit easier and and a WTC experience trip camping in a scenic meadow on the west side was sounding rather nice.

I've done Alta before.  Back in July of 2011 I took an extra day before an official two day trip I was leading to nearby Silliman to dayhike Alta and Panther peaks.  Back then there had still been a fair amount of snow on both the trail and the peak itself but the area stood out as being particularly beautiful.  So when I needed an easier level experience trip to lead this made the short list.

Incidentally one of the students who joined me for the original trip then was Paul Warren who had subsequently come back on staff with WTC, pursued his Sierra Club leader rating, and was now back coleading this outing with me.

This time the plan was to spend a gently paced two day backpacking using it as an excuse to camp at the rather scenic Alta Meadow.

Beth, Jen, Gracia, and myself met in Orange County at 3:30 pm and started a leisurely drive up north.  We hit a surprising amount of traffic through LA but even stopping for dinner in Bakersfield we arrived at the Lodgepole Campground in Sequioa sometime after 11 pm.  This is early for this sort of thing at least with me.

Paul, Pei-San, and Kamyar had arrived earlier having left Orange County that morning and were already in bed until our slightly calamitous arrival.  I think everyone was back asleep by midnight.

Since we only had an easy 5 miles or hike in we didn't have to get up at the butt crack of predawn for once.  (I could get spoiled doing things like this)  Of course we didn't sleep in much after sunrise due to the always punctual Mister Paul Warren

He pulled out the stove and cooked us all up the Warren Special while we were still trying to blink the sleep out of our eyes and figure out where we'd packed the coffee packets.

Properly fed and feeling surprisingly rested we packed up and trundled over to the Wolverton parking lot where we set off up the slightly dusty trail.

(As a side note Wolverton is a nice trailhead with bathrooms and bear boxes but there really isn't anywhere nearby to bivy.  I'd strongly recommend just getting a campsite at Lodgepole)

The trail starts out in the dense green forest terrain that characterizes this area until you hit Panther Gap at which point you traverse along the ridge with some nice views.

Once again I found myself looking over at some neat peaks to the south I really want to get over and climb sometime.  (For the record the trip would include Paradise Peak, Castle Rocks, and a side trip to Paradise Cave)

Sadly we didn't see any bears on the way in this time.  Our chances of matching the 6 we'd seen last time wasn't looking promising.

Before long we split off from the peak trail and after another mile arrived at Alta Meadow.

This was another dry year so it was a little less green than I remember it looking from above but still rather pretty.  Immediately to the right when you arrive at the meadow there are a number of established campsites and we had them all to ourselves.  If those were taken you can go further along the meadow to the east and drop down below where it looked like there was some additional sites.

The water sources in the meadow were basically dry.  There were a few springs marked on the map and we spent some time rooting around in bushes trying to find running water.  In the end I found a single trickle of distinctly copper colored water and a few stagnant pools I didn't care for the look of.

We backtracked up the trail a short distance to where we'd passed running water in the drainage east of Tharps Rock.  Here we managed to fill but the flow was slow enough it took a good hour to cycle everyone through.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and visiting and had another good nights sleep.

We woke up at dawn and got moving slowly.  Rather than backtrack to the trail we shortcutted up the slope more directly.

There's no real route as pretty much anything will work.  Also I later found a use trail heading further east and up the south face of Alta to the saddle east of the peak though we didn't take it.

We rejoined the trail above and continued up amid increasingly strong and cold winds.

The views near the top are spectacular.  Compare to a previous dayhike back in July of 2011 where it was mostly covered in snow.

Alta is basically a walkup from this route except for the summit block.  The trail lets you out right underneath at which point you have an easy second class scramble and a short friction traverse that tends to make some people a bit nervous.

The register is on the very top but with the wind we decided to pull it down below to sign in and pose for our victory shot.

And here is Miss Beth holding the flag she made and gifted to me at the end of class in what is my favorite picture from this outing...

We didn't dally too long on account of it being bloody freezing!

On the way down we stuck to the slightly longer trail route instead of repeating our shortcut.  Most of us were students or staff from the WTC Kaweah Group and this trail has the advantage of showing off the Kaweah Peaks.  It warmed up quickly once we were off the top.

We strolled back into camp to find some bucks were hanging out in the middle of our tents.

That was just the start of the wildlife encounters for the day.  After we'd packed up and hiked out to Panther Gap we sat down for a short break only to have someone notice a mother bear and two cubs up on the ridge to Panther!

Sadly no one got a real good picture of them.

Then further down there was this guy right off the trail.

He cared about us so little we couldn't even get him to look our direction for a picture!  He did scare the hell out of this German guy we ran into a bit up the trail who was hiking solo.

We ate (post trip Mexican food of course) in Visallia and were making good progress towards home when we hit the Grapevine...

Whoever decided it would be an awesome idea to take away lanes for construction from the left, then the right, and then to go down to a single lane on a Sunday night when heavy traffic is trying to get back into LA is off my christmas card list.

Yet another very very late night return and then it was back off to Idaho to work for 5 days before returning to lead a three day outing to Seven Gables & Gemini.

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