After work I ran over to the ranger station to see if they had any walk-in permits left for Lamarck Lake, in the hopes of climbing Mt. Lamarck. It was cloudy, windy and it looked like rain. I got my permit, but I was only planning on going if it was clear up at North Lake. Sure enough it was. The trail up to Lower Lamarck Lake is among the prettiest I’ve been on. There were already people camping on the northeast side, so I continued on. I found a flat spot just big enough for my tent high up on the south side. There was enough time left to leisurely set up the tent and take a peek at the map to see what I was looking at. There is a small peak right next to the lake that dominates the vista. I wasn’t sure which peak was Mt. Lamarck, but I was pretty sure I could see the Col.
At 6am I got my pack ready, but I left the tent pitched with bag and pad inside it. I failed to cross the stream, so I never saw the sign for the Col, but I stumbled onto the trail anyway. It is very distinct. There are lots of switchbacks to get into that valley that leads up to the Col. I was following directions found in the Climber’s Guide to the High Sierra by Steve Roper. They were extremely useful whenever I got off of the trail. When I got up to the tarn and started to try to find the route, a guy appeared cruising down the trail. His name is Hassan, and he was on a nine-day trip doing research on glaciers for the Park. It turns out he was furious, because he was supposed to check-in everyday, and his radio didn’t work. He was coming back out on his first day to check-in in person!
The view from the Col is superlative! Darwin and Mendel are majestic, and you can see forest when you look west down Darwin Canyon. You can tell that your view of many peaks to the south is just going to open right up when you get higher on the way to Mt. Lamarck. While there were dark clouds to be seen in almost every direction, they seemed to be a long way off. Supposedly the trip to the summit is class 2. This would only be my second Sierra Nevada peak, and I wanted to stick to the walk-up types to start with. I got a vivid demonstration of how the class depends on your ability to pick out the path of least resistance. I tried to go the easy way, but I ended up in situations that were easy, but where a fall would cause major injury. This was actually the first time hiking in the Sierra where I felt a couple twinges of vertigo.
Once I got to the top I was treated to glorious views along the Sierra Crest to the south, probably of Mts. Haekel, Wallace, Powell, and Clyde Spires. One very interesting sight was back toward North Lake. Just under Mt. Lamarck is Lake 11755. It looks like it is situated in a crater with snow/ice/rock constantly falling into it, which I could actually hear happening while I was on the summit. That must be why it has a very unique milky turquoise appearance. Then Wishbone Lake had also had a remarkable aqua color. Basically there was a string of lakes right in a row, each with its own hue. This made me think of Hassan and his glacial research.
I definitely wanted to sign the peak register, and it turned out to be hard to find. I pretty much wandered around the summit plateau looking for the highest point. I think I found the highest point. It was very hard (definitely not class 2) to get to. There was a big drop-off to skirt, and I was frustrated when the register was not to be found there, nor on any of the other high points. Just when the thunder I could hear was definitely starting to worry me, I did find the register. It was located in the southeast part. Next time I plan on climbing a peak, I’m going to bring a pad of paper, because there is only one page left in that register.
Eager to avoid any more precarious perches, I came down the southeast side instead. From this point until Upper Lamarck Lakes it was lightly sprinkling, but then the sun came out. Thankfully, my campsite appeared undisturbed. I encountered Hassan again heading back up the trail, who had clearance to not check in anymore. This is a great trip to go on for a beginner like me to get some experience going cross-country and climbing an easy peak.