OverviewMount Spencer is a relatively small peak in the center of the Evolution Basin in Kings Canyon National Park. Though it is dwarfed by it's neighbors, Mounts Mendel and Darwin, it's central position provides spectacular views down Evolution Valley and out to surrounding peaks. This peak is often photographed from Evolution Lake.
Classic view of Mount Spencer from the outlet of Evolution Lake
Mount Spencer is named for 19th century biologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer, who, in fact, preceded Darwin in popularizing the term "evolution," though Darwin more fully developed the scientific principles involved.
There is a Class 2 route ascending the southeast ridge, a mostly Class 3 route with one Class 5 pitch on the west face, and a few Class 5 routes reported on the north face.
Getting ThereEAST APPROACH: From Highway US-395 in Bishop, drive up Highway CA-168 to the North Lake turn-off, just before Lake Sabrina. Park in the hiker parking area, about 1/2 mile below the campground. Hike through the campground and up the Piute Pass Trail a short distance to the Lamarck Lakes Trail. Continue up to the Lamarck Col Trail, which goes left between Lower Lamarck Lake and Upper Lamarck Lake. Hike over Lamarck Col and down through Darwin Canyon to the John Muir Trail, then go left (south) into Evolution Basin. Hike up through the basin, past Evolution Lake, to near the outlet of Sapphire Lake. Climb onto the bench south of Mount Spencer and head for the southeast ridge.
WEST APPROACH: From Highway CA-99 in Fresno, drive east on Highway CA-168 past Huntington Lake to the Kaiser Pass Road. Continue on Kaiser Pass Road to a 'Y' junction and go right towards Florence Lake. Park at Florence Lake and hike up along the San Juaquin River to the south-bound John Muir Trail junction. Go left (across a bridge) and hike up into Evolution Valley. Continue on the John Muir Trail into Evolution Basin and follow the directions in the above paragraph.
Red TapeWilderness permits are required for overnight stay.
For EAST APPROACH, obtain permits at White Mountain Ranger Station, 798 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514. Phone number is 760-873-2500.
For WEST APPROACH, obtain permits by writing to Sierra National Forest, Pineridge Ranger District, P.O. Box 559, Prather, CA 93651
Call the ranger station on the Kaiser pass Road before 'Y' intersection - 559-877-3138. This station is on a remote forest road - I could not find an address, and I'm not sure it really has one.
For more info, visit the Eastern Sierra Nevada Logistics Page.
When To ClimbBest season is July to October.
CampingThere are some popular campsites near the outlet of Evolution Lake. Some exposed camping may be found in the basin east of Sapphire Lake.
Further ReadingEastern Sierra Nevada Logistics Page (highly recommended)
The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails 2nd ed. (R. J. Secor) - P 291
The Climber's Guide to the High Sierra (Steve Roper) - P 161