please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version
The nights were wonderful, cool, and we slept with all the windows open. The creek was nearby, its soothing melody a tonic for sound sleep. Our fellow campers were quiet, as how we would wish every mountain campground to be.
Tuesday morning the Lady wiggled to life. She was enjoying this. Our water bottles, food and snacks all had to be ready the evening before. Morning was for coffee, a walk as the world wakes, breakfast, get the boots on, the packs, and hit the trail.
The trail to Lamarck Lakes goes right to work. After crossing the North Fork of Bishop Creek, it switch backs it way up the lateral moraine. Topping out, it is level only a short distance and then ascends a rocky point in steep, tight switchbacks. This wakes the legs up nicely.
The Lady keeps her navigation skills sharp by keeping us continually "found" on the map.
There was a little wet rock hopping at the outlet from Lower Lamarck Lake.
Beautiful trailwork took us on the climb along and above Lower Lamarck Lake.
The trail ends on the map at Upper Lamarck Lake. We were looking for the route to Lamarck Col, a high rugged pass on the Sierra Crest between the John Muir Wilderness on the east and Kings Canyon National Park on the west. We climbed the granite knob to the south of Upper Lamarck to get a view to orient us.
We spotted the trail to the col steeply switch backing up an almost vertical point on the ridge. We climbed steeply down to the east from our point to intersect the steep gully running toward this ridge. There we found a very nicely defined trail. We started the climb.
The trail rounded a corner and traversed across a steep gully dropping into the drainage to the south.
A climb through a notch in the rock and we entered the high hanging cirque that leads to the col. This cirque is long and has three high benches to ascend before reaching the top. Topping out after climbing the first bench, now well above tree line, the Lady pointed at the second bench and asked, "Is that the col?"
Continuing to climb, she headed for the second bench to find out. It is a hump up to the col.
Topping out on the second bench only revealed the next step to climb.
The defined use trail ended in this area, most likely because of the large snowfields that linger here well into summer's end in a usual non-drought year.
Topping out on the third bench, the crest and col finally came into view.
Lamarck Col is the first low spot right of the point on the left in the photo below, where the tracks in the snow lead.
It is recommended to camp at this tarn and climb the steep hard, refrozen snow in the early morning for safety. Getting direct sun in the morning the snow softens quickly, especially around rocks on the edges or outcrops in the middle. Later in the day is risky. People have punched through to their waists with legs plunging into the tangle of rocks below, sometimes with injuries. As much as I wanted to look into Darwin Basin on the other side, we climbed the bare rock to the left of the point.
We had a tremendous view of Mount Darwin with its glaciers.
The view to the north was dominated by Mount Humphreys. To the right, across the Owens Valley, rose the White Mountains with White Mountain Peak on the far right and Montgomery Peak on the north end.
I had an alternate reason for my interest in Lamarck Col. I first heard about the November 18, 1942 crash of a military aircraft into the Mendel Glacier above Darwin Basin from our friend, Pat Macha. Pat has information and commentary about the crash on his website - here. It is a sad, but riveting story that was well crafted in Peter Stekel's recent book, Final Flight. Lamarck Col is the "easy way" to Mendel.
This was a glorious high perch. Cold wind streamed over the ridge. It was time to go. As we exited the top basin, we took one last look back.
We stopped for water in the second basin, ice cold from melting snow.
The stark beauty of this high country was almost overwhelming.
Back at the high notch and the start of trees, the Lady looked down at Grass Lake and in the far distance, North Lake near our camp.
Soon we were on the ridge point high above Upper Lamarck Lake.
We took our time dropping back down the route, often saying to each other, "Would we rather be here or back at camp?"
We took a long break back at outlet from Lower Lamarck Lake.
Late afternoon found us back along Bishop Creek's North Fork among stunning Leopard Lilies.
This was another wonderful day for us in the Sierra high country. Our muscles were warm with use and our souls equally warmed by the landscapes we were honored to become a part of.
Tomorrow - Up Bishop Pass!
Continued in Part Four - Please Click Here