Forum Index > Pacific NW History > Origin of Built Trail over Alta Mountain?
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Sculpin
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PostWed Oct 19, 2016 1:05 pm 
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A few years back, I did a traverse from Lake Lillian to the PCT via Alta Mountain.  On the south slopes of Alta, we picked up some tread across a gully.  On the far side, the route was blasted - or at least hacked into the rock - to pass a cliffy spot.  There was also a hairpin turn at the cliffy spot, something else you don't typically see on boot tread.  The trail continued over the top and down through a grove of trees on the North side, where it also looked constructed rather than boot-built.  It then petered out in meadows but reappeared on a sloping traverse to the PCT.  Anyone know the history of the route over Alta Mountain?

And as an aside, I would not recommend following this route down the north side while it is under snow without an ice axe.

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Had my tent blown in but I'm still on my feet
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Tom
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PostWed Oct 19, 2016 3:06 pm 
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Back in 2003 we followed what seemed to be an abandoned trail between the Alta Tarns and Alta Pass.  It petered out at the pass.  We stumbled on another mysterious trail above Park Lakes.  I think this is what you refer to as the sloping traverse to the PCT.  We followed it for a while and ran into an old guy with a shovel building a trail.  He was pretty surprised to see us.
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contour5
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PostWed Oct 19, 2016 6:30 pm 
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If you mean the trail over East Alta(Alta Pass)- I read somewhere that it was originally built by the mountaineers. There are good remnants of this trail all the way from Alta Tarns to the old horse camp above the larger Park Lake. The horse camp is signed on the PCT, a short distance above the big junction/ turnoff to Park Lakes.

After traversing above Lila Lakes, a faint path leads North/NE, initially heading downstream along a tiny creek. I missed this the first few times because I headed uphill from Lila to the tarns. The path takes a fairly low traverse over toward E Alta and then climbs a perfect set of switchbacks right up the center of the basin. This is also invisible if you're not looking for it- I totally bypassed the switchbacks several times without noticing them. It's fine terrain for making your own way...
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Sculpin
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PostThu Oct 20, 2016 7:28 am 
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Thanks Tom and Contour5.  No doubt we are talking about the same trail remnants.  I am curious about the old guy with the shovel.  I presume he was not wearing a FS pickle suit?

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Had my tent blown in but I'm still on my feet
- With apologies to Lowell George
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Mike Collins
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PostThu Oct 20, 2016 9:29 am 
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The Denny family had several mining claims in the Gold Creek drainage. I suspect they may have been the people who constructed the trail you happened upon. The following is an informative post from the guru of Northwest history, Harry Majors, in an earlier thread on inscriptions.

My compliments to Mike Collins, Tom, Copperhead Kid, kiliki, and all other NWHikers.net readers who have contributed to this very interesting and informative thread. This truly is an outstanding work of historical discovery, decipherment, sleuthwork, and interpretation. Historic inscriptions such as this are a rarity in the North Cascades.

I personally knew one of the individuals, whose name appears on this rock.

Lawrence Denny Lindsley (1878-1975) was the grandson of David Thomas Denny (1832-1903), one of the original founders of Seattle in 1851.

Lawrie Lindsley, one of the pioneer miners and photographers of the North Cascades, is known to have worked at the Denny family mine at the head of Gold Creek from 1895 to 1902, at which time he took a number of photographs in this area. These pictures are now preserved in his photo album no. 1, in the Photography Collection at the University of Washington Library. Included among these are views of the cabin (exterior and interior), David Denny (with a long white beard), the mine, Ptarmigan Park, the neighboring mountains, and a mountain goat hunt (reproduced in Northwest Discovery, vol. 1, Oct. 1980, pp. 192-207). I suspect that this series of Gold Creek photographs was taken during  the summer of 1899, when David Denny was in charge of construction work on the Snoqualmie Pass wagon road.

Among these photographs (p. 197) is a view looking toward Lemah Peak and the northwest, taken from the ridge above Gold Creek  ---  likely on the same trip during which Rolland Denny and Lawrie Lindsley left their names inscribed on the rock immediately northwest of Four Brothers peak. In his caption for this particular photo, Lawrie wrote: "During the summer when we were mining we climbed this ridge above our cabin when we wanted to take a good look at the big mountains."

Thirty years ago, I visited with Lawrie at his home south of 45th Street (immediately west of the University of Washington) and conducted a tape-recorded interview with him in an effort to preserve his reminiscences of early days in the North Cascades.

Among his more vivid memories was that of sitting on Denny Hill and watching the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 destroy the historic pioneer town below. To an impressionable young boy of 11 years, it seemed like the end of the world was at hand.

Here was an individual who had seen at first hand the Great Seattle fire, who knew old Seattle as it had been prior to 1889, who knew the daughter of Chief Seattle, who witnessed the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, and who had explored and photographed extensively in the North Cascades. Lawrie Lindsley not only knew the founders of Seattle, he himself was a member of the Denny family, the premier pioneer family of early Seattle.

David Denny owned the Esther Mine and cabin, situated in Ptarmigan Park (southwest of the Four Brothers), at the head of Gold Creek.  This mine, first located within 1890-1893,  was worked on by David Denny's sons, son-in-law, and grandsons. The rustic but spacious cabin had been built in Ptarmigan Park by Lawrie's father Edward Lindsley "in 1896 when the Esther Mine was at full blast," and contained a modest iron stove that had been  hauled in via pack train. By 1897, there was a large steam boiler at the mine that furnished power to drive two steam drills and an ore crusher.

The Denny family had a long association with the history of Snoqualmie Pass. During the late 1860s, Arthur Denny (older brother of David) explored the area about Snoqualmie Pass, prospecting for ore and scouting for a potential wagon road over the Cascades. Denny Creek and Denny Mountain honor Arthur's pioneering efforts in this area.

During the summer of 1899, David Denny was in charge of construction work on the wagon road across Snoqualmie Pass. An extract from his report for that year appears in: Yvonne Prater, "Snoqualmie Pass" (Seattle, 1981), pp. 39-43. It was probably during this visit that Lawrie Lindsley (with camera in hand) accompanied his grandfather to Snoqualmie Pass, spent some time at work at the Esther Mine, and then joined  Rolland Herschel Denny (1851-1939) on an ascent of the ridge connecting the Four Brothers to Chikamin Peak.

Four Brothers peak, situated on the ridge southeast of Chikamin Peak, and overlooking both Ptarmigan Park and the Esther Mine, was named for the three Denny brothers and one brother-in-law who occasionally labored at the mine during the summer in the 1890s, doing development and assessment work. These men were three of David Denny's sons (John Denny, Thomas Denny, and Victor Denny), and his son-in-law Edward L. Lindsley (father of Lawrence Denny Lindsley).

During September 1917, Lawrie Lindsley attained a brief moment of national fame when he and Dan Devore (Devore Peak and Devore Creek) served as guide, cook, and packer for Mary Roberts Rinehart's pack-train journey to Cascade Pass and Lyman Lake from Lake Chelan. When Mary (a publicity agent for the Great Northern) published an account of the trip the following year, she referred to him as "Silent Lawrie" (because of his taciturnity), and wrote that "He knew every tiniest flower and plant that thrust its head above the leafmold": Gene Faure, "Silent Lawrie in the North Cascades," The Mountaineer, 1964 annual, pp. 84-87.
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Joey
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PostThu Oct 20, 2016 11:52 am 
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I posted a map where you can change to an aerial view, zoom way in and then see part of the trail over East Alta.
See my post in this prior thread:
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8012082&highlight=east+alta
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Dalekz
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PostSun Oct 23, 2016 2:47 pm 
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See the 1931 map in the Mountaineer annual. It shows the Mineral creek trail going to Alta Pass not Park lakes. Also a route down Alta Mtn to the valley of the Gold creek trail (going to Ptarmigan Park)

https://www.mountaineers.org/about/history/the-mountaineer-annuals/indexes-annuals-maos/the-mountaineer-1931-map
And
https://www.mountaineers.org/about/history/the-mountaineer-annuals/indexes-annuals-maos/the-mountaineer-1931
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cascadeclimber
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PostMon Oct 24, 2016 9:36 am 
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Years ago I tried to hike up Alta from Gold Creek. While there may once have been a way trail, back before the PCT was rerouted and the Gold Creek valley was (maybe) been more popular *and* many avalanches ago, there isn't now.

I've also done two variations of the route from Alta to HiBox that is shown, both in the last five years. I can say that there is decidedly NOT a trail of any sort between them, at least past the game-trails around "East Alta" being discussed here.

That map is really fun. Thanks for posting!

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If not now, when?
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Sculpin
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PostTue Oct 25, 2016 8:16 am 
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Lots of great stuff on this thread!

Other veteran hikers noticed the trail work, no surprise there.  Joey even mapped it.

Mike Collins stopped by to add info on mining routes.  Work by the Mountaineers was also implicated.  I am reluctant to believe that miners built the trail, partly because the season for use is so limited by the snow on the north side of Alta.

So I was leaning towards the Mountaineers, but Dalekz' first map from 1931 does not show anything even close to the existing route.  And the Mountaineers book, also from 1931, has a completely different description of how to gain the summit of Alta:

"At a point about opposite Mount Margaret contour along the east side of the ridge above lakes Laura and Lillian until the crest of the ridge north of Lake Lillian has been reached. From this point proceed in a northerly direction along the ridge to a point almost directly east of the main summit of Rampart Ridge, where a short rocky gully leads down to the level of the lakes east of the ridge proper. Pass by the lakes and follow the ridge to the point where it meets the south ridge of Alta. Climb along the crest of this ridge to the summit."

So the mystery remains.  Perhaps the guy with the shovel that Admin Tom met knows, but he has not stopped by to fill in the blanks.

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Had my tent blown in but I'm still on my feet
- With apologies to Lowell George
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Dalekz
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PostWed Oct 26, 2016 4:01 pm 
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Searching the Mountaineers Annuals, There is mention of the traverse and trail down "East Alta" in the THE MOUNTAINEER for 1970 and 1971

from the book -- PG 23-24

Quote:
The ridge directly west of Park Lakes runs due south and
terminates perpendicularly into the east-west ridge connecting
Alta and Hibox mountains. The traverse route passes directly
over the high point of this intersection, which for lack of other
identification is referred to here as "East Alta" mountain. The
north side of "East Alta" drops into a prominent snow filled
gully, quite gently sloping, which runs north onto heather and
scrub benches-----

The south side of "East Alta" contains an old trail, complete
with switchbacks, which runs all the way to the summit.


Descending this trail to the rockslides along the south side of the
Alta-Hibox ridge brings one to the same elevation as "Three Tarns"
small bodies of water among the rocks and snow at the southeast
base of Alta Mountain, which may be reached by contouring the
rock slides to the west. From here it is only a short distance to Lila
Lake and the connecting trail running south along Rampart Ridge.
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