It has been a year since I have been out overnight in the mountains — far too long. The last time, it was to Lila Lake with the hope that I could get at least part way up Rampart Ridge, perhaps to Alta Peak. Alas, the rain began as I approached Lila Lake, and continued until I departed the next day.
The weekend weather was predicted to be sunny and dry, so it was time to finally complete the climb. I got a reasonably early start, and headed up the now familiar trail. The miles passed quickly, even up the steep approach to Rachel Lake. I crossed and recrossed paths with a few parties, but still made it up before most of the campers.
I debated whether to turn right, toward Lila Lake, or left, toward Rampart Lakes. By the time I made it to the junction, I was getting pretty tired, and so I decided that I would not attempt Alta Peak that day, so I turned toward Rampart Lakes. The mosquitoes were thick and biting, so I set up the tent and lay down for a nap. It was uncomfortably hot inside, but it was better than getting bit up in the shade.
After resting for an hour, I was revived a bit. A nearby party, who had apparently been visiting Rampart Lakes from the Lake Margaret side returned up toward the ridge, so I decided I would explore up that way. To my surprise, the trail was distinct and easy to follow, all the way up to the ridge. I did have to climb a steep snow field, but my ice axe came in handy, and besides there were decent steps kicked into the soft snow.
Up on the ridge, the views were spectacular. I could see the huge cliffs on the west side of the ridge, the Alpental ski area and the Aline Lakes wilderness beyond, and way off in the distance, Mt Rainier. I ran into a pair of hikers that I had seen on the trail up on the ridge: they were heading back down by that time. I wandered along the ridge as far as I could go. The trail got more and more indistinct, until it petered out completely. Rather than retrace my steps, I descended below the uppermost cliffs, and made my way back through the snow fields to the trail I had come up.
Back down in camp, I made a quick dinner and retreated into my tent to get away from the bugs. Soon it was dark and I drifted off to sleep. It seems like I woke up every 20 minutes to roll over. The night was reasonably warm, and soon it was getting light again. The bugs were back, so I did not waste much time in packing up and getting back on the trail. The morning looked clear and sunny, so I decided to give Alta Peak a try. I did not know how far I could make it up the trail: it looked pretty intimidating from down below. I made up my mind to just explore as far as I could safely go.
Walking along the ridge above Rachel Lake was pleasant, with great views all along the way. I hauled my pack up to the junction where the trail to Alta Peak splits off from the Lila Lake trail, then hid it in some bushes and switched to my summit bag. This made the climbing so much easier. The trail climbed up through fields of wildflowers in bloom, more and more spectacular views, and many false peaks. At times the trail was narrow and ran along the top of big cliffs, but it never required handholds or anything more than careful walking. Finally, at what seemed like one more false summit, I was at the top. The ridge dropped down steeply on three sides.
I observed several trails I had not expected. They were clearly visible below, in the lakes above Lila Lake. I need to explore those someday. There was also a trail visible to the west, which I later identified as Kendall Ridge and Alaska Mountain. That’s another area I need to explore. I spent a while on the peak, and then headed back down. On the way, I met two other parties headed up. I am glad I got an early start and had the peak to myself.
The way down seemed longer than going up, getting sunnier and hotter as I descended. I was surprised by haw many people I met on the trail, all going up. A great day to explore the mountains.