The “Keyhole Plateau” (which has apparently also been called “The Spectator”) is a broad flat area extending south from the east side of the Keyhole. The latter is a high pass (technically a tunnel) at the east end of the Glacier Divide near the Sierra Crest. Although far from a dramatic summit, I certainly enjoyed being there (see photo).
Both the plateau and Mt. Goethe
are easily accessible (class 2) from the flat area between Lakes 11540 and 11546, and the views from this high basin toward Evolution Valley are wonderful.
The closest access is from North Lake via Lamarck Col and the Darwin Canyon. Take 395 to Bishop, then 168 (Lake Sabrina Road) west for 17.8 miles. Turn right on the North Lake Road, follow this to its end, drop your gear and buddies at the trailhead, retreat 0.8 miles to park your car, and then jog back before you get ditched.
Take the Lamarck Lakes trail to Upper Lamarck Lake, then continue on the use trail over Lamarck Col to the Darwin Canyon, then down to nearly the Darwin Bench before turning northeast to reach the aforementioned pair of lakes.
I highly recommend R. J. Secor’s The High Sierra, Peaks Passes & Trails
(now in its third edition). This is the definitive climbing guide to the Sierra and was the source for many of the details on my SummitPost pages.
Like most places in the Sierra, you need a Wilderness Permit for overnight camping in the summer. North Lake gets a fair amount of use, so book early.
Detailed information on permits, regulations and trailhead access can be found on Matthew Holliman’s excellent Eastern Sierra logistics page
Although it’s possible to make it to Darwin Canyon in a single day, I wouldn’t want to climb until the following one. There are some small sandy campsites high in the Darwin Canyon. Others may choose the greener environment on the Darwin Bench, but I prefer to look down on the mosquitoes from aloft. I usually prefer to add a night above Upper Lamarck Lake on the day I drive in (rather than car camp).
From a camp in the Darwin Canyon, you’ve got an array of other California Thirteeners
within close reach (Mts. Darwin
, “Steven Jay Gould”
, “Tom Ross”
, and Goethe
, plus Peak 13,172
and “Northwest Lamarck”
), so I recommend hauling in some food and staying a while.