TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

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TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby snowblind » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:15 pm

Here is a TR from a recent hike from Sabrina over (Haeckel Col) to North Lake (over Lamarck Col):

In standard fashion, my brother-in-law and I hit the Lake Sabrina trail at about 9:30pm. It was a cool (low 50s), moonless night (good fortune for the trip's stargazing). We made it to Blue Lake by 11:30pm, found a great site overlooking the lake where we fell asleep gazing at the stars.

On our second day, we left camp at about 9:30am after feasting on my partner's new steel cut oatmeal goodness and headed to Midnight Lake and then over Haeckel Col. After the recent reports of snow I read, we were surprised that we only had to climb one real section of snow as we made our way from Midnight Lake to the pass.
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Midnight Lake

Using the intel from Bluewater (thank you) about Haeckel Col, we hiked quickly to Lake 12,345 and could easily spot the correct pass. We made our way around the north side of the lake and made it to the col without taking more than 10 steps on snow. As you can see, the view from the top was outstanding.
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Lake 12,345

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Haeckel Col (East Side)

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Top of Haeckel (looking west)


The east side of the pass did not require any class III moves and was more straightforward than I was was prepared for. However, there was a very short class III section as we made our way down the west side. We found the route down to Lake 11,808 more hazardous than the east side due to the loose rocks/scree.

I could tell that my partner was not feeling well as he was slowing down a bit (although he did not have signs of altitude sickness). When we got down to the lake (still a bit frozen), it was obvious my bro was running out of gas and we were not going to make our destination for the day (McGee Lakes) so we started looking for a nice campsite, which we found close to a stream from Lake 11,398. It was very cold that night and as my partner was not feeling too great, we pulled out the tent.

On our third day, we awoke to a clear, blue sky and both of us feeling great. This area above the JMT and at the base of Mt Huxley was just stunning although I would not be surprised if it does not see many people.

We dropped down to Sapphire Lake and water was so inviting I went for a swim.
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Sapphire Lake (from McGee Pass)


After crossing the JMT, we headed up McGee Pass and down to the lakes, both sides of the pass were straightforward. I was not prepared for how idyllic McGee Lakes were. We found an amazing site on the north side of the lake complete with a sandy beach (heaven on earth). We had the entire lake to ourselves. We both went for a swim and took a nap on the grassy shore.
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View from McGee Camp


At this point, we made the easy decision to make this home for 2 nights. I am a huge fan of the layover day! This decision combined with us stopping short the prior day caused us to modify our plans home from Echo Col to Lamarck Col. While this would put us 3 miles from our car, I was confident that we could easily make it over the pass by early afternoon.

For our fourth day (layover), we chose to hike over the pass to Davis Lakes and then possibly to Wanda Pass. Davis Lakes were fairly barren in comparison to McGee, but still beautiful.
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Davis Lakes


We wanted to peak down into the Ionian basin, but opted to save our time for more lounging at McGee later. Wanda Pass had some good snow coverage and Wanda Lake still needed some thawing.
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Wanda Lakes & Wanda Pass


On our fifth day, we left McGee Lakes for Darwin Canyon. The water rushing down Evolution Basin was beautiful and we had it to ourselves only seeing 1 other hiker on the way. We chose to stay the night at the lowest of the Darwin Lakes and found a relativity protected site which allowed us to skip the tent even though it was a bit windy.

For our last day, we hiked up Darwin Canyon and over Lamarck Col. There was little snow on the west side of the col and could avoid it if we wanted. I chose to hike up the snow while my partner took the talus route. After some obligatory photos at the top, we made our way down the east side. While the snow was getting a little soft by 11am, we avoided postholing.
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Lamarck Col (west side)

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Lamarck Col (east side)


There were 4-5 snowfields that we could not avoid after coming down from the col that were softer causing us some minor postholing. After making it to Upper Lamarck, we made it back to North Lake in no time. Fortunately, we caught a ride back to Sabrina from some fisherman almost immediately.

It was a great trip and the only people we saw on the trip (outside of a couple heading up to Lamarck Lakes) were glued to the JMT.
Last edited by snowblind on Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-22

Postby snowblind » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:20 pm

Here are a few more photos:
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Mount Haeckel from East side of the Col

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Lake 11,808 (west side of Haeckel Col)

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Looking up Darwin Canyon

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Twilight down Darwin Canyon

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Looking down Darwin Canyon
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TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby Bluewater » Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:52 am

Wow! Thanks for posting your photos and tr snowblind. The one of Fiske from lake 11,808 and the stars over Darwin Cyn (among others) really capture some amazing sights. That rarely visited cirque to the east of Sapphire Lake is a gem and it's probably missed by most passing by on the JMT. I haven't been to McGee Lakes yet and will have to check it out next time!


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Re: TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby texan » Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:47 am

Those are some awesome pics. Thanks for sharing the TR.

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Re: TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:41 am

Being well off trail at least 2+ days from trails, McGee Lakes are one of the best idyllic Sierra lake basins. Have base camped there 3 days. Much more interesting than nearby Evolution Valley that receives far more praise but which I find just another high Sierra glacial U-carved valley down in a hole. Aesthetically, surrounding peaks are not outstanding but the lower basin lake areas with timberline trees and meadows is what makes that place special. Best time to visit for prime greenery and wildflowers after average winters is about end of July. Nice golden trout waters too though of average sizes as does see some horse traffic unlike the relatively unaesthetic awkwardly rocky barren Davis just south.
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Re: TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby snowblind » Thu Jun 26, 2014 10:53 am

SSSdave - You are right on all accounts....I recall you posting your thoughts on McGee and am with you. And the number of golden trout I saw was staggering. There were so many in the feeder streams flipping away just ~30' up from the lake that we could have probably grabbed one with our hands...such a great sight.
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Re: TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:38 pm

Great TR, beautiful pictures, and very timely since a member was just inquiring
about conditions on Haeckel Col, and others will be asking about Lamarck Col too.

SSSDave wrote: Much more interesting than nearby Evolution Valley
that receives far more praise but which I find just another high Sierra glacial U-carved
valley down in a hole.


Agree, but it is on the JMT, so it receives more accolades, and has more sentimental
value to a lot of backpackers then other places that are off trail, and do not get nearly
the same level of exposure/traffic (which is a good thing).
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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TR: Sabrina/Haeckel Col to North Lake/Lamarck Col 6/17-6/22

Postby themappist » Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:32 pm

Stunning images, especially the second set.
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