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TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

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TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby Moonwalker » Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:15 pm

Introduction.
My son and I took an 8 day backpack into Ionian Basin, entering and exiting at Lamarck Col. We hiked to the top of Scylla on Day 4. From the heart of Ionian Basin we took a roundabout route up to Black Giant on Day 6, only to discover that we had been beaten to the mark by a 7 year old, who had arrived two days earlier. All bitterness aside, it was a great experience, my son's first High Sierra trek.

Day 1: North Lake to Darwin Canyon. North Lake campground had no vacancies when we arrived (5pm?), but fortunately for us, one of the paid-for sites was a no-show. No campground host. We were on the trail at 5am next morning, and at Lamarck Col at 11:30.
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Lamarck Col
Lots of mosquitoes near Upper Lamarck Lake, and during the few frantic minutes it took us to dig out our repellant we were riddled with bites, which itched for days. The descent from Lamarck Col into windy Darwin Canyon went as usual. Trails materialize and then vanish like the probability function of an event that hasn’t decided whether to happen. We pitched our tents at a charming but desolate spot between lakes in Darwin Canyon, choosing to hike down to the bench in the morning. An anxious father, I had carefully checklisted my son’s gear days before our departure, but at the end of this day I realized that I had failed to check my own stuff, and had forgotten to bring rain pants, thermal underwear, and a furry hat. Idiot! Luckily my new super light weight WM sleeping bag made thermals unnecessary. Had the MaryJane’s Farm Chili Mac for dinner.

Day 2: Darwin Canyon to Evolution Lake. Light day, to acclimate. We noticed many empty camp spots in Darwin Canyon, though none seemed likely to provide shelter from the marauding wind that blew through our camp last night. The walk down to Darwin Bench in the early morning was excellent, with clear skies, flowers, flowing streams, and chippies all around. We felt fresh and alive. Arrived at Evolution Lake sometime before noon, and swam in the outlet above the cascade. My son raked his fingernails over yesterday’s mosquito bites, ignoring warnings of lasting scars.
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Evolution Basin


Day 3: Evolution Lake to Ionian Basin over Wanda Pass. We discussed evolution and religion while walking on the JMT. Though there are some opportunities to get into trouble descending from Wanda Pass, we carefully scouted out the options, and chose the consensus path on the western side. The boy is only 13, but he was helping with the route finding, and I believe that physically he is capable of almost anything. He never complained during the whole trip, except for the time when I was telling him about the intelligence of ant colonies. For dinner I had the Mountain House Chicken with Fried Rice, very good. We stayed up with hot chocolate and watched the stars, which were in good form, with no moon.
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Ionian Basin: Charybdis, Three Sirens, Scylla


Day 4: Day Trip to Scylla. The snow on the south bank of Lake 11592 has almost completely disappeared.
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Wanda Pass and Solomons Pass
We climbed up to Lake 11837, and contoured to the pass on the southwestern side. The snow cornice is still there, but we had no problems crossing at around 11960. As we contoured around, we saw a young couple behind us detour up to the lake directly north of Scylla, and wondered how that way compared to ours. The walk counterclockwise around peak 12491 was full of wonder, with rocks that make a musical sound when you step on them, and an unexpected trail of bright red flowers leading to a secret waterfall, all encased in green. We met the couple halfway around, as they were beginning their descent to Martha Lake, and talked for a while, before we headed up toward Scylla. They convinced us to take their route on the way down.
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Mt Godddard
When we first spied Scylla it wasn’t Scylla, but an unnamed peak just to the west. The sight of the real Scylla unmanned both of us, for it looked quite gnarly at the top, and the slope up seemed sketchy. We considered climbing up to 12491 instead, but then thought we should at least give Scylla a try. As we approached we began to gain in confidence, and guess what, it’s a basic class 2, no exposure, and the heavy slate rock makes for easy scrambling. I was elated at the top.
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From Scylla: Charybdis and Sirens
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Enchanted Gorge
I dedicated my log entry atop Scylla to my friend Ray Spooner, with whom I had hoped to make this hike. A veteran of several epic Sierra trips and a well-known cycling madman and midwife, he was diagnosed with ALS 20 months ago, and succumbed to the disease the day after we completed this trip. We toasted him at the top with a piece of cheese, his favorite mountain ritual. Back down at Lake 11592 we swam, and had the Mountain House Teriyaki Chicken for dinner. This was the best of the dinners.

Day 5: Move Camp into Charybdis basin. It rained in the night and the morning weather looked uncertain, so we decided to move a few miles along, into the basin below Charybdis. Our descent to Chasm Lake under ominous skies included some lucky route finding, without which it would have taken longer. We pitched our tents just as it started to rain/hail.
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Sirens and Scylla
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Charybdis


Notes: I have spoken approvingly of the JetBoil stove, with its amazing ability to boil 16 ounces of water in the time it takes to open a freeze dried dinner packet. But the spark on my stove is unreliable, and lighting it with a regular butane is tricky because of the speed at which the fuel jets out of the nozzle. Also, the water cup gets stuck in the burner, and you have to yank it out. To keep the boiling water from splashing out during this maneuver, it is important to snap the rubber cap tightly into place on top of the cup. Finally, to pan-fry fish using the JetBoil stove you need to buy a JetBoil custom frying pan. Since we only had the usual cup and some aluminum foil, we went for steamed, which was great.

Other notes: Without amber polarized sunglasses, you only see half of what’s there. And the Thermarest chair: worth the weight! However, the Katadyn PRO water filter: Vulnerable! Our new one cracked at the “quick-connect” inlet fitting, and we don’t even know how it happened. Useless! Fortunately I had my old regular model, which has worked without fail now for 10+ years.

Day 6: Ionian Basin to Evolution Lake. This hike took 10.5 hours, and included a glimpse into a basin on the east side of Mt McDuffie, in which we saw a beautiful desolate lake, with no signs of visitation. Why would you go into it? No camping, and steep in and out. We walked along the upper edge of this basin, and headed up to Black Giant. What a great view from the top of Black Giant.
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Palisades! View from Black Giant
The descent to Black Giant Pass was more tedious than I remember. One can skid down most of the loose scree, but it is a long way down, and there are sections that call for some care. My son slipped and cut his finger while bombing down, after his mind had wandered, probably to a meditation on the various new geometries of the 2017 Santa Cruz mountain bikes. Like the fighter who steps into the ring, only to be distracted by beautiful admirers in the crowd. He feels time has stopped as he locks eyes with one and then another, each promising a secret that only she can share. And then he wakes up bloodied on the canvas, with the referee standing over him, finishing the ten-count. We joined the JMT near JM Pass, and felt, after three days, that we had just merged onto the interstate. We pitched camp at Evolution Lake. For dinner we had the Mountain House Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, very tasty, and lots of protein.
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Sunset from Evolution Lake
That night my son said he saw something interesting in the sky: a small circle of bright light that blinked on, then off, then nothing. He thought it might be a supernova! I scolded him for exaggerating. It was probably a plane, I said. And once you get a reputation for exaggeration, people begin to doubt everything you say. But about 10 minutes after he went to bed I saw the exact thing he described, in another part of the sky. The light made a perfectly round disk, like a drop in still water. On, then off, in a fraction of a second.

Day 7: Evolution Lake to Darwin Canyon. Before leaving Evolution Lake we met a charming couple who hike a significant part of the PCT each year. They told us that one year they saw floatables and heard blaring radios on the lake! Really? Apparently pack animals brought the stuff in. We hiked up to Darwin Bench, and camped between two lakes in Darwin Canyon. My son went fishing, and caught two rainbow trout in just a few minutes. We steamed them in aluminum foil, using the JetBoil. A ranger came by in the evening, headed for McClure Meadows. I was slightly over-talkative after days of relative isolation, and at one point thought I saw her backing away. I enthusiastically presented my permit, which she said wasn’t necessary, she believed me. My son watched in amusement. The wind that night was remarkable, filling and collapsing my 3-season Hubba Hubba tent like a fire billows.
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Windy Darwin Canyon


Day 8: Darwin Canyon to North Lake. It was cold in the morning, ice on the trail. We were on the trail shortly after 6, around the lakes by 7:30, and were at Lamarck Col by 9. We followed a consensus trail most of the way up, with the help of a few ducks. I didn’t see the triplet and quadruplet ducks on the way down 8 days earlier, and wondered if the ranger had set them up. In this case I support the ducks. Without them the whole mountainside becomes eroded, with wandering hikers feeling their way down. It’s already a popular route, might as well have one trail. On the way down to North Lake I decided to take a quick dip in a pool, near Lower Lamarck Lake. Moments before the reveal a family appeared, a young couple with two young girls. As word started to spread in mosquito world about a mostly naked old man at the outlet pool, the family carefully investigated every possible way across the stream, while I stood there smiling through gritted teeth, in my lime green boxers. Finally they made it across and went up the trail, and I got my final swim, which was awesome.
Last edited by Moonwalker on Thu Sep 01, 2016 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake

Postby maverick » Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:28 pm

Very nice TR and pictures Moonwalker. At what age did you introduce backpacking to your son? Great place to have a tribute to you friend, sorry for you loss. Good thing you had the windy conditions otherwise the mosquitoes would have been even more annoying. By the way when did you do this trip, you did not include any dates? :)
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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby Moonwalker » Thu Sep 01, 2016 2:49 pm

Thanks maverick, and I added dates (July 31-Aug 1). My son (Quinn) is 13, and this was his first real backpacking trip. We hiked Mt Whitney in Spring 2015, so I was pretty sure he could handle himself. Hopefully this will be his first of many trips. Goal next year is to bring my daughter (11) with us.
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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby maverick » Thu Sep 01, 2016 3:01 pm

Thanks maverick, and I added dates (July 31-Aug 1).

Thanks

My son (Quinn) is 13, and this was his first real backpacking trip. We hiked Mt Whitney in Spring 2015, so I was pretty sure he could handle himself. Hopefully this will be his first of many trips. Goal next year is to bring my daughter (11) with us.


Very cool. :thumbsup:
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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby Bluewater » Sun Sep 04, 2016 11:28 am

Many thanks for your TR and photos! I'm stuck at home and it was nice to relive some of my favorite areas through your report.
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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby C-level » Mon Sep 05, 2016 9:23 pm

Very nice, thanks for TR. I've been curious about lamarck col. I've been to the lamarck lakes area a few times recently for day but never beyond the upper lake where trail ends?? How much further from upper lake and the trail conditions if any to the col, and into darwin canyon. I'm looking to do something fast, maybe 2 nights.
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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby maverick » Tue Sep 06, 2016 7:28 am

Hi C-level,

Welcome to HST! Read his: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=14623#p108932
Also use the search feature, there are numerous TR's on Lamarck Col. :)
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Re: TR: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:26 am

Great report and photos. A very entertaining read!
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: Ionian Basin from North Lake (July 31-Aug 7, 2016)

Postby Moonwalker » Fri Sep 09, 2016 11:48 pm

C-level wrote:...I've been curious about lamarck col. I've been to the lamarck lakes area a few times recently for day but never beyond the upper lake where trail ends?? How much further from upper lake and the trail conditions if any to the col, and into darwin canyon. I'm looking to do something fast, maybe 2 nights.


The hike from upper Lamarck Lake to Lamarck Col is on a consensus trail that is easy to follow once you find it, and anyway from the lake the switchbacks going up the first steep pitch on the ridge are visible, so you can connect with the trail by heading in that direction. There is a tempting "shortcut" but I found it to be troublesome. My wife and I were descending from the col, maybe 15 years ago, and saw a couple coming up near the saddle where the shortcut meets the trail. These two were in a very good mood, possibly because of the altitude or maybe a bit of that Bay Area lifestyle, we couldn't tell. The man was weaving and listing from side to side, like a small boat that has found itself in the high seas. The captain tries to steer a straight course, but the waves and the current undermine his intentions, exaggerating every move he makes, and soon he is struggling just to keep the boat upright. Anyway they strongly urged us to take the shortcut, and, feeling a little of that positive can-do vibe they were putting out, we did. It turned out to be a steep and exposed descent on sandy ledges, leading to a field of car-sized boulders. Took hours longer than the path takes.

My boy and I went from North Lake to Darwin Canyon in one medium day, and if you had 3 days you could theoretically go in, take a day hike into beautiful Darwin Bench,
fish or whatever, and exit on the third day. However the descent from the col to the canyon is tedious, and getting around the lakes is slow (for an old person), and overall I would not recommend this particular hike for a 3 day trip.
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