North Lake to South Lake via Lamarck Col July 23-24, 2009

Our guests on this trip were a group of fun loving adventurous guys from Orange County who wanted to do an overnight backpack trip and cover lots of mileage.  After considering several trip options we settled on this loop trip.  This route covered a lot of ground over two days.  In addition to the 35+ miles our elevation gained and lost added to the challenge.  Starting at 9250+ feet we hiked up to Lamarck Col at almost 13,000′ then descended down to the John Muir Trail where we ended up at Wanda Lake at 11,426′ 12 hours after we began.  After a good dinner of pad thai with shrimp and vegetables we went to sleep prepared to wake early for day 2.

We woke early and were hiking before 7 AM.  A short ascent got us to Muir Pass at 12,000 feet then a long very scenic drop in elevation over a 7 mile period as we headed south on the John Muir Trail.  We turned off the JMT at the LeConte ranger station at 8900 feet.  The next 6.6 miles was an ascent through Dusy Basin to Bishop Pass at 11,972′.  Finally we descended the last 6 miles down the Bishop Pass trail to the South Lake trailhead at 9600+ feet.

The weather has isolated storm cells around but none of them ever got near us so we stayed dry the whole time.  The scenery was gorgeous the whole time.  The Sierra wildflowers were in full bloom.  The scenery included an abundance of blue alpine lakes, meadows, pine trees, white granite spires, and patches of snow.   A great time was had by all and we celebrated that evening in Bishop with a big dinner at Whiskey Creek.

Group photo at the North Lake trailhead.

Group photo at the North Lake trailhead.

The first of many creek crossings we would encounter over the next two days.

The first of many creek crossings we would encounter over the next two days.

Gaining elevation on the way to Lamarck Col with North Lake in view.

Gaining elevation on the way to Lamarck Col with North Lake in view.

At Lamarck Col and looking great!

At Lamarck Col and looking great!

Approaching Darwin Canyon after dropping off Lamarck Col

Approaching Darwin Canyon after dropping off Lamarck Col

Traversing the unnamed lakes in Darwin Canyon

Traversing the unnamed lakes in Darwin Canyon

Taking a break below Darwin Bench on our cross country route headed towards the John Muir Trail.  Evolution Valley below us on the right.

Taking a break below Darwin Bench on our cross country route headed towards the John Muir Trail. Evolution Valley below us on the right.

Creek crossing at the inlet to Evolution Lake at 10,800 feet

Creek crossing at the inlet to Evolution Lake at 10,800 feet

Wanda Lake at 11,426 feet.  Our camp site at the end of day 1.

Wanda Lake at 11,426 feet. Our camp site at the end of day 1.

Wanda Lake shortly after sunrise.

Wanda Lake shortly after sunrise.

The group rested and ready to start the long journey on day 2 from Wanda Lake to the South Lake trailhead.

The group rested and ready to start the long journey on day 2 from Wanda Lake to the South Lake trailhead.

The Muir Hut at Muir Pass at 12,000 feet.  This hut was built as an emergency shelter for this very remote part of the John Muir Trail

The Muir Hut at Muir Pass at 12,000 feet. This hut was built as an emergency shelter for this very remote part of the John Muir Trail

Silhouette on top of the Muir Hut

Silhouette on top of the Muir Hut

Helen Lake as we descended from Muir Pass.  The trail traverses along the right shoreline then begins the descent into LeConte Canyon.

Helen Lake as we descended from Muir Pass. The trail traverses along the right shoreline then begins the descent into LeConte Canyon.

Shooting Stars in bloom along the trail

Shooting Stars in bloom along the trail

The snow melted off late this year after the Sierra experienced an unusually stormy June.  We encountered several snow patches that were still recently revealing creeks and waterfalls.  Beautiful!

The snow melted off late this year after the Sierra experienced an unusually stormy June. We encountered several snow patches that were still recently revealing creeks and waterfalls. Beautiful!

Looking back at LeConte Canyon as we started up towards Bishop Pass

Looking back at LeConte Canyon as we started up towards Bishop Pass

River coming from Dusy Basin flowing over granite slabs.

River coming from Dusy Basin flowing over granite slabs.

Dusy Basin

Dusy Basin

Bishop Pass.  Its all (mostly) downhill from here!

Bishop Pass. It's all (mostly) downhill from here!

One final break before reaching the trailhead at South Lake.  Still smiling!

One final break before reaching the trailhead at South Lake. Still smiling!

A happy group of great guys at South Lake.  Time for showers and food!

A happy group of great guys at South Lake. Time for showers and food!

Celebration time at Whiskey Creek in Bishop

Celebration time at Whiskey Creek in Bishop

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