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TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

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TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby B.Kruger » Thu Jul 28, 2016 4:59 pm

Hi folks. I found HST trip reports quite helpful while looking into this route, so I figured I'd post my own report in hopes it helps others.

Day 1 of 3, July 23rd: 7ish miles, North Lake trailhead to Darwin Bench

I'm based in Vegas and my work obligations don't allow for planning trips very far in advance, so I'm often waiting in the permit line hoping to secure a walk-in. I struck out at the 8am day-of entry release, but lucked out at the 11am release and secured a reservation no-show entry permit. I hustled to the trailhead and departed at roughly noon. Weather was warm but the climb to Lamarck lakes went quickly.

The turnoff for the use trail up to Lamarck col was marked by an ambiguous 'trail' sign, but someone had scratched 'col' and 'lake' indicators into it so I was confident that I was making the correct turnoff. On the other side of the immediate creek crossing I found a number of seemingly well established use trails, an I unfortunately chose incorrectly to follow the most right-trending of them. What seemed to be the correct option according to my mapped route ended up trending too far right, too close to Upper Lamarck Lake, and therefore on the incorrect side of the ridge which the main use trail ascends. By the time I realized my error I estimated that it would be just as quick to ascend over an obvious col via the scree slope leading down to Upper Lamarck Lake, and hopefully rejoin the correct use trail just over that col, rather than backtrack and re-ascend. The slope was looser than hoped and going was a bit slow, but the ascent went without incident and in relatively quick order I crested over the col I found myself atop a higher plateau, and was easily able to locate the obvious use trail leading up to Lamarck Col.

I found the main route to be blocked by two separate snow fields prior to reaching the col, but surpassed them on the right via a series of use trails that rejoined the main use trail once Lamarck Col was in obvious view. There was an obviously used route up the left side of the snowfield below the col, and its ascent and the subsequent scramble up to the crest of the col was quite straight forward. Views from the col were as amazing as expected, and I tried to eye the best line down to upper Darwin Lake. I started down on an obvious use trail which quickly degraded into a series of braided use trails and random scrambling. It's really a shame that a 'proper' trail isn't established down this slope- I was a bit shocked by how much disturbance there was from the various descent/ascent routes. The descent to the lakes took longer than hoped although I should have expected as much from others' warnings. I found the use trail that followed the North edge of the lakes to be fairly obvious in most places, with some rock scrambling in between. That trail stuck much closer to the lake shores than expected- sometimes literally at the edge of the water. If you lose the trail, scan near the bank of the lakes and you're sure to pick it up again. The mosquitoes were out in DROVES at the lakes- anywhere out of the breeze was just thick with them. I opted to continue on to the beginning of the bench to camp, hoping to get up a bit higher and into the breeze to escape them. This worked out well and I found a lovely campsite a bit higher on the ridge right as the canyon opened into the bench. I'd established camp by about 6:30 pm.

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Lower Lamarck Lake on the ascent to the col trail turn-off.

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Sign marking the turn off from the Lamarck Lakes trail to the col use trail.

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Lamarck col

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Still in shorts and a T and almost at the crest of the col- weather was quite warm.

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View down Darwin Canyon from the Col

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Alpine plants are the coolest!

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Excellent camp where the lakes give way to the bench. And excellent sunset lighting.



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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby B.Kruger » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:10 am

Day 2 of 3, July 24th: 17ish miles, from Darwin Bench down to the JMT, through Evolution Valley, to the Piute Pass trail, and up to Hutchinson Meadow

I was up early and on trail by about 7am. I found the well-worn use trail that follows Darwin creek to be a bit sparse once the two forks of Darwin Creek converged. My mapped route seemed to indicate I should stay left in this region, and would eventually surpass a lake via the left shore. So I made my way across the stream and followed it's general decent on the rock slopes until the lake was in sight. Near that area the use trail became obvious again, and it was easy going for a bit. The use trail again became a little sparse in a region of steep descent on rock slopes once past the lake, but by trending generally downward and keeping an eye out it was easy enough to pick the trail up again. From there it was easy to follow it to the JMT junction, which wasn't as obvious as I expected but still a noticeable improvement in trail quality from the use trail.

Once on the JMT I made good time descending through Colby Meadow and McClure Meadow- encouraged by the hoards of mosquitoes that emerged at these lower elevation meadows to keep moving rather than linger. I crossed Evolution Creek through the alternate meadow use trail (which is signed), where water was slow moving and not higher than my knees. I followed the JMT as it descended steeply to Goddard Canyon trail junction. After a lunch break there, I turned North at that junction and followed the river through a pretty section of trail. Just across the bridge spanning Piute Creek I found the signed junction with the Piute Pass trail. The Morey & White description of that trail mention a sustained and hot climb, so I refilled water at the river and rested in the shade a bit before setting off. I'm glad I did. It was hot to say the least, with most of the initial climb directly blasted by the afternoon sun. Some relief came when the trail shifted more Eastward and entered a forested section of canyon, and I continued on to the lower reaches of Hutchinson Meadow. Here I again found a swarm of eager mosquitoes. I continued to the Pine Creek Pass trail junction and found a camping spot toward the creek that was breezy enough to keep [most] of the mosquitoes away.

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Dawn in Darwin Canyon.

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Moon setting in the morning light.

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Moving down Darwin Bench.

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The final lake low on Darwin Bench, with peaks from the Evolution Basin peeking out behind.

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The junction of the use trail coming off Darwin Bench and the JMT. The use trail is the path that cuts up and left from the corner of the switchback- photo taken looking back at it from the JMT.

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Near McClure Meadow

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The Evolution Creek crossing in Evolution Meadow.

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The South Fork of the San Joaquin just before the Piute Creek junction.

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The steep beginnings of the Piute Pass trail.

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Camp in Hutchinson Meadow, Piute Creek is to the left.
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby B.Kruger » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:47 am

Day 3 of 3, July 25: 12ish miles, Hutchinson Meadow to Piute Pass and back to North Lake trailhead.

After another warm night I was up and on the trail by 7am again. The morning light was truly spectacular hiking up through Hutchinson Meadow, and lots of shade kept the temps nice and cool for the ascent (while also encouraging the mosquitoes to emerge). Entering Humphreys Basin allowed for great views of the glacier divide and the basin as a whole. What a cool area. The traverse across the basin was mellow and mostly level, and really let's you enjoy the scenery. The climb to Piute Pass was also quite mellow compared to other Sierra pass efforts, and I was at the crest by about 10:30am. I continued down the other side to stop at Piute Lake for an early lunch. From the lake the descent back to the trailhead was steep at times but went quickly, and I arrived back to my car by about 1pm.

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Hutchinson Meadow in the morning.

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And another. Good gracious! So gorgeous.

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First glimpses of the glacier divide to the south.

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More gorgeous trail.

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Up on Humphreys Basin, looking toward Piute Pass.

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Looking back into the Basin from the climb to Piute Pass.

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Looking east toward the trailhead, just after cresting the Piute Pass.

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A nice overlook about halfway between Piute Pass and the return to the trailhead- looking east before the last section of steep descent.
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby ERIC » Fri Jul 29, 2016 10:26 am

Nice report, beautiful photos. Thanks for coming back and posting!
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby Jason » Fri Jul 29, 2016 2:22 pm

That's a sweet looking trip. Fantastic photos and fun to read while I sit here in my cubicle on a Friday afternoon.. Thanks!
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby psykokid » Fri Jul 29, 2016 2:48 pm

Nice TR! Thanks for bridging the gap from lurker to contributor! Trip reports with intel and experiences from everyone here is what makes this site great!
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby notis » Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:25 pm

Thanks for the beautiful pictures and great details. That area is stunning. Doing the N-S Lake loop in early Sept. and can't wait to explore Evolution Valley and Darwin Bench. Any specific recs for side trips in that area?
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:35 pm

Welcome aboard and a great debut post! That's a lot of nice ground to cover on a 3 day trip.
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: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby Moonwalker » Fri Jul 29, 2016 11:17 pm

Thanks for the post! Heading that way (with son) tomorrow, and will now make sure we've got enough mosquito repellent.
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby balance » Sun Jul 31, 2016 2:38 am

Greetings B.Kruger

Thanks for the nice trip report and photos. That big, bright smile kinda' rivals the beauty of the mountains.

The lakes just over Lamarck Col are a favorite of mine. Your trip report reminds me of what happened on my Lamarck Col journey. When I got my wilderness permit at the kiosk/park service building, there was a nice, sort of bewildered elderly couple just ahead of me. The young college kid working in the office suggested going up over Lamarck Col to these people, so they got a permit and headed up that way. They were wearing brand new boots without a scuff. Their sleeping pads strapped to their brand new packs were literally in the original plastic wrap with the price tags still on. :eek:

I'm shaking my head laughing to this day. I'm sure they never made it past the long slog of suncups on the way to the Col. Maybe that college kid had something like vengeful feelings towards his grandparents or something. No doubt he's now working in Washington DC managing a large project for the federal government.

Peace.
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby deadeyes » Sun Jul 31, 2016 1:39 pm

What a fabulous trip report! Lots of info about conditions - all well articulated - and great photos to support the info...and the photos are all captioned well. I've been on this route before...but instead of resting in the shade prior to attacking the Piute Pass trail, I take the rest of the day off and hit it in the morning. But, judging from your photo at the col, I'm about 3 times your age. ;-)
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Re: TR: lamarck col-evo valley-piute 3 day trip

Postby Knute » Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:52 am

Nice TR! I'm doing the N. Lake S. Lake loop next month and I can hardly wait.
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