Lamarck Col and Evolution Basin

A Glorious Solo Adventure:

DAY 1 – North Lake, Over Lamarck Col 13,000 ft, Around Darwin Lakes and into Evolution Basin.

DAY 2 – Evolution Basin, Darwin Lakes, Back Over Lamarck Col, and Camp at Lower Lamarck Lake.

Headed up over Lamarck Col in this heavily snowed September. As anyone who has done this knows, the 3700 ft slog from North Lake is not nothing.
There was much more snow than usual and it was more frozen than I expected – even at noon making the short ascent slightly dicey in trail runners. Like an idiot, I left my spikes home.
I was very happy to make it up to Lamarck col.
The steep, 1500 ft. boulder-strewn descent toward the lakes of Darwin Canyon is tedious, but the views are incredible.
About to reach the level of the lakes in Darwin Canyon. You come out between Lakes 5 and 4. Getting to the Darwin Bench in the distance, is a slog over the talus and involves boulder hopping around the 4 lakeshores. It’s a lot after an already long day.
Here, I’m about to pass the final lake. This requires going up and over granite benches as the lakeshore is edged by cliff-like rocks.
The glorious Darwin Bench with beautiful streams, flowers, meadows, lakes, and granite benches. Paradise.
I was overjoyed to arrive back in in Evolution Basin. here’s my campsite at majestic Evolution Lake.
Alpenglow in Evolution Basin. What a show! Usually, in the summer, if the weather is fair, I sleep without a tent, but that night heavy fog and damp air rolled in and I got soaked. As I was lying awake, I was pondering what to do the next day. My original plan was to sleep at Darwin Bench the next night and then head back up and over Lamarck Col and exit at North Lake on DAY 3. However, I was worried about hitting the snow on the Col too early. I had a near death experience a couple of years ago with hard snow on the high Contact Pass in Big Pine Creek, and I didn’t want a repeat. I resolved to hit Lamarck the next day around 3 pm when I knew the snow would be soft and easy to walk and slide on and then camp way down low. That would be a long day after yesterday’s long trek, but it seemed like the wisest thing to do.
On the way back to Darwin Canyon I passed amazing alpine meadows with paradise-like scenes.
Water, flowers, streams, grass, granite. All the ingredients of magic.
A lovely lake in the Darwin Bench.
This is the shore of Lake 4. Crossing the lakes after yesterday and climbing here from Evolution was tiring. I’m just about to start my 1500 ft hands-and-feet climb up to Lamarck Col. Here we go.
I don’t love Darwin Canyon because it’s pretty forbidding, narrow, and windswept. But it’s surely beautiful – especially from above.
Climbing back up to Lamarck involves hands and feet scrambling and picking your way over many boulders. It can be tiring, but it wasn’t too bad. Here I’m getting pretty close.
I was very happy to have made it back up the Col. Tiring but satisfying.
Now it was just a matter of crossing the snow field that I had passed on the way up. This time around it was soft and mushy, perfect for a safe and easy descent. There are 3 lower bowl/plateau areas under Lamarck. The snow crossings there were now trivial and the rest of the day was a breeze.
I finally arrived at Lower Lamarck and camped at a magnificent spot where I had caught a few trout the week before. On this night, I decided to use my poncho and trekking pole as a shelter – to avoid the damp. Unlike 90% of camping nights, I slept like a baby. What a spot!
In the morning I had an nice and easy stroll to meet my dad at North Lake. On the way, I spotted a few small porcini. They were nice and in good shape. The ones I found a few weeks earlier were worm eaten.
I met pops back at North Lake and we hit Sabrina for a look around. My dad, who as a child took cows to high pasture in the Italian Dolomites, loved the whole area, and though he was concerned about the altitude due to age and heart, he loved it and wanted to have a look around.
You’ve probably passed this turn off for the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in Big Pine on your way to Mammoth. It’s worth the turn off into the White Mountains. Amazing how the East Side of the Owens Valley is so different from the West.
It looks like a Western stage set, but it’s just present day Bishop, CA.