Summer in the Sierra
(Evolution Valley Trek)

4-9 Aug 2005 - by Steve Curry

After the Mt.Hood trip, in May 2005, Kathy,Tim and Lorelei, Dean and Jane, Lynne and Susan got together and planned a trek for the summer; Evolution Valley, Lemark col, Darwin canyon, 5 days, in at North Lake, out at South Lake.

After the Mt. Rainier trip, in June 2005, we got together and Susan had the itinerary and gear lists for our Summer in the Sierras.

Thursday, August 4th, 2005 A group of intrepid adventurers met at North Lake to begin a journey together that was to last for 5 days and cover 38 miles. Dean, Steve,Tim, Lynne, Mary Ann and Susan departed the North Lake TH at 6 pm for Lower Lamark Lake which Susan and Lynne had scouted for us earlier in the week.

Jim and the boyz, Sean, Brian and John entered the wilderness at South Lake the following day to meet up with the party from North Lake 3 days later in Dusy Basin. (Someone else will have to relate the boys trip prior to our connecting up at Lake 10742').

Lower Lamark Lake was a nice destination for our first nights campsite. It was far enough in (1 1/2 hour) to let everyone know that we had begun our trek and the setting was beautiful.

Friday, August 5, 2005 We broke camp and were on the trail at 8 a.m. for Lamark Pass. The climb to this pass is beautiful alpine landscape and we were treated to the beginning of 5 days of glorious, abundant wildflowers.

About lunch time we got the first of what would prove to be the typical weather pattern, clouds threatening rain and thunder. This first day was hail and one peal of thunder. 3 days hence, in Dusy Basin, it would be a steady downpour and continuous crashing thunder and lightening. Very dramatic, but more about that later.

Approaching the final leg over Lamark Col, via a trail through the snow on the north exposure of Lamark Col, Dean and Steve elected to summit Mt. Lamark. 3/4 of an hour and we were up and back to where we'd left our backpacks. Another hour and we had gained the col and begun our descent of Lamark Col, a mass of jumbled boulders and scree from the south. I was glad we weren't climbing that way as when I looked back up the col I could not discern any route. I suppose it was to just climb to the low spot along the ridge line. The rain began in earnest now and we were all in our wet weather gear. By 2:00 p.m. we were at the highest lake in Darwin Canyon and by 4:00 p.m. we had found our campsite near the inflow to the Lower Darwin Lake at 11592'. The weather had cleared and we enjoyed a well deserved camp that night. We were treated to a beautiful sunset looking west across the lake and everyone had time to do what they were inclined to do. Steve swam, Tim caught a beautiful fish, about 12" which he cooked up for us and everyone just relaxed and enjoyed being there.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 Dean and Steve decided to attempt Mt. Darwin so departed camp a half hour early in the hope that there would be less catching up to do.

We moved around the lake and began the descent of Darwin Bench.

This is a really, really pretty area ; alpine meadows, wildflowers, waterfalls, a fairly well defined trail and across the bench and beyond rises the Hermit, the area's mountaineers peak. Really gorgeous country.

By 10:30 we had started our climb of Mt.Darwin, the emblem peak, going west from the inflow of Evolution Lake and by lunchtime the rain had begun for this day.

Around 1:00 p.m. we encountered,"The Nasty Chimney". About 25' high by 4' wide with a huge chokstone lodged in it. Wet, rainsoaked rock but luckily, knobs and small ledges could be purchased and Steve made what turned out to be this climb's crux. Dean elected to turn back here.

I found cairns beyond this chimney so I felt on route and continued the climb. 2 hours later after some mis-routing and downclimbing to get back onto 3rd class, I gained the summit plateau and found the detached summit block.

I climbed down and crossed to the block, gained a large ledge by a 4' leap over some exposure, found a vertical crack I could use with a sling to gain purchase, mantled onto the top of the block and walked a small ledge to the high spot and there it was, the register!

I signed in. The register contained Galen Rowell's and Peter Croft's signatures. They had done a new west face route, class 3,4,5 in '96. I read a poem, On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou someone had left in the register box and departed by 4:00 p.m. feeling on top of the world.

I was down and back to my backpack at Evolution Lake at 7:00 p.m. I talked with another hiker that wanted to climb to the plateau the next day and gave him the beta I had.

I hiked through sunset and Evolution Valley into the evening and arrived at the campsite at Helen Lake about 10:45 p.m. Was I glad to see that signal light flashing from the top of Muir pass!

Dean had stayed up watching the trail so I wouldn't miss the campsite in the dark and Susan had prepared a liter of hot water so I could get rehydrated and get to bed. The relief was palpable when I rolled into camp for us all.

Sunday, August 7, 2005 found us drying gear from the previous night's condensation and getting a slightly late start. We departed our campsite at 9:00 a.m. for the Le Conte Canyon, the ranger station and the climb up to Dusy Basin.

The Le Conte Canyon is beautiful country, lots of trees, waterfalls and great scenery of the mountains surrounding the area. We arrived at the ranger station and the beginning of our climb to Dusy Basin around 3:00 p.m. We changed into our heavy weather gear and spent the first part of the hike out of the canyon in rain and thunder.

The ranger had warned us about lightening and advised camping below tree line and staying off peaks. We were motivated to reach Jim and the boys and bring our group finally together. There was a dicey stream crossing about half way up the climb to Dusy Basin and Steve and Susan opted to run a handline for everyone following. Susan had the line up and fixed in about 2 minutes. Very professional, very cool and we all got across without incident.

Around 6:30 p.m. we all arrived at Lake 10742', where Jim and the boys were camped. A great alpine lake, among the trees and with water nearby. That evening, we had a great feast and cooked up lots of food that everyone shared and enjoyed. The new moon and Venus put on a beautiful sunset show and there was some star gazing later that night. The Milky Way was spectacular and I think we all saw meteorites.

Monday, August 8, 2005 When we had gone to bed, Dean and Steve discussed climbing Mt.Agassiz the next day. Dean said he'd sleep on it and when he awoke, the answer was,"Why not"?

So, Dean and Steve departed camp at 6:30 a.m. again, before everyone else and hiked up to Bishop Pass and arrived there at 8:00 a.m. and got ready and began ascending Agassiz at 9:00 a.m.

Dean summitted at 10:37 a.m. and Steve summitted at 10:47 a.m. We stayed for about 1/2 hour and descended back to Bishop Pass, arriving at 12:37 a.m. and 12:50 a.m. respectively. Everyone stopped at Bishop Pass to call to us on Agassiz but although we could hear each others shouts and calls, we were too far away to be spotted. We saw everyone on the trail however. They couldn't see us on the mountain, among the rock and boulders.

We all downclimbed Bishop Pass and arrived at our final campsite on this trip, Long Lake, at 10800', at 2:45 p.m. We had a long afternoon for fishing and swimming and being together and dinner was a fine affair with lots of trout the boys caught and Susan cooked up and conversations and experiments with popcorn popping and generally a good time for all.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 Our final day was a fine morning climb of Chocolate Peak. We left our camp at 7:45 a.m. and arrived at the peak at 9:00 a.m. We spent perhaps an hour taking pictures and enjoying the view and then hiked back to our camp to pack out to the trailhead.

We discovered the Ruwau Lake at 11044' to be a beautiful place for camping and fishing, the next time we are this way.

We departed Long Lake about noon and met Ranger K. Waterfall about an hour later who checked our permits and gave us some good information about bears and was generally a really knowledgeable ranger and a pleasure to meet on the trail.

We ended our trek at South Lake about 2:30 p.m. and we were greeted at the South Lake trailhead parking by Mark, who had come up to greet us and shuttle us to our vehicles at North Lake and get everyone along to their destinations; motels, cars, restaurants, Schotte's, wherever.

For me, it was a great adventure, a marvelous trek and time well spent with good friends. Thanks everyone, let's do it again sometime.

DA Boyz Evolution Valley trip (Jim, John, Brian and Sean)

Friday, August 5, 2005 Da Boyz attempted a reverse route of the adults trek, leaving from the South Lake trail head and heading across the Bishop Pass to meet the adults in the Dusy Basin. This trip profile was chosen as a way of avoiding several long trail days and the cross country of the Lamark Col.

We spent quite a bit of the afternoon in Bishop. Stops at Wilson's Sporting Goods, the Bishop ranger's station and McDonalds got us to the trail head parking at approximately 3:45pm where the afternoon thunder was booming already. Seeing as this was the boys first real foray into the Sierras, their packs were all kept purposely light (all under 30 pounds) in order to increase their trail speed. Still, I had no idea it would take over an hour to get them trail ready. We were moving up hill shortly before 5pm but stopping every half hour for the first hour and a half. There was always something; ? pack/clothing adjustments ? water stops ? rain gear on/off Jim got tired of dropping his 70+ pound, group gear pack. So, the boys got pushed hard for the remainder of the evening, traveling a full 2 hours nonstop, arriving at Long Lake at sunset.

We had minimal light to scout out a good camp sight and eventually chose a spot close to the trail that appeared to have some grass but few flowers. The four of us all fit into one 3 man tent,,, sideways. The sleeping configuration is not something I like to remember about the trip. This was also the first time the boys had to manage a heavy mosquito population. They went to bed after just a cold snack, a little concerned about the bugs.

Saturday, August 6, 2005 All were out of the tent by 7:00 am and immediately started managing the bugs. John helped with the breakfast with Sean and Brian filtering water.

A WTC group led by Sarah and Patrick McKusky, along with Helen Quan were the first people we saw passing by the camp site. They were on a 2 day trip to climb Mt. Agassiz. Pat's greeting, way to stay out of the meadow guy was classic Pat although on further review, we were camped in a meadow. Their destination was a camp at Bishop Lake.

I put together an assembly line of sorts in order to get the boys trail ready. We would all perform equipment checks and packing steps at the same time and as such we packed up together and hit the trail around 9:30am.

Rain was upon us before noon and for a time it was genuinely cold. This didn't stop the boys from playing at the 1st snowfield we encountered, just before Sapphire Lake. We stopped at a little lake before Sapphire and thawed out as the sun came out. We ate lunch next to a little snow field where Johnny built a straight sided igloo and had our first minor snowball fight. The boys really wanted to camp here but we were behind schedule and ended up at Bishop Lake in the early afternoon.

The intended destination for Saturday was Dusy Basin so I planned to climb Bishop Pass after a break at Bishop Lake. The boys started exploring as soon as their packs hit the ground. Brian and Sean headed for the lake and John made a short glissade chute in a small snow field. And,,, there was this WTC happy hour coming up,,, so we pitched the sideways tent here an (my crooked back) and set up camp. Wet clothing totals for the day: 4 pair of socks and 1 set of gloves. They all had a chance to dry.

The favorite game of the evening was killing mosquitoes. As many as possible in just one swat. This game offered the opportunity for anyone, to hit anybody else, at will (always a plus for a 12 year old). We cooked up a smorgasbord for dinner and had hot jello for desert. The boys were emotionally scarred that I would actually make them brush their teeth and then played cards in the tent.

Sunday, August 7, 2005 Our usual breakfast was scrambled eggs and tortillas. I tried a new type of freeze dried eggs that were terrible. A bit of exploring and the one on one education of bio breaks put us on the trail at 9am. This was the day the kids got their trail legs. The ascent to Bishop Pass was quite a trudge but the remainder of the day was predominately flat or downhill and we covered ground smartly. Directly after the pass we pulled out the binoculars and spotted a bunch of little dots on Mt. Agassiz. These were the WTC members, whose alpine start put them over halfway up the route. We screamed and whistled at them. Great fun! One beautiful snowfield at the pass and we dropped into the Dusy Basin.

We made an extreme range radio contact with the adult group and ascertained they were having a rather arduous trail day. The adults had not reached the Leconte Ranger station when the kids were in the center of the valley so we decided to scout out a camp as close to them as possible, figuring it would make their day a little easier. There was a large weather system inbound from the Palisades Basin. Pat McKusky informed us to look for severe weather from that direction and he was correct in this case. The weather clobbered us just as we get the tent set up. Hail, heavy rain with lots of thunder and lightning put us in the tent for over an hour. We all sat on our sleep pads and sleeping bags for some insulation if there were to be a lightning strike.

The storm cleared in our area and after making radio contact with the adults, the kids group ventured out to meet them on the trail. The boys really wanted to ambush the adults with a snowball attack and were planning it before they ever hit the trail head but alas, no snow was to be found in the Dusy basin. They settled on a plan to sneak up and scare them instead.

Failed Ambush: After listening to the Le Conte Station Ranger express concern about the lightning hazard, Susan McCreary blasted ahead of the adult group. She just knew it in her heart that she was going to find our charred bodies after the lightning storm and went into Mama Bear mode. Susan would now serve as the boys sneak attack victim. We knew from radio contact at what time she passed thru 10,000 foot elevation and calculated that a tired Mama Bear would climb at about 150' each ten minutes. I told the boys to be very quiet and look for her at 10'400 feet. We saw her on the switchback below us at 10'389 feet (pretty good calculations don't you think?) Johnny attempted to walk past her on the trail (as if he didn't know her) so he could get behind her. This proved to be a pretty poor idea as she greeted him as soon as he was in site. After all, how many 6 foot tall kids do you pass on the trail into in the middle of no where?

Back in camp, we had hot water waiting for everyone and the group set up a nice camp overlooking Lower Dusy Lake. What a beautiful area. The skies cleared and Milky Way appeared. Several in the group saw shooting stars that evening.

Monday, August 8, 2005 The adults got to witness the assembly line method of getting the kids trail ready this morning. There was a picture taken of all our gear spread out as it went into the packs. It looked like I was cleaning the garage. Bugs were not bad in Ducy Basin and we had a nice hike up to Bishop Pass. Everyone yelled and whistled to Dean and Steve while they were climbing Mt. Agassiz. They yelled back but we could not see them on the mountain. Final destination was Long Lake were we set up camp in the bugs and the boys finally went fishing. Sean caught a fish, as did Tim. I lost track of who caught the third but all three became part of dinner after I convinced Sean that we should cook his catch.

The Great Popcorn Disaster: Johnny loves for me to make popcorn over the fire when we car camp so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal to do the same thing over a camp stove. Well,,,, the pot had no handle and the design of the pot's bottom spread the oil to the sides. I burned my fingers several times and poured one batch on the ground. The arrangement allowed us to pop about 100 kernels before they started burning. So, we popped 4 batches of about 100 kernels and the kids ate them one at a time. They thought it was great. The adults however, thought I was crazy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 The group, sans Tim and a blistered foot, headed off to climb a peak this morning. Chocolate peak was the first Sierra peak the boys bagged. And hopefully there will be a peak photo in the Star News to show the event.

The hike out was fast and easy. Mark McCreary met us at the trail head and was a big hit with his stash of candy and gummy worms. The Martens and McCrearys stayed in Bishop over night and did some exploring into the next day. Showers and fresh clothing and a pool awaited us at the motel. Steaks and ribs milkshakes and deserts (and just a little alcohol) awaited us at a restaurant.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 Kids and adults visited Galen Rowells' studio in Bishop. Mountain Light Gallery was truly a spectacular place, definitely warranting a visit. Mark, Jim and kids also visited the Laws Railroad Museum, just north of Bishop. It was actually an entirely restored railroad town. Interesting place as well.

The EV Valley trip was the kid's first multi-night backpacking trip in the Sierras. For the adults it was beautiful and fun. For them it was a new type of adventure they had never been introduced to before.

How did they like it? They want to do it again.

Yeah!!! We got em!

Jim Martens


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