The big day! I’ve been wanting to get over Lamarck Col for a long time. Typically used as a quick approach into the Evolution area of the Sierra, it’s not as trivial as going over an easy pass like Piute or Bishop but it does save quite a lot of mileage. There is an easy trail to follow that takes you right below the Col, but the last few hundred feet (and entire west slope) require some additional skills.
After the previous night’s rain, we woke to clear skies and dried out during breakfast. We followed the clear trail up past 11,000 feet, then 12,000 feet. I’m glad this was the last trip of the season – luckily my previous trips had me relatively acclimated, but I still found myself dragging once I hit my 11,000 ft wall. I’m sure it would have been much worse if it was my first trip of the season.
As we crested the trail into the last bowl, the Col appeared in front of us. There was much less snow than I expected, and it looked like our approach would pretty much avoid the white stuff. We were able to stick to easy gravel-covered cross country until a couple of hundred feet below the pass, then we were faced with some boulder hopping. Between the boulders, ice from the receding glacier snow made things a bit treacherous. We climbed through the boulders to the edge of the snow field, then had a short and safe snow crossing. On the other side of the snow, it was a steep gravelly chute – I would almost prefer soft snow. Just below the pass a trail reappeared and we were greeted at the Col by an imposing view into the Darwin Range and Canyon on the other side.
On the West side of the Col, things started off nice with an easy to follow trail. But after a couple of switchbacks it deteriorated and we were faced with picking our own way down the 1000 foot wall into Darwin Canyon. I learned that sticking to the gravel was the safest bet, but I still found myself hopping over quite a few boulders. It took us a long time to get down to the lakes in the Canyon, but it was an incredible experience with views I kept stopping to enjoy.
Once we made it down to the lakes we stopped to refill our water and take a break. Although we’d only gone about four miles, we were already pretty tired. We only had a mile and a half or so to go for the day, but it was a mile and a half of more boulder hopping. After a rest and some snacks we started picking our way along the shores of the Darwin Lakes. It was beautiful but we didn’t take a lot of time to stop and enjoy it since we noticed the storm clouds beginning to form again.
After passing through the bouldery lakeshores of Darwin Canyon, we found ourselves on Darwin Bench, one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in the Sierra. It started to sprinkle but the light rain didn’t detract from the scenery. We reached an unnamed lake on the bench and found a campsite with a perfect sunset and sunrise view. It felt so good to drop the pack – that was the longest six miles I’d hiked!
We still had plenty of daylight left so I grabbed my fishing pole. Once again, I had a bite on my first cast. This lake had the best fishing – almost every cast I pulled out a golden trout. The fish were beautiful! They were all pretty tiny but a couple were worth keeping, leading to a golden trout appetizer before dinner. I wandered the shores taking in the views and enjoying the solitude – we had the place to ourselves – until just before sunset. Eventually we set up camp and settled in for a wonderful sunset from our perfectly positioned kitchen perch.