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TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

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TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby jawcar » Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:30 am

Wanted to lay down a brief trip report and thank this forum for its excellent advice and for the depth of info here that allowed me to be fully researched and as prepared as possible for a wonderful and challenging trip.

If anyone cares to check my post history, I originally asked about Lamarck Col and then both me and my hiking partner started to question ourselves. We were close to requesting new permits for a Piute Canyon out-and-back, but ultimately decided to do the loop. Spoiler: we lived.

We set out from North Lake on Sunday afternoon and made the short hike in to camp at Lower Lamarck Lake. There were clouds and thunder to the south but they never made it over the mountains to us. What a beautiful place to start the hike. I'd definitely recommend Lower Lamarck for an easy day hike for picnickers and fishermen. Trout were going insane in the morning. And it's only about 1.5mi from the trailhead. Lower Lamarck:
Image

Day 2, first full day, the big day: We made it from Lower Lamarck to the Col in about 3 slow hours. I won't claim we were better acclimated than we were. We weren't sick, but we could feel the altitude and had to take it quite slow. We got lucky and picked the correct trail. I had several GPS tracks downloaded and I think the default trail route on CalTopo is the correct trail. The best advice I could give came from someone else's recent trip report: don't take the rightmost trail. For us this meant that after you cross the stream at Upper Lamarck (site of the much-discussed "Trail" sign), head uphill from the campsites for a few dozen yards and the path will fork pretty clearly. Stay left. Briefly descend and tend more to the left, and then the trail will start to tend right and back uphill, and you'll be at a hefty set of switchbacks soon after.

Some small snowfields in the bowl-below-the-bowl-below-the-col block the trail, but they're easily circumnavigated. The Col itself looks daunting but we were over it very quickly. There's some scary loose dirt above the snowfield, but after a few steps its large, stable talus and an easy ascent to the top.

Descent from the Col was not as bad as I expected (though I expected very bad). Very large talus towards the bottom was a pain. We tended right and made it to the canyon floor at a small grass beach at the head of the second lake. We continued along the lakes over a lot of large talus and finally made it to Darwin Bench. More or less sheltered campsites were plentiful and the bench was beautiful. We made camp and slept off the day's exertions so we could enjoy the beauty of the place better in the morning. Here's the bench the next morning. Totally outrageous beauty.

Image

Day 3: Hiking down off the bench to the JMT was pretty easy. You're probably more likely to miss/lose the trail ascending from the JMT to the bench than descending. We hiked the JMT north for the rest of the day and enjoyed the shade and the level terrain. McClure Meadow is a showstopper: Image

JMT was busy with through hikers, but it wasn't crowded. At the creek crossing just before Goddard Canyon we took the through-the-meadow alternate route which was a nice opportunity to follow a trail through a meadow. Then some more switchbacks that we were happy to be going down, not up, and eventually we camped at Aspen Meadow. Here's a view down Goddard Canyon. Views like this kept coming even after it felt like we'd seen all we came to see.
Image

Day 4: This was our longest day hiking back east through Piute Canyon. The western part of the trail was exposed and saw a substantial elevation gain. Water was less available than other parts of the hike, and we were lucky to have been warned at the JMT junction. Also the flies were quite bad. We lunched in Hutchinson Meadow and then continued on for several level but dry miles to Humphrey's Basin (hikers going either way, beware that there is no water between Hutchinson Meadow and the stream feeding the Golden Trout lakes in the Basin). What an eerily beautiful place to stop before descending back into the desert to the east. I can see why so many people come up here to explore the lakes. We camped about a mile short of the pass. Instead of another desolate Humphrey's Basin landscape, here's me in full repose at our campsite in the Basin.

Image

Day 5: First and only rain of the trip came overnight and in the early morning. There were even a few minutes of hail. But the sun burned it off and pushed it west and it all contributed to the drama of being up in the Basin. We crested Piute Pass easily and then descending past more lovely lakes and many day hikers to North Lake.

A truly excellent trip through a singular part of the planet. We rushed a little bit, and after experiencing it the way I did, I think I'm gonna take up fishing so I can slow down and have a more interactive experience. I was glad to see that the trails were not crowded and that people appeared to be practicing decent campcraft and LNT. Can't wait to come back. And thanks again to this forum for the feedback and info.
Last edited by jawcar on Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:28 am, edited 5 times in total.



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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:49 am

Sounds like you had a great experience, any photo's going to be added?
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby rayfound » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:30 am

Spectacular! hen you say:

hikers going either way, beware that there is no water between Hutchinson Meadow and the stream feeding the Golden Trout lakes in the Basin


Do you mean that the outlet stream of golden trout lake, and Piute creek itself is not flowing? (that seems impossible, as even last year it was a pretty sizeable flow)

Or are you simply saying that the trail does not approach convenient water for a ways there?
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 09, 2016 11:39 am

There's the photo's, really like the Darwin Bench shot. Thanks :)
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby jawcar » Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:13 pm

Right, Rayfound, Piute Creek was blasting, and the lakes are full and within view, but they'd be a bit of a slog from the trail. Here's a map of the distance between the two good streams across the trail where you can easily fill up. Over four miles. Hope that's clear. Also a good stream (where we camped) to the east of the pink line below Cony Lake.

Image
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby rayfound » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:50 pm

Hmmmph.... That seems weird to me... I camped a few years ago not far off trail along the creek, but looking now, maybe we were right off that little spur about midway (where map says "Piute Canyon").... so maybe that makes sense.

I've visited this area a few times, but I guess I have never really used the trail per se (xC from Muriel, LGT, etc...).
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby cefire » Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:53 pm

Awesome TR! Heading up that way in a few days and can't wait :thumbsup:
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby vhsvhs » Wed Aug 10, 2016 6:10 pm

Thanks for posting this great trip report! It's totally a classic Sierra loop, and I'm glad to hear you went outside your comfort zone and did Lamarck Col.
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby Robmannn » Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:02 pm

We are going the last week in September. Great TR. We've been talking about going counterclockwise. I don't know if we have the chops to start with Lamarck Col. The Darwin Bench shot is stunning and who is that leg model.
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Re: TR: Evolution Loop Via Lamarck Col 7/31-8/4

Postby Pulpit » Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:15 pm

Great TR, I'm with Maverick and Rob that shot of Darwin Bench is absolutely gorgeous.
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