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Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

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Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby EagleB » Thu Jul 03, 2014 11:56 pm

Hi all! I am a new poster and I was hoping to get some advice for my upcoming trip next week. I have been reading through trip reports, but I still have a couple questions. This is my first time backpacking in northern kings canyon, so I am really excited (and also overwhelmed with trying to see as much as possible in a 6 night trip).

Level of experience: 2-3 (I have done several on trail backpacking trips. My off trail experience is limited mostly to day hikes)
Terrain: class 2-3 is fine. Nothing technical. As far as snow, I am comfortable with hiking but I don't have technical experience
Interests: big mountain scenery, lakes, fishing

I will be traveling with a couple of people who also have similar experience. We are all in decent shape and used to hiking in altitude.

We will be hiking into evolution basin via Lamarck Col, and we were thinking about setting up base camp for a couple days at McGee lakes. First, considering my off trail experience, would Lamarck Col be a feasible option? From other reports I have read, it seems to be relatively easy to navigate, albeit physically challenging. I was also wondering if you guys can recommend day hikes from McGee lakes or Evolution basin area. Overall, I would really like to climb a couple peaks that do not require any ropes/climbing gear. Since I will be fishing on this trip too, I am open to a lot of possibilities.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and I will post a TR when I get back. Thanks!



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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 04, 2014 3:33 pm

Hi EagleB,

Welcome to HST!
You'll be fine to do Lamarck Col.

For peaks, The Hermit, Emerald Peak, and a little further south on the JMT
the Black Giant would all be class 2 climbs. Time all of your climbs of peaks
and/or passes to get optimum snow conditions (if your route has any), not
early in the morning (icy), or late in the afternoon (postholing).

The views from Darwin Bench is gorgeous and well worth staying a night.

Pass 11720 (class 2) can be used from McGee Lakes to visit the Davis Lake area and
beyond. Hesitant in recommending any other peaks in the area because they are
class 3 or further away from your basecamp.

Colby and Evolution Meadows are some folks favorites in that region, as is Sapphire
Lake.

On all of the crosscountry passes/climbs please stay within your groups comfort/
experience levels, and don't push beyond your limits, stay safe, and have fun time.

Here is a recent TR to that vicinity that will give you an idea of the conditions
that you will encounter: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=11254&start=0&hilit=lamarck+col
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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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jul 04, 2014 8:37 pm

A few peak bagging notes: The Hermit has a class 5.2 summit block, so it wouldn't be recommended. Spencer and Fiske are nice class 1 and 2 peaks (respectively) that sit in the middle of Evolution country. Fiske is a much higher peak and will command a good view as it is west of the crest and quite high. Mt Goddard itself, one of the most prominent visual landmarks in the Sierra (and this means a super 360 view) is class 2 to easiest class 3 by either the Starr route (best) or the longer and annoying route from Wanda Pass. Lamarck Peak itself just above Lamarck Col is an easy class 1 or 2 climb.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby oldranger » Fri Jul 04, 2014 8:58 pm

Tiny goldens in McGee lakes. If fishing is important they would not be my choice for a base.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby EagleB » Fri Jul 04, 2014 11:43 pm

Thanks you guys for all the help. I will definitely read up on the peaks you all mentioned and see what works best for me. Of course any peak bagging will be weather contingent, and the last time I checked the forecast it looks like possible thunderstorms throughout the week. Black Giant definitely looks doable if I decide to make a long day hike out of it. For the Hermit, is there any other way to reach the peak other than the 5.2 route?

As far as fishing goes, I rarely tend to stay in one place long unless the fishing is good. It isn't my top priority on this trip, so I don't mind catching a few minnows :)
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:24 am

EagleB wrote:For the Hermit, is there any other way to reach the peak other than the 5.2 route?

No because the 5.2 refers to the easiest route up the summit block. It is fairly easy (class 2 for easiest route) to reach the summit block, but the latter cannot be surmounted any route easier than 5.2.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jul 09, 2014 1:58 pm

From North Lake to Lamarck Col at 12.8k is 3700 feet of vertical uphill thus rather strenuous. For those with heavier packs or not in top condition better to go over the col in two steps. The 12,000 point on the route is a nice stopping point with water and fine late afternoon views. The route beyond Upper Lamarck Lake requires knowing where the unmarked on topo trail routes, else one can easily get into class 3. Likewise from the east cresting Lamarck Col requires one doing their homework and topo work, else one may join some that went over the lower saddle dropping class 3 down steep large talus to Schober Lakes. Pass Darwin Canyon lake #4 on the south in order to avoid unpleasant large talus where most people labor through. The McGee basin is better accessed via Evolution than the pass to the east. The basin is large enough with numbers of lakes that 2 or 3 days of base camping would hardly be enough just to see all the waters much less some of the surrounding peaks.
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby BigTime » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:23 pm

SSSdave wrote:The McGee basin is better accessed via Evolution than the pass to the east.


Hi SSSdave,

Is this because the walk through McGee Canyon is nice or just because it's easier? I'll be in the area in a couple weeks and was planning on accessing McGee basin via the pass, but now you have me reconsidering.
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:16 pm

BigTime wrote:
SSSdave wrote:The McGee basin is better accessed via Evolution than the pass to the east.

Hi SSSdave,
Is this because the walk through McGee Canyon is nice or just because it's easier?

I haven't gone into the McGees from McGee Canyon but I have gone in from the southern of the two passes to the east: ie NOT the one directly W of Sapphire L., but the one directly west of the unnamed lake below Wanda. This pass is easy class 2. The mistake going I made was to descend the granite spur that heads down to the eastern shore of the southernmost lake. Whereas this looked fine on topo (and I think I did this to avoid some talus hopping), there is a big step at the bottom that was worse than class 3 and I wasn't willing to downclimb it, so I had to back up about 200 feet then cross over (westward) into the more obvious class 2 trough/swale that descends from the pass to the lakes. On the way back up we simply stayed in the swale. In other words if you just stay in the lowest areas doing this, you'll be fine. Again, we didn't check out the northern (and lower) of the two passes heading westward into the McGees. This pass is quite a bit steeper on its east side. We did the southern pass because we did it on a day we had moved our pack from Martha to the unnamed lake N (and downstream of) Wanda. We dropped the full pack, donned our rucksacks and headed over the nearest gap to the McGees, so that happened to be the southern gap. (Edit: for a description of the northern gap, see the post below).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby snowblind » Thu Jul 10, 2014 8:26 pm

McGee Pass is pretty straightforward, but it may depend on your experience. It is definitely more straightforward and less strenuous than Lamarck Col. The easiest route looks to be from the southern end of Sapphire Lake and make your way northwest (even a little south of that - see the photo). The west side is very gentle.

I believe this is a good "intro" cross-country pass.

DSC02217-McGee Pass.jpg
McGee Pass
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby LMBSGV » Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:08 pm

If you want to go McGee Lakes from Evolution Valley, there's a trail that begins on the other side of Evolution Creek at Colby Meadow. It's a lovely hike around the back of the Hermit to the first McGee Lakes. From there, you can choose where you want go next.
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Re: Advice for Evolution basin and McGee Lakes

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jul 10, 2014 11:10 pm

BigTime wrote:
SSSdave wrote:The McGee basin is better accessed via Evolution than the pass to the east.


Hi SSSdave,

Is this because the walk through McGee Canyon is nice or just because it's easier? I'll be in the area in a couple weeks and was planning on accessing McGee basin via the pass, but now you have me reconsidering.


From Darwin Bench dropping down to the east end of Evolution Valley via the trail and then taking the use trail (not on the topo) is easy class 1 trail all the way and modestly less total vertical uphill. The cross country route from Saphire to the saddle has talus, scree, and steep sections. If one stays on the best route that zig zags up a ramp it would only be modest class 2, but one can see that many have used the typical stupid strategy of going straight up without regard to looking at the topo carefully that results in having to negotiate loose scree in the steeper sections. I see that same thing on many cross country passes.

Obviously many backpackers have poor route finding skills. Sometimes I meet groups who ask questions about going places. Am dismayed when I ask them to take out their map and then they have to go into deep into their pack to get it obviously because they haven't been using it. Then many hardly know what they are looking at as I try to explain whatever especially those that end up looking at the map with writing upsidedown like they were using a compass!
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