When I climbed Alta Peak in September I knew that I had to return to see the spectacular view in the winter. Alta Peak is located in Sequoia National Park in the Southern High Sierra and is accessed from Wolverton. Winter Alta Peak is actually a different point along the ridge from the traditional summit at the end of the Alta Peak Trail. In fact, Winter Alta is slightly higher than Alta Peak (11,328 ft vs 11,204 ft). Moreover, the route to Alta Peak is significantly different in the winter. While the summer route crosses Panther Gap to the southern slopes, the winter route stays to the north side of the ridge and ascends to Pear Lake (the southern slopes are steep and prone to avalanches). Pear Lake contains a ranger station that is used as a ski hut in the winter. From Pear Lake, ski opportunities abound in every direction.
The ascent to Winter Alta is straightforward from Pear Lake climbing moderate snow slopes around the rock thumb named the “Matterhorn” to more gentle slopes above and concluding with a couple hundred vertical of more moderate slopes before the summit is reached. The view from the top is truly amazing, and unlike the Alta Peak trail in the summer, the vast majority of the breathtaking vista appears at once. This awe-inspiring vantage includes Mount Brewer, the Great Western Divide, Black Kaweah, and peaks around Mineral King. You can gaze down into the forested canyons of the Middle Fork Kaweah River or the expansive undulating snow tundra of the Tablelands region. The San Joaquin Valley is also visible although on this day it was shrouded by a fog and stratus layer at the 3,000 ft level. The approach, ascent, and summit views in the winter are truly beautiful and well worth the effort required to get there. I will definitely be returning for further explorations of the vast Tablelands region out to Big Bird Peak. Enjoy some photos from the climb (click for a larger version). The complete album is here.