Alta Mtn. - 6251' and Rampart Ridge - 5870' Miles: 15 Gain: 4250' GT Snoqualmie Pass #207
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August 21 , 2010
I thought it might be advisable, for my first trip out in nearly two months, to try something relatively easy.  Having looked at Alta from a few different points around Snoqualmie Pass most recently from Hibox, it seemed like it would fit the bill.  Nothing technical or off trail, but at 12 miles and 3400' still a good workout.

I left the Rachel Lake trailhead around 8:00a and not more than 15 minutes up the trail remembered that I had forgotten to put the forest pass out on the dashboard of the car.  Back I went... so once again I was on the trail to Alta, this time at around 8:30am.

The first three miles of the Rachel Lake Trail (#1313) are basically flat.  I don't think it took much more than an hour to reach the water falls where the trail begins to climb to the lake.  From there, the path is pretty rough for all the foot traffic it gets.  I won't lie, the climb up to the lake on these lately sedentary legs wasn't easy.  Good to have just a day pack rather than all my overnight gear.

At the lake the trail heads off to the right and begins a short switchbacky climb to the ridge above. Here you have three options (four if you count turning around and going down); straight ahead is a dead end (according to a WTA report I read), to the left is the path to Rampart Ridge/Lakes and back about 10 feet on the right is the path to Lila Lakes and Alta.

I went right and began following the Lila Lakes Trail through some really pretty rock/heather gardens.  I saw but didn't follow the unsigned cut off for Alta Ridge on the left thinking it was just one of many pronounced way trails heading out to a view point.  Cresting a small rise I was treated to a nice view of the lakes scattered in the basin below Alta ridge.  The trail continued to drop toward the lakes and I soon figured out that I must have missed something along the way.  I left the trail and headed straight up slope to the ridge where I found the trail to Alta.

The ridge narrows a bit which adds a little drama but the trail is good and the views stellar.  Mt. Rainier is huge and I was a little surprised to see Mt Adams clearly to it's left.  All of the Snoqualmie peaks are within arms reach as is the fascinating route the PCT takes from Kendall Peak across the cat walk to traverse below Mt. Thompson, Alaska, Huckleberry and

Chickamin before vanishing around a shoulder on Chickamin Ridge.  Further east iconic Mt. Stuart looms providing a point of reference from which many others like Paddy go Easy Pass, Cradle, Daniel,  Cashmere, Eightmile can be identified.  

I sat on the summit below a cairn which I'm sure is visible from space and for the first time really watched as wispy clouds were formed from moist air as it rose to flow over Box Ridge only to evaporate as they sank on the other side. I had the summit to myself and was in no rush to leave.  Cloud magic.

I returned to the junction above Rachel Lake and decided that as long as I was this close, I should take the short walk over to Rampart Lakes and look around.  I also had passing thoughts of scrambling up Rampart Ridge too.   No shortage of people camped around the lakes, popular area in spite of it being a pretty good grunt to haul your overnight stuff up this far.  I went up and over a small hill between the lakes before heading to the south end of the basin and the foot of Rampart Ridge. 

Looking up I couldn't see trail but as I hiked toward the slope one unfolded with each upward step in the heather and rocks.  The well used path leads steeply to the ridge south of the high point and then cuts north.  Like Alta, there is a trail all the way, but here you'll find a little challenge getting up onto the actual summit rock pile.  To the right traverse down sloping slabs which if wet or snowy would not be good or to the left, a short rock scramble.  Spent 1/2 an hour on top enjoying the view down onto the very pretty Rampart Lakes basin and looking NE to Alta whose top was now hidden in clouds.

Returning to the lakes I filtered some water, noticing that the small crack in my filter housing from last year had now blossomed into two larger breaks.  Placing fingers over them at least kept my pants dry as I pumped but I think this Pur Hiker is about done.  I'll give some duct tape a try before retiring it altogether as the filter is still pretty new. 

Uneventful hike out to the car.  If I thought the lakes had a large number of people camped around at them when I left around 3:30p, that was nothing compared to the number who were still heading up as I hiked down.  Busy at Rachel and Rampart Lakes although I didn't see a single tent at any of the Lila Lakes.
Drive I-90 to Exit 62 - Kachess Lake.  Follow signs to the Kachess Lake Campground (4 miles).  At the "t" go left (right goes into the campground), in a short distance bear right at a fork.  continue to the TH (approx 4 miles) for rachel Lake.
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