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North Lake / South Lake / Lamarck Col - Itinerary Help!

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North Lake / South Lake / Lamarck Col - Itinerary Help!

Postby mr.kurt » Tue Aug 28, 2007 4:00 pm

Hey all. I know this topic has been discussed somewhat in the past, but hopefully you can kindly help with some more specifics...

A buddy of mine is coming down from Seattle, and I think Northern Kings Canyon would be a great way to show off our beautiful Sierra! We've got four days total. What do you think of North Lake / South Lake via Lamarck Col?

Coming from the Bay Area, we won't be able to get on the trail until, say, noon on Day 1. Knowing that most people say traveling over the Lamarck Col is best done East to West, I was planning on starting out of North Lake. Given our noon start, how far could we realistically get on that first day? (We're both strong, fit, and experienced. And sure, coming from sea level won't be fun, but we'll get by!) Keeping in mind the shorter days of late September, can we get over the Col and down to the Darwin Bench on that first day? I'd love to see those killer views!

Or are we better off going over Bishop Pass and into Dusy Basin on that first day, and just dealing with the route-finding over Lamarck Col going West to East?

With Night 1 and Night 3 spent in the Darwin Bench and Dusy Basin, would Wanda Lake be a good spot for Night 2?

As for getting from North Lake to South Lake, or vice versa, just how long should we set aside for the cross-country travel in between? I assume doing that on the front-end of the trip is the better choice, just to get it out of the way?

I really do want to stick to this trip, but if the time and logistics see out of whack, do let me know!

Thank you so much for help! ~Kurt



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Postby Ranboze » Tue Aug 28, 2007 7:46 pm

The only thing I can contribute is this album which has some identifying photos for each direction going over Lamarck Col. The last pix also has some lat/long coordinates to aim for for that may be helpful if going from west to east. I can send you the complete track as a National Geographic .tpo file if you have compatible software. PM me if interested.

I am a slow hiker and it took me just under 5 hours to reach the Col with just a day pack. It took about an hour to get down to lake #3.
Walking outside is where I find what's inside.
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Postby quentinc » Tue Aug 28, 2007 8:54 pm

Kurt, getting over Lamarck Col on day 1 with a noon start time is very ambitious. I've done it starting around 10 am, and it meant arriving around sundown. But then again, I once met a backpacker who insisted he completed North Lake to South Lake in a day and a half! (He also claimed to have done the entire Muir Trail in about 5-1/2 days). But I think 4 days for the entire trip is realistic for a strong hiker. I'm no great shakes, and I can do it in 4 days. (I actually tack on a day or two, and do a side trip into the Ionian Basin, etc.)

The route finding over the Col from the west really isn't that bad. I'll admit I once misjudged it by trying to cross the divide too soon (too far east), but all that meant was some relatively easy traversing.

Personally, I like Wanda Lake as a campsite, but some may find it kind of bleak. Also, you'll be camping very close to the trail, unless you talus walk around the west side. Sapphire Lake looks nice instead. Another spot around there I've camped is Helen Lake -- just over Muir Pass. There's a killer campsite above the lake, from a use path just above the trail, although it's a bit hard for me to describe how to get to it.

As for cross-country travel, there really isn't any. Even though no trail shows on the map, there's an obvious use trail the entire way up to the Col, through Darwin Canyon, and down to the JMT.
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Postby lost in texas » Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:46 pm

kurt,
my 60yr old father and I did this loop in four days in late June, and it was a great itinerary to say the least. I'll give you a day by day recap to allow you to gauge the trip a bit better:

Day1: We started in the early afternoon (1-2pm as I remember) and hiked for about 2-3 hours up to Upper Lamarck Lake. I believe we could have done this in less than 2 hours, but I forgot the zippo and had to jog back down the first 1 mile to retrieve it from the car. We camped on the southeast sde of the lake just on the other side of a small rise left of the trail. It was in a great wind portected locale between some benches which allowed for a relatively easy night of rest.

Day2: After some pre-breakfast scouting for the trail, we shoved off around 7:30, and slogged it over Lamarck Col in about 3 hours. I would presume you'll make it faster than us being in top condition and likely not having to deal with the patches of snow that we crossed. As eveyone else states, the trail is easy to follow all the way to the col.

We headed down the trailess, but managable decent from the col. We mistakenly went too far to the left at bottom of the decent, and ended up near the leftmost Darwin lake amongst some massive boulders. I suggest verring right about 2/3 of the way down the decent to angle to the second lake. Its slow going through the canyon as you must navigate a boulderfield or two per lake, until you reach the Darwin Bench after the fifth lake. From there you pick up a use trail which takes you all the way to the JMT. We chose to camp on the last bench before meeting the JMT, as my father was gassed. I believe our entire day was about 6 miles in 8 hours of hiking, so budget accordingly for this stretch. We were treated to an expansive view of the Evolution Valley and the initial part of the Evolution Basin while sleeping to the sound of the drainage creek going over the falls.


Day3: We felt like we were on a freeway once traveling on the JMT after the slow go thru Darwin Cyn. This was by far the best part of the trip as we traveled thru Evolution Basin, which is completely above treeline. The miles will fly by as each lake is about a mile long with gentle climbs in between. I must concur with the other poster about Wanda Lake, as its clarity is Carribean like, and the trail hugs the shoreline for almost the length of the lake. We reached Muir Pass by noon time with about 8 miles already in the books. The hut at the top is an structural marvel, especially for an engineering geek such as myself. Its a great place to meet thru hikers and listening to them share their experiences. When we were passing thru most PCT thru hikers were making their way thru the area (I'd say 75% of the people we met were coming from the Mexican border). By Sept, you'll cross paths with a few JMT thru hikers, but likely less crowds in general than early summer.

From Muir Pass, it is a 7 mile downhill descent to LeConte Canyon. You are treated to some beautiful lakes for the first 3 miles of the descent until you reach treeline. From there it feels a classic western Sierra hike down to the canyon floor. We camped at Little Pete Meadow next to the Kings River ending a 15 mile day, which was actually much easier than the 6 miles over the col and thru Darwin Cyn. I believe we did this in 7-8hrs. You will feel acclimated to the elevation and the trail by the time you reach LeConte.

LeConte Canyon reminds me of an unpopulated Yosemite Valley as the sun had already set over the mountains by 5:30. Granite walls surround you on two sides with the Kings River segmenting the canyon. We were visited by deer all evening and the following morning. They seemed awfully domestic for being 15 miles from the nearest road. LeConte was my favorite campsite of the trip.

Day 4: We rose early knowing we had a significant amount of climbing ahead of us. I used the motivation of a cold beer and a T-bone steak to put one foot in front of the other. The first 1k' of climbing was gentle switchbacks, and a nice way to get the legs warm. After passing thru a hallow and an area hit by a massive alvalanche, you hit the meat of the climb up to Dusy Basin. Once you reach the first lake in Dusy Basin the gradient eases significantly and the view opens up dramatically. You get your first glance of the Palisades and surrounding peaks which give off a sharp and daunting presence. The clmb over Bishop Pass is mellow and a nice way to end the 6 miles of climbing. From there you long for the beer, which propels you down 7 miles of descent. The first mile is over ragged, nasty volcanic rock down to Bishop Lake. The remainder of the hike is gentle and easy on the knees. We arrived at South Lake at about 3pm, all in all about an 8 hr day.

The Budweisers were cold and for some reason tastier than usual at the Bishop Creek Lodge, and the 16oz T-bone steak was one of the best I've ever had. Don't bother going down to Bishop as this place is a can't miss!

I wish I had pictures to share but I had a snafu with my camera shortly after leaving North Lake. I guess I'll just have to go back and do it again someday. I think the route is an ideal 4 day Sierra loop, which you'd be hard pressed to find a superior. Good luck!

lit
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Postby BSquared » Thu Aug 30, 2007 9:32 am

I dunno... I spent a really miserable afternoon wandering around above Darwin Canyon looking for Lamarck Col many years ago. It may be that there's an obvious use trail when you come across the col and head west toward Darwin Canyon, but going the other way I, at least, found it to be a very confusing maze of ducks, trail fragments, and passes to nowhere. If I were doing it again from west to east, I'd *definitely* take a GPS with a waypoint for the col.
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Postby mr.kurt » Tue Sep 04, 2007 1:10 pm

Thank you so much for all the great help, everyone! The times and realities of crossing the col are good to hear.

Ranboze, your pictures are great - I'm even more excited after seeing them!

Quentinc, I've camped at Sapphire before and loved it; I just want to mix it up a bit with camping at Wanda or Helen this time around. I may try to find that killer site you mention.

L.I.T., I really appreciate your trip report; so descriptive, I can't wait! I'm looking forward to that beer and steak already!

BSquared, your words especially keep us grounded. Point taken on the GPS.

In case we find ourselves with more time on that first day, are there any spots to camp between Upper Lamarck Lake and Lamarck Col?

I may not have been completely clear in that last question of my post... if I leave my car at South Lake, but start the loop at North Lake, how much time should I allow for actually getting to the North Lake trailhead from South Lake? We'll definitely try to hitch, but if need be, can we just hike cross-country? Any words of wisdom on this? Hopefully there won't be too much drama involved in actually starting our trip!

So with all this in mind, I need to sit down with my map and finalize everything. I have my heart set on camping at either Wanda or Helen, and also Dusy Basin. Depending on how times and distances play out, I'll decide our direction.

Thanks again for all the good help!
Kurt
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Postby frediver » Tue Sep 04, 2007 2:16 pm

Leaving your car at your exit point,-----Don't-----. Take two cars if possible or leave your car at your start point.
I learned my lesson this past summer.
Yes you can hitch but you will be real surprised who will just pass you by and who will pick you up. If you decide to hitch then add a complete day to your trip. It will not take you that long but your hitch day can easily be all day. Also on the hitch day you better be packing lots of water because you will not find much shelter on the road, 1 gal ea. You can resupply from the creek as needed but it will take you away from the road.
IMO it is better to leave your car at the starting point then if you have a change of plans you can better accommodate them.
Their is a shuttle service but it is not cheap.
Cross country is not really an option for North Lake - South Lake.
My hitch experience was about 4-6 hours in the heat of the day and the heat starts early.
One person picked me up then dropped me 1/2 way at a campground then continued on, I was stuck and had to walk about 3 mi. to the hiway, no one else would give me a ride, at least 10+ car's past me on the road. I was clean, not that scary and riding in the truck bed.
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Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 04, 2007 2:54 pm

There are very obvious camp sites just a bit above Upper Lamarck Lake -- just up the rocky "cross-country" section that rises from the stream.

You can also camp at the lake just below the Col. And there's a flat area one shelf down from that lake too, which is along the stream.

As for closing the North - South loop, I've never had any problem hitching from the South Lake parking lot -- never took longer than an hour. An even faster way to get a ride is to stencil a sign saying "$20 For A Ride to North Lake" and sticking it on your backpack. A lot cheaper than the shuttle service. But I definitely would not try hitching along the road.
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