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Darwin + Lamarck + Goddard

July 2022

As usual, all the photos in here are from Anthony. We got a big crew of five out for this trip into the high country. The pace was exceedingly mellow, yet we still climbed some challenging peaks. I imagine this is how I will travel in the Sierra when I’m an old fart.

 

In the parking lot before setting off, I told everyone I had a grand surprise for them, that would be revealed at some point on the trip. We started at Lake Sabrina, and made our way up Lamarck Col, with everyone guessing what the surprise would be the whole way up. They had some creative guesses. Noe suggested we bag Mt. Lamarck, and so we hoofed our way up to its summit. The views up top were spectacular. We could look east to Owens Valley and the Inyos, and west to the imposing Mt Darwin which we’d be climbing in a few short days. The glacier route up Darwin’s east face looked extremely precipitous, and we were all glad not to be taking that route. We descended to the lake basin below Lamarck, and arrived at the shores of some brilliantly blue lakes, perhaps the most stunning I have seen in the whole range. From there, we made our way down a use trail that eventually keyed into the JMT. We followed the JMT for the remainder of the day up to the Evolution Lakes Basin. In keeping the naming thematic, all of the surrounding peaks are named after famous biologists and geneticists (Lamarck, Huxley (not the author of BNW), Darwin, Mendell, Goethe (not the author of Faust) etc.). We camped near Lake Wanda and were treated to a fine sunset that lit the peaks looming high overhead aglow. 

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Heading down from Mt. Lamarck, Mt. Darwin seen on the left

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Sunset

In the morning we made our way to Mt. Goddard, another SPS Peak on our tick-list. The route we chose to ascend was the “Star Route” which Bob Burd claimed was the only interesting thing about an “otherwise dull mountain”. I thoroughly disagree with his assessment, as Goddard was a beautiful peak that offered some of the best views of the range from its summit. On our way to the base of the climb, I made a careless step on the scree we were hopping, and a heavy rock toppled onto my foot. I yelled out of pain and exertion as I tried desperately to wrench my foot free from the rock’s grasp. The others rushed to my aid, but I was able to loose my foot from its rocky prison on my own. It was quite numb, and I gingerly trotted on it to test it out. All seemed well, so we cracked on.

 

The route allegedly went at class two, but it felt more like solid class three with some decent exposure added in for good measure. Adam, always being wisely conservative in the alpine, decided to turn around on a sketchy section and head back to camp. The remaining four of us picked our way carefully up steep rock faces and loose scree. Once we gained the summit ridge, we ascended easy terrain to the peak. The summit was stunning: we had panoramic views of the range on all sides of us. The gentler western slopes gave way to the central valley, and eventually, to the ocean which was shrouded in smog. To the east, craggy peaks prevailed, the Palisades looming far in the distance. South of us we could almost make out Whitney and Langley, and to the north another impressive array of peaks resided. I can see why this is an Emblem Peak.

 

We carefully picked our way back down, and made it to base camp in the afternoon. After eating food and packing up, the crew headed back down the Evolution Basin, and broke camp at the base of the Mt. Darwin chutes, just off the JMT. By a wild stroke of good fortune, our buddy Cooper, who was hiking the PCT, strode past while we were at camp, and we communed with him for some time. Night fell, and we slept soundly. In the morning, Darwin beckoned, and we heeded its call, heading up the long class three chute to the summit plateau. After some fun scrambling on decent rock, we made it to an airy traverse. Anthony led out, and I followed. A short section of extremely exposed class four rock saw us to the plateau. Noe and Ari wisely found the proper route, and kept it at class three. Soon, we were all at the base of the true summit block: an odd looking stack of rocks that has refused to topple over despite the best efforts from tectonic plates in the area.

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Ascending the precarious chute to Mt. Goddard

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Heading to basecamp for Darwin

I was the first to attempt the summit. I made my way down a loose chute, then back up another, which still held some snow as well as a chockstone that made progress somewhat difficult. After negotiating this, a few airy moves led to the summit. I signed the register, and briefly took in the views, but the down climb occupied most of my thought. I had no issue with the down climb though, and made it back to the comfortable summit plateau to watch the others climb. It was here I revealed my great surprise, I had lugged up a copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species which presumably would give us a great boost of morale for the summit block. As the others climbed the peak, I recited some prose from the book for good measure. Everyone made it without issue, and a few hours later, we found ourselves back at camp. I like to think that the book brought us some good fortune.

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Me atop Mt. Darwin's unique summit

We met some friends of Ari’s at camp by another good stroke of luck, and we chatted with them for some time. The next morning, we hiked out the way we came in, and were back at the cars before long. It was a leisurely trip with just the right amount of spice. They cannot all be like this however, lest we get too comfortable and lazy. 

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The surprise in hand

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Stellar shot captured by Anthony