North Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

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cloudlesssky
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North Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by cloudlesssky » Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:02 pm

(Part 1)
Balancing my summer commitments, I decided to slip in a long overnighter before we head out on a family vacation. I managed to get the last available reservation for Lamarck Lakes and headed to North Lake above Bishop.

For those who don't know, the trail head for Lamarck Lakes and Piute Pass are located at the same spot so this creates the great opportunity for a loop hike. The loop from North Lake over Lamarck Col, down Darwin Canyon, north into Evolution Valley on the JMT/PCT, then up Piute Canyon over the pass, and back to the trail head is something like 35+/- miles. There's one pass going in and one coming out. There's much to see along the way and you could easily stretch this into a many-day adventure if you were so inclined.

I picked up my permit in Lone Pine and managed to leave the trail head at North Lake around 10am. It was a quick hike up to Lower Lamarck Lake.
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I continued on and due to a inconveniently located snow field, I missed the trail around the moraine above Upper Lamarck Lake. I backtracked and ran into a couple that was having the same experience. Eventually we all got sorted out and continued on. After a few small snow fields and many vertical feet I had the Col in sight. With the afternoon warmth I easily traversed the snowfield up to the Col with just trekking poles and trail runners.
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The view from the Col down into Darwin Canyon was beautiful. There was still some snow to traverse or avoid around the lakes as I made my way down the valley. There are at least a couple epic camping spots I saw along the way, otherwise it was very wet.
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As I made my way lower towards "the bench" the bugs began to notice me. At one spot I stopped to take a picture of the water outflow and I was swarmed. But a few sprays of deet kept them mostly at bay.
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The snow was melted out below the bench and the trail into Evolution Valley was clear and in good shape. Evolution Creek flowing through Colby Meadow was very wide.
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I started running into a few hikers along the way, but not as many as I anticipated considering I going north on the mostly southward bound JMT.
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McClure Meadow was virtually a lake. I hiked on because I wanted to make the creek crossing before I stopped for the night.
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I chose to take the safer meadow crossing. I didn't go straight across but rather stayed in the "swifter" sections (relative to the calm meadow flow) with my logic being that they'd be shallower. I was rewarded with only crotch-deep water (32" inseam) when I'd heard reports of belly-button depths.
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The normal trail crossing was pretty intimidating. I spoke to a young man who'd tried it first without a pack and scared himself by only going about 1/3 of the way. He backed up and went to the meadow crossing. I'm not sure why you'd do anything different except that the mosquitoes in meadow were a 5+ (swarms of blood sucking critters vs possible death - mmmm).
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I stopped for the night just below the crossing and was rewarded with an incredible night sky and thai curry (Got-to-Go dehydrated). I tried out a new toy: a thermocell bug repeller that uses a standard stove canister. It seemed to work decently with the bug level around a 2. When I turned in off to pack up the next day the bugs started swarming so I think it was working.

Part 2 next.
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Last edited by cloudlesssky on Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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cloudlesssky
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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by cloudlesssky » Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:32 pm

Continued - Day 2

One of my favorite parts of the JMT is the section between Evolution Valley and the junction with Piute canyon. I just love the flow of the water tumbling down Evolution creek to the San Joaquin and then the roar of the San Joaquin as you follow it along closely. I woke up early knowing I'd have a long day if I really wanted to exit, but it was an easy start knowing that this section would be greeting me.
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Eventually I came to the Piute Canyon intersection and started my hike up towards Piute Pass. The "creek" was really rolling and remained an awesome sight all the way up.
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All the way down the San Joaquin and then up Piute Canyon there were many snowmelt-fed waterfalls that crashed hundreds or even thousands on feet to the river below. They were all spectacular.
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About midday I came to Hutchison Meadow and stopped for some lunch.
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All that water cascading from snow melt above wasn't constrained to the opposite side of the canyon. During the climb up to Piute Pass there were 7-8 (I lost count) "wet" creek crossings. Most were fairly tame but one (east Pinnacle Creek? I'm not sure) induced a bit of nervousness. I watched two women carefully pick their way across it and that gave me confidence. The Pine Creek crossing was tame but involved several (3?) separate wades.
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As I climbed higher the snow really accentuated the meaning of the name Glacier Divide.
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Eventually I made the summit of Piute Pass. There were quite a few people on top looking to head down into Piute Canyon. The upper portions are very wet. The trail was about 1/2 runoff 1/2 trail so I'd imagine that dry campsites are few and far between.
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I made my way towards the trail head at North Lake stopping to enjoy the scenery and take some picture along the way.
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I was very happy with the loop although it still amazes me just how much snow and water there is this late into July. After the family vacation I'll be getting back out there in late August.
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Last edited by cloudlesssky on Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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kpeter
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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by kpeter » Sun Jul 23, 2017 3:13 pm

Gorgeous report. I also love Piute Creek, which often gets bypassed when people do Lamarck Col. How much snow was left in Piute Pass? Wondering how it compared with 2011.
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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by Jason » Sun Jul 23, 2017 4:46 pm

Sweet report! Thanks for posting it.

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cloudlesssky
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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by cloudlesssky » Sun Jul 23, 2017 5:44 pm

kpeter wrote:Gorgeous report. I also love Piute Creek, which often gets bypassed when people do Lamarck Col. How much snow was left in Piute Pass? Wondering how it compared with 2011.
Here's a picture taken in almost the same spot as yours. It appears the snow levels are near identical.
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And one looking up at the east side.
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There were small snowfields on each side of the pass near the top. Nothing difficult to cross although on the east side there was a small but deep patch blocking the trail below Loch Leven where you round a knoll. If you miss the trail divert you could end up in the in the steep drop next to the creek.
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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jul 23, 2017 6:35 pm

I think the loop is out of North Lake, not South Lake?

That was really an amazingly strenuous trip! Lots of miles. Thanks so much for the report. I am going that way tomorrow and this really boosted my confidence concerning the stream crossings. I hope to do the "back door" into upper French Canyon from Pine Creek. My trip plan is downright lazy compered to yours!

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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by ttucker9 » Sun Jul 23, 2017 6:56 pm

Great post cloudlesssky! Although I did want to point out the trailhead for your loop was North Lake, not South Lake. Were there any issues driving into the campground at the trailhead?

I especially appreciated pictures of Darwin Canyon, Evolution Creek crossing and Piute Pass area. Did you encounter any snow through Humphreys Basin? I'm doing a North to South semi-loop trip beginning August 9 and am interested in spending some time in Darwin Canyon.

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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by kpeter » Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:33 pm

Yes, it does look identical, but you were up nearly more than a week earlier than I was. This is encouraging to me and should be for all those worried about whether the melt is going fast enough. At least in this region things seem no worse than 2011.
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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by webdweeb » Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:20 pm

Thanks much for the post-my hiking parter and I are doing this exact loop (out of North Lake!) in early September, and your photos are quite an inspiration (as well as a useful reference) for our upcoming trip. We are adding a detour to Muir Trail Ranch for a resupply-not really necessary, but since it is not far from the main trail, we decided to give ourselves a break on the food load and refuel at the (approximate) halfway point of the loop. We are planning to fish along the route-any comments on the best lakes or stream locations?

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Re: South Lake - Lamarck Cole - Piute Pass Loop 7/21-22/17

Post by cloudlesssky » Sun Jul 23, 2017 9:09 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:I think the loop is out of North Lake, not South Lake?
Ha! You're right - North Lake. Must have been oxygen deprived or the skeeters got more blood than I thought! Now I've got to figure out how to edit my posts ...

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