07 September - Into Darwin CanyonIt was time for my last trip into the wilderness - this time for two nights. Another early start had me heading along the long road towards Sabrina Basin.
One of the things I hadn't thought about with this hike was where the car park was. There is a campsite at the trailhead - but the nearest hiker parking is nearly a mile away down the road. It didn't take too long in the morning but I knew it would feel bad at the end of my third day in the wilderness.
I headed out after a brief preparation and headed south up towards towards Lamarck Lakes. The trail up to these lakes gives a short camping trip for many visitors. For me it was a method of access into the back country.
The lakes were absolutely beautiful and I sat in front of Lower Lamarck Lake for quite a while, munching on a couple of croissants I had stuffed in the top of my rucksack. A short way up the trail I started to look out for the side path up to Lamarck Col. This wasn't obvious and I soon realised I had gone past it. Rather than turn around I headed south cross-country and after coming through several abandoned camping sites I arrived at the trail.
Despite being a use trail it was easy to follow and was better than many built trails. After another couple of hours I spied the glacier ahead of me that marked the access to Lamarck Col - my entry into Kings Canyon National Park.
It took a little effort to find my way through the rocks and up to the col. From there I got the first spectacular view up to Mount Darwin and Mount Mendel.
As I descended the other side of the col the views down Darwin Canyon got better and better. The lakes were strung out down the canyon beautifully.
At the base of the fourth lake I met a group coming out of the canyon. They had done a long loop and were able to advise me of some good places to camp further down the canyon. After a lengthy search I found a prepared campsite with trees on one side and a rock wall on the other. This would be my highest campsite at over 11,500 ft.
08 September - Mount DarwinThe next morning I had my choice. I could do a long loop back over Piute Pass or stay where I was and day hike Mount Darwin. My summit fever took me and I headed bakup the valley to Mount Darwin. As I headed along the valley the reflection on the lake was beautiful.
The talus was awful and made for slow going up into the cirque below Mount Darwin. I had to take multiple breaks for a drink, but it did feel great to not be carrying my camping gear with me. A I headed higher up the cirque I eventually came to a position just below the Darwin Glacier.
Now came the hardest part, climbing up the glacier. I took it very slowly and after a hard and slippery climb reached the rocks. The scrambling was challenging but fun as I headed up. I took a brief rest and packed away my kit to make the climb easier, including putting my camera in my rucksack. Further up I took my rucksack off to leave it behind (see the pattern here.) Finally after cresting the ridge and scrambling up to the plateau I eventually reached the summit. The view of the Sierra was spectacular - however I of course didn't have my camera.
I descended back down to my rucksack. I debated climbing back up but decided that my memories would do. I headed down to the glacier, but now came the hardest part - getting down the glacier. I took it very slowly but about 10 feet down I slipped. I couldn't arrest the fall and slid the remaining 50 feet down to the rock. Only a short brace of my knees stopped me doing serious damage.
I arrived back at my camp mid afternoon. Just near my camp a group of hikers was resting. We talked for a while and I gave them directions to Lamarck Col, and where they could find a good campsite in the canyon.
Deciding I wanted to get some photos I headed down to Darwin Bench to get a view. After heading off trail a while I got stunning views down to Evolution Lake.
I sat there for quite some time taking in the views. The above photo was only one of many I took. On the way back I took another of a lake on Darwin Bench.
I headed back to my campsite and found the group of hikers I met earlier had made camp just round the corner from me. I spent the evening chatting to them - they were from San Diego and Oregon. They showed me a photo of a bear footprint they found near our camps. Makes you feel nice and safe! Once it was dark I headed back to my tent for bed. As I lay down, you could hear the coyotes howl. The sunset did however bode well - red sky at night!
09 September - Mount LamarckThe next day I decided to make a speedy exit as I needed to rest up. I headed back to Lamarck Col early and made a quick trip to Mount Lamarck. From the col I got my last view into the north end of Kings Canyon Nation Park - passing the boundary marker.
The descent went pretty rapidly since it was all downhill. I took a few photos but eventually reached my car in the early afternoon. I stopped at Sabrina Basin for a short walk but knew I had to head back. I reached my motel just in time to phone up the Ranger Station in Lone Pine and keep my reservation for Mount Whitney.
After that I stopped into a Denny's for Steak, Fries and Hash Browns. Needed to replenish the old calories after the long trip into the wilderness!