“Mount Steven Jay Gould” (0.5 mi NW of Mt. Mendel)

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California, United States, North America
Mountaineering, Scrambling
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“Mount Steven Jay Gould” (0.5 mi NW of Mt. Mendel)
Created On: Jul 1, 2009
Last Edited On: Sep 24, 2011


“Mt. Steven Jay Gould” is the northernmost of the three peaks in the Mt. Darwin group, just 0.4 miles northwest of Mt. Mendel. It is named for the famous American evolutionary biologist.

Getting There

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 top of the Darwin Canyon. Cross the canyon between the upper two large lakes and then approach the Moraine of the glacier north of Mt. Mendel.

The south side of the east ridge proper is mostly class 3, though I did have to make one scary class 4 move as I left the scree. A better route (class 3) begins near the top of the glacier, immediately right of the right-hand side ice couloir extending up from its top. Gain sandy ledges and follow these back to the right along the base of the cliffs. Continue in this fashion up through loose sand/scree until blocked by a large buttress, then head up the gully to its left. This eventually becomes a deep canyon whose walls come together to form a dihedral with a row of chockstones - this is the crux, but only moderate class 3. Continue up the broken gully until you reach a ledge system that leads left below the upper south face of the summit massif. The ledge system leads to a prominent gully with the upper face forming its right side, but when you reach this, escape left over broken blocks which provide easier access to the summit plateau.

Another option is to climb Gould’s west ridge from the Darwin Bench, but that’s also class 3.

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.

Red Tape

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.


There are some small sandy campsites near the top of the Darwin Canyon, providing easy access to all three peaks in the group (Mts. Darwin, Mendel and “Mt. Steven Jay Gould”). I usually spend a night above Upper Lamarck Lake on the day I drive in rather than car camp.

“Mount Steven Jay Gould” (0.5 mi NW of Mt. Mendel)

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