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Evo Basin Wanderings: The Hermit and Mt. Goddard

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Evo Basin Wanderings: The Hermit and Mt. Goddard

Postby MooseTracks » Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:54 am

The days do indeed get longer, and the demands on your body more intense as you try to reach new heights in this game. But somehow, if you hear the call loudly enough, you’ll end up doing whatever it takes to achieve the goals on which you set your sights.

Paul had his sights set on Mt. Goddard: an SPS emblem peak deep in the heart of the Sierra. The holiday weekend was his choice to set out into the Evolution Basin and not only bag this superb lookout, but also to meet the challenge of the Hermit as well. Paul gathered a strong group : Charles, Keith, Wendy, Kevin, and myself and on Friday the 4th, we headed up the hill from the Moose Lodge to North Lake.

DAY 1: Cruising

We set out from North Lake along the Lamarck Lakes Trail , a long day ahead of the six of us. Reaching the Lower , then Upper Lake without incident, we paused for a snack out of the breeze. The air was a bit cloudy and a little murky, as smoke filled in the OV behind us. For the most part, we lost the trail above Upper Lamarck Lake, so Paul, Charles, and myself went about the task of scrambling up the blocky and bouldered face to the ridge above. The other three managed to find the ‘use trail’ (more later) around the far side of the ridge, which entered into the valley below the Col. The first heart-pounder of the day for the three of us, who pushed up the face with full packs (for the record, mine was 40# for the weekend, not bad for four days!).

There are plenty of water sources all along the route, so no real need to overly tank up, including a tarn right at the base of the Col with clear glacial water. The snow beneath the Col is fairly trivial, soft, and plenty of boot track to use along the left side. Upon reaching the Col, I splintered off from the group to head up and look at Mt. Tom Ross while the others summitted Mt. Lamarck (I had done so this past March). I wasn’t positive that I could cover the distance from the Col to the Peak in time to not have the others wait on me, so I descended into Darwin Canyon. It’s a scramble on the way down, with intermittent boot or critter tracks that lead in every possible direction. I just found what was the most comfortable and headed for the first large lake, passing large boulders and meadows full of shooting stars .

I crash landed at the east end of the first large lake, on what Keith affectionately named “ Laura's Beach ”. With a gusty wind blowing, I lay back in the grass and listened to the waves lapping at the shore and the inlet dumping fresh water into the lake to my left. After a nice snack and watering up, I fell asleep in the breezy sunshine for at least an hour while waiting for my friends to arrive. From there we scrambled along the boulders on the south side of the lakes (there was still snow on the northern shores, but really, it’s just more scrambling no matter where you go) until we reached the Darwin Bench.

Tumbling cascades , green meadows , birdsong, and the hum of cicadas met us along the Bench as we strode down the slabs. As we rounded the western end of the high ridge, the earth fell away to the Darwin Canyon , and The Hermit stood guard on the southern wall. The forest of tall pines choked the canyon floor, shading the river flowing strong and wide below. Around 11,200ft, we started our traverse across the slabs towards the high end of the canyon, meeting the JMT/PCT just ¼ mile below Evolution Lake. On a rocky peninsula a at the west end of the lake, we pitched our tents and made camp in time to watch the fish begin to jump in the outlet and the eastern crest glow orange in the fading sunlight.

DAY 2: Fear

The Hermit wasn’t far from camp, and was a major objective for our group. Kevin had come along for lead climbing on the summit block, and we had all been intrigued by Bob Burd’s trip report from the Sierra Challenge a few years back. Even Rick Kent had a few battle scars from this peak, if I remember correctly from the report! The route led us south from camp, crossing the outlet at the top of a tremendous cascade that dove all the way to the valley floor. Up and over the bump to the south, then traversing the slabs once again to a high meadow , and then up a hanging meadow to the moraine at the base of the eastern wall of the peak. The diagonal route up at first was primarily Class 2-3, loose, but not too bad. The final 400 ft, however, was a chute of death (we’ll return to this): loose and sliding, with a hole at the bottom that seemed to tumble to the center of the earth. Why I looked at it, why I took a picture of it, is really beyond me. Sometimes climbing in the dark is a good option. Going up was tricky, but not too bad. Yet.

The intrigue for the rest of the group was the summit block . They are all climbers: you know, weekends at J-Tree, gear, ropes, etc. Me, not so much. I took one look at the block and forgot everything else around me. Like how gorgeous the view was. For once, I was sitting quietly, trying to fade into the background. Hard to do with antlers on. One by one the others climbed the block: Kevin started by climbing the 5.8 face above a Class 3-4 scramble up the back side (He also set the top rope through the notch at the top of the rock. There’s no place to put pro here.). Wendy clawed her way to the top up the 5.6 off-width crack between the boulders, smiling only when she reached the “Thank you, Jesus” hold at the top. Keith literally slid up the crack. Paul fought, falling once, and worked it out in the crack. Charles , all arms and legs, glided up the face. That left me.

I am nothing if not competitive. Duh. I’ll be damned if I was to be the only one in the group not to summit. But I looked at the crack and knew my big-ol legs wouldn’t fit, or if they did jam, I would get stuck. Permanently. Here stand the bones of Moosie, jammed in the crack of the Hermit. Not the most appetizing thought. So, it was up to the face. There was a lot of grunting and growling, and ‘what the hell am I doing?’ and ‘I should stick to Class 3 where I belong’ and ‘God gave you legs, moose, now USE THEM !!!’. With a couple giant heaves I was up, Kevin standing behind to coach, Charles holding a solid belay (I think Paul and Keith were holding his legs down). Done , done , and done .

Or so we thought. We returned to the chute of death and all hell started to break loose. I mean that literally: I followed Paul and all of a sudden nothing would hold under my feet. I spread-eagled, face down in the scree and dirt, trying to cling to the far wall but each slab felt like pulling a book off a shelf. I started crying for help, frozen, and Kevin tossed the rope across. I am starting to write flash cards on knots tonight, believe me. Charles slid down, holding the rope with Kevin’s belay, and tied me in. Wendy and I both ended up being belayed down most of the chute. But what were interesting were my emotions: abject terror? Absolutely. I was shaking from the adrenaline, trying to breathe through it. I knew it was making things worse to be that scared. But at the same time, I was angry with myself for BEING that scared. Let’s see, folks: negative self-talk compounded by fear, NOT a good combo. Paul talked me through a bit of it, but I just kept thinking, WHY am I on this stinkin’ rope?? Why don’t THEY have to be on the rope?? In retrospect, it DOESN’T MATTER that they weren’t on the rope: I was shaky and I needed help. It’s something I’m still working on. At the notch between the chutes, Wendy and I talked briefly while I shed a few tears. She said she was almost there, herself, which did make me feel better. A hug and a way to go pat, and we jammed the rest of the way down. I think all of us were happy to leave this mountain behind.

Back in camp, I jumped in for a quick swim and wash, then fished a while. I really suck at fishing . These buggers are smart: they were eating the bait right off the hooks! So no fresh trout to snack on for dinner, but a few moments alone at the lake at sunset again to regain composure, then go back to the group and laugh about a tough day.


Wendy and Kevin were headed back out Sunday, which left me and the boys to head for Mt. Goddard. I was up, but got a gruff, “Are you awake?” from Paul around 0515 or so, and we gathered gear together for our haul. We had talked about moving camp the night before after returning from the Hermit, but I know I was too wiped both emotionally and physically to pack up, move out for four little miles and redo camp again. So we hit it at 0615, moving south along the JMT as we climbed to Wanda Lake. It was a wonderful warm-up from the work of the previous two days, but my legs were feeling it for sure. We stepped into the sun around Sapphire Lake, and Paul and Charles tried to pick out the routes for Mt. Huxley to the east (it had been part of the original plan if we had moved camp).

Stepping up from the outlet crossings to Wanda Lake, we were greeted by the most perfect glass - like reflection I’ve ever seen. Earth, water, and sky had no beginning or end here, and the water matched the color of the sky perfectly. There wasn’t a ripple, no movement, even the air around us was perfectly still as we gazed to Muir Pass and along the Goddard Divide to our objective to the southwest. We rested on the rocks by the lake, eating quietly, as if the noise of our voices would somehow disturb the perfect silence around us.

We were headed for Starr’s Route, up the ridge that juts north into Goddard Canyon from just east of the peak. After climbing over a small bump above Wanda Lake, we gazed across the valley containing the headwaters of Goddard Creek, and the upper lakes, and then Mt. McGee came into view. We descended into the canyon, paused for a quick drink , then crossed the snow around to the west side of the ridge, up soft-solid snow perfect for kick stepping and then more loose scree before the edge of the terminal moraine. There is a Class 2 route up this ridge. We just didn’t find it. Once again, we were in Class 3 rock , nothing too scary, but when I have to use hand-jams in cracks I get a bit nervous. But the rock here was much more solid, with good holds for hands and feet, and some fun climbing, to be sure. The scent of Polemonium hung sweetly in the air, and actually kept me more calm. From the ridge it’s a long trudge of side hilling to the summit up some broken talus, and then a tremendous view from deep in the Sierra to all points on the compass-round. Smoke and haze placed a damper on the view to the distant points: no Whitney, no Yosemite, no Central Valley. But we wouldn’t stay long: the mossies had followed us to the top, and a large cloud darkened and threatened to the south and above our heads. We scuttled from the summit back to the ridge, outrunning all but a few drops of rain and no sound of thunder anywhere.

We did find a Class 2 descent chute higher up the ridge than where we had joined it, with a snow-step down to the scree plateau (thanks, Charles, for plunge-stepping ahead, since he had boots on). And from there it was just the same ol’ slog back to Wanda Lake and the trail. I admit to sprinting ahead a bit here, wanting to listen to the sound of my steps, the water rushing by on my right, and to watch the light dance in and out of the clouds against the steep walls of the peaks in all directions. Back in camp, we finished the whiskey I had brought, and retired early, the four of us wanting to get some rest before the long haul out tomorrow.

DAY 4: Flight

I was groggy waking up Monday morning, because I had taken two Tylenol PM the night before. I rolled over in bed only to groan when every muscle in my body ached in protest to any movement. But I started packing up camp and by 0830 we were ready to head out. My legs were already jello when I hauled the pack onto my back and we climbed the slabs leading away from Evolution Lake and back to the Darwin Bench. I’ll admit: I was cranky, and I was sorry for snapping a few times at the guys. But Charles talked about climbing Mt. Goethe on the way out, and I took one look at that pile of broken talus and knew I needed to save my strength for the climb to the Col.

The same rivers tumbled and crashed along near us as we climbed the Darwin Bench and then the Canyon, resting at one of the outlets between the lakes and again at Laura's Beach before starting the slog up to the Col. It’s hard for me to decide which I dislike more with a full pack: sand or boulders. Fortunately, the Lamarck Col has a large percentage of both to assist you with that decision. Each of us found our own way: Paul staying in the sand and taking small steps; Keith and Charles alternating between the media; and I just made as much of a beeline for the Col as possible, and I only really stopped once. Then I remembered that I was climbing to almost 13K with a full pack. OK, breathing rate justified. On top, I whooped at the view all the way to Bishop. We were almost home.

Charles had one more go at me bagging one more peak, looking over once again at Mt. Tom Ross. But my quads, ginormous as they are, were toasty, and I knew descending would take a lot of strength. So I bagged out, promising to return as a day hike to finish the job. I think we were all tired and ready to be home for a shower and beer and food, not necessarily in that order. Following the use trail down from the Col, it leads to the far end of the ridge and back to the outlet between Upper and Lower Lamarck Lakes. How we missed it on the way up is beyond me: the thing looks like the 405 and obviously someone, at some point, has performed work to create it. Good to know for next time! By 3:30 pm we were back at the TOF and headed down the hill, clouds gathering once more over the Crest behind us as we bid the High Country adieu.

Thanks to all for a tremendous weekend.

Pics are here:
Day One: Lamarck Col
Day Two: The Hermit
Day Three: Mt. Goddard
Day Four: Home

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb hard, be safe.

"Why do I climb? Quite simply because the mountains and I had to meet." - Colette Richard


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Re: Evo Basin Wanderings: The Hermit and Mt. Goddard

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 09, 2008 8:24 am

Congrats on another classic set of climbs and and thanks again for an enormously entertaining account. I don't climb anymore but you allow me to climb vicariously. The Hermit account made the hair stand up on the back of my head. Perhaps I've heard too much along those lines about the Hermit, which is why I never attempted it and never will.
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: Evo Basin Wanderings: The Hermit and Mt. Goddard

Postby cgundersen » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:00 am

Hi Moosetracks,
That was a great blow by blow account and I'm envious of the air quality and decent weather you guys experienced. My wife & I spent 11 days encircling the Glacier Divide, dropping into McGee canyon and traipsing through Ionian basin on a trip that started the day after you came out. We hit lots of smoke and even more rain/lightning, etc. The rain certainly cleared the skies, but after 5 days of downpours that went for nearly 24 hrs at one stretch, it really constrained what we were able to do. I'm very slow at getting photos posted, but I'll get a short report up at some point. The one thing I was glad to see was the shot of the final ascent of the monolithic rectangle at the top of the Hermit. That block of granite was prominently visible from the time we swung around the western brow of the Glacier divide and I kept looking to see if anyone was clambering up that final hop (no sign whilst we were there). If we'd been a week earlier, we'd have seen you guys. Super job!

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