The Evolution Group was created in 1895 by Theodore Solomons, a Stanford math prof. who was pioneering a route (which eventually became part of the John Muir Trail) from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney and was naming features as he encountered them. At treeline in a glaciated valley he found himself among a group of gleaming light-colored granite peaks that he named after prominent proponents of the recently identified evolutionary science. He wrote, “I could think of none more fitting than the great evolutionists, so at-one in their devotion to the sublime in Nature.” The six peaks he named were Mt. Darwin, Mt. Fiske, Ht. Haeckel, Mt. Wallace, Ht. Huxley, and Mt. Spencer. He also named Evolution Creek, which drains the area, and Evolution Lake, one of the most dramatic of the thousands of glacial lakes in the range. After Solomons’ epic trip, two other evolutionary scientists, Lamarck and Mendel were deemed worthy of inclusion in this elite group and had peaks named in their honor. (see etymology section for more details on these revolutionary evolutionary scientists)
R.J. Secor, author of the Sierra’s finest guidebook, said that the Evolution Basin is the “Destination Resort” of the range. In addition to the usual spectacular-glacially-polished-light-granite-lakes-and-cascades- everywhere Sierra scenery the unique name of the region is certainly part of the area's allure. Located in the northern corner of King’s Canyon National Park the headwaters of Evolution Basin is the stark Wanda Lake with its unique peninsula that almost cuts this large lake in half. From here Evolution Creek descends 6 miles through some gentle bends with alternating lakes and cascades to Evolution Lake at the western feet of Mt. Darwin and Mt. Mendel. Evolution Cascade quickly drops the creek below treeline to Evolution Valley, a beautiful, straight, flat, six-mile long forested valley with scattered meadows.
Peaks and Passes(north to south)
Mt. Lamarck (13,147 ft.) is class 2 on the south, east, and west. The north is class 4 with ice.
Lamarck Col (12,900) is a popular “cross-country” route that is mostly on trails. The final class 2 climb from the east is on a snowfield above a small tarn (see photo) that can have huge (6 feet deep!) sun cups. On the west side there are faint/scattered trails down to the chain of lakes in Darwin Canyon, and a use trail along the north side of the lakes, through Darwin Bench, and down to the John Muir Trail near Evolution Lake.
Darwin Col (12,800 ft.) is the class 2 route from the Lake Sabrina Trailhead to the Darwin Canyon.
Mt. Mendel(13,710 ft.) is known for its difficult ice climbs on the north face. Most other routes are class 3 or 4.
Mt. Darwin (13,831 ft.) The easiest route is the class 3 West Ridge via the Darwin Glacier. The east face is class 3-4, and the north face has several more technical climbs.
Mt. Spencer (12,431 ft) Although it’s the lowest peak in the group, it’s location in the center of the basin gives it outstanding views up and down valley. There is a Class 2 route ascending the southeast ridge from Sapphire Lake and a few Class 5 routes on the north and west faces.
Mt. Haeckel(13,418 ft.) is class 3 from most directions but the north face, north couloir, and northwest arete is class 4.
Mt. Wallace(13,377 ft.) is class 2 from the north and south, but class 3 or 4 on the east face.
Wallace Col (12,960 ft.), which is on the ridge between Mt. Wallace and Clyde Spires, is class 2 with scree and loose rocks.
Mt. Fisk (13,503 ft.) along with Mt. Huxley and Mt. Warlow form a horseshoe-shaped ridge that is just west of the Sierra crest. Mt. Fisk is class 2 from the southwest (from Fiske Pass), southeast (from Lake Helen), and west, and class 4 on the north ridge.
Fisk Col (12,640 ft.) is an off-trail class 2 route that crosses the pass between Mt. Fisk and Mt. Warlow
Mt. Huxley (13, 086) is class 3 from most directions, but the north face has 5.10 and 5.11 technical routes.
Getting ThereLike many places in the high Sierra, there are long routes from the west with lots of climb and slightly shorter routes from the east with even more climb. The four most common trailheads used to access the Evolution region are.
North Lake Trailhead (9,400 ft) provides the easiest access to the Evolution region. 3,500 feet of climb over Lamarck Col and 2,100 feet of descent in about 10 miles gets you to Evolution Lake (10,852 ft
The long circuitous way, but entirely on trails, from this trailhead goes over Piute Pass (11,423 ft.) descends through Humphrey Basin along Piute Creek to the John Muir Trail (at 8,000 ft.). Then climbs through Evolution Meadow and Evolution Valley to reach Evolution Lake; 4,850 ft. of climb, 3,400 ft. of descent in 28 miles.
Lake Sabrina Trailhead (9,128 ft.) is the starting point for several cross-country routes to the eastern slopes of Mt. Darwin, Mt. Haeckel, Mt Wallace, as well as Darwin Col, Haeckel Col and Wallace Col. Although these passes are fairly direct routes into the Evolution Basin, they have more scree, talus and loose rock than the slightly longer Lamarck Col.
South Lake Trailhead (9,800 ft) provides the best all-trail access to the region from the east side via Bishop Pass. 5,100 feet of climb, 3,100 feet of descent in 19.5 miles gets you to Muir Pass at the southern end of the evolution region. The South Lake to North Lake (or vice-versa) almost-loop through the region is a popular multi-day combination of this route with the long route from the North Lake Trailhead.
Jackass Meadows (Florence Lake) Trailhead (7,328ft) is the closest west side trailhead. 23.5 miles and 3,524 feet of climb gets you to Evolution Lake. The Florence Lake Ferry will save you 5.25 miles. Tickets for the ferry can be purchased at the Florence Lake Store. The ferry runs every two hours on the 1/2 hour beginning at 8:30 A.M. and ending at 4:30 P.M.
Etymology/ BiographiesCharles Darwin (1809-1882) Based on observations while traveling throughout the world aboard the “Beagle”, Darwin developed several related theories: one, evolution (change in characteristics over time) did occur; two, evolutionary change was gradual, requiring thousands to millions of years; three, the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called natural selection; and four, the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process called "specialization." He wrote The Origin of the Species in 1859. His book found acceptance in the United States after the Civil War. Just a few years later, 1871, Darwin added his Descent of Man to his writings. The latter work traced human descent while the first work was more general.
Herbert Spencer 1820-1903 was an English philosopher and political theorist. Although today he is chiefly remembered as the father of Social Darwinism, a school of thought that applied the evolutionary theory of survival of the fittest (a phrase started by Spencer) to human societies, he also contributed to a wide range of subjects, including ethics, and metaphysics. Spencer began developing his view of civilization, not as an artificial construct of man, but as a natural and organic product of social evolution. His definition of evolution explained it as the ongoing process by which matter is refined into an increasingly complex and coherent form.
John (James) Fiske, 1842-1901 an American historian and philosopher adopted the concept of "theistic evolution." Which was the first attempt to reconcile the differences between evolutionary and biblical teachings. Fiske thought that evolution is God's way of doing things and that the biblical account contained creation's basic order but wasn’t historically accurate. He had been an enthusiastic follower of Herbert Spencer while in college, and the first part of his life was given mainly to popularizing Spencerian evolution.
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was a Moravian monk who was the first person to trace the characteristics of successive generations of a living thing. His work was so brilliant and unprecedented at the time it appeared that it took thirty-four years for the rest of the scientific community to catch up to it. Mendel determined that each parent transmits only half of its hereditary factors to each offspring (with certain factors "dominant" over others); and different offspring of the same parents receive different sets of hereditary factors. Although genes and DNA were not known at the time, his work was the first step in uncovering the details of how characteristics were passed on to progeny and was the foundation for modern genetics.
Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), an English biology professor was one of the first adherents to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and did more than anyone else to advance its acceptance among scientists and the public alike. His reaction to reading the Darwin’s Origin of Species was "How stupid of me not to have thought of that." Huxley was so passionate a defender of Darwin's theory that he has been called “Darwin's Bulldog”.
Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet Chevalier de Lamarck 1744-1829 was a pre-Darwinian French naturalist and an early proponent of the idea that characteristics of a species changed over time. Unfortunately Lamarck and his contemporaries didn’t understand the mechanism of evolution and is remembered mainly in connection with a discredited theory that individuals adapted and passed on newly acquired traits to their offspring. Since the details of genetic transmission hadn't been discovered, even Darwin proposed mechanisms by which beneficial acquired characteristics could be passed on to the next generation.
Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was a German scientist most famous for his statement "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". (The steps in an organism’s development are a quick recap of the evolutionary history of the species.) Trained as a physician, he switched to studying invertebrates after reading Darwin’s “Origin of Species” An extremely common misperception is that natural selection and evolution are the same thing. In fact, Haeckel is one of many thinkers who believed that all species were historical entities (lineages) but did not share Darwin's enthusiasm for natural selection as the main mechanism for generating the diversity of the biological world. Haeckel instead believed that the environment acted directly on organisms, producing new races (a version of Lamarckism). The survival of the races did depend on their interaction with the environment, a weak form of natural selection
Red TapeIf camping in the back country, bear cannisters are required in many places throughout the High Sierra, particularly the popular trails, and campfires are generally prohibited above 10,000ft. Current restrictions can be found in the Inyo NF Wilderness Regulations.
There is a wilderness permit quota in effect from May 1st to November 1st. 60% of the wilderness permit quota is advance reservation ($5.00 per person) and 40% are available for free on a walk in first come first serve basis. The Eastern Sierra Logistical Center Page has lots of valuable information.
You can check permit availability on the U.S. Forest Service Website.
Permit reservations may be obtained by calling (760) 873-2483, by FAX (call the previous # for the FAX number), or by writing to:
Inyo National Forest
351 Pacu Lane
Bishop, CA 93514
Permits can be picked up in Lone Pine at the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station at:
640 S. Main Street (US 395)
P.O. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545
or at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop at:
798 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Hours: 8:30 am to 4:30
Open all year
Monday-Friday in winter
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