The southwest face of Mt Darwin is approached from the south end of Evolution Lake. To get to Evolution Lake, a number of possibilities exist. The easiest and fastest approach is over the excellent use trail via Lamarck Col from North Lake. Longer but maintained trails from either Piute Pass (also North Lake) or Bishop Pass (South Lake) also provide access although the Bishop Pass route requires travel over Muir Pass as well. Finally, a difficult cross-country route over Echo Col is shorter than Bishop Pass but isn’t recommended as a faster alternative.
The SW approaches to both Darwin (right) and Mendel (left).
Near the south end of Evolution Lake, leave the John Muir Trail and head northeast up a steep depression between a granite ridge (left) and the ridge that encloses the Mt Spencer – Mt Darwin cirque. This depression is composed of granite slabs, brush, and greenery and is easy to find. Near the top of the depression, the southwest face opens and four talus fans can be observed. Only three have chutes above them, ignore the farthest right. The route begins at the entrance of the rightmost chute after climbing the talus fan.
As described in Secor, climb the chute until it divides taking the left hand chute. This chute deadends at a ridge wall which you will cross north to gain entry into the wide chute immediately NW. You can either climb the crack or easier, the ridge immediately to your left. After bypassing a pinnacle on your left, the entrance into the next chute is apparent (and marked by a large cairn in 2007). Continue heading up the wide chute staying either right or left.
This chute divides (unmentioned in Secor) and the correct route is to the left. The route to the right will lead you to the same conclusion but entails class 4 climbing. At the top of the left branch is the crest of the Darwin – Mendel ridge. Turning right here, proceed up a shallow chute (i.e. Secor’s gully) and attain the ridge at its head (the Cl.4 alternative leads you to climb this ridge as well). Follow the ridge to the plateau and climb to its highest point (to the right of what looks to be the highest point). The summit block is described elsewhere but I easily climbed it using a combination of Secor’s V chutes on the north side (low snow year) that required about a 50’ drop down and up and Bob Burd’s
very easy class 3 “stair step”.
Gordon climbing the main chute after crossing over from the entrance chute
Early in the season, ice ax and crampons may be needed for the route and the approach. The V chutes are typically filled with snow and ice.
Secor's gulley and the final ridge to the plateau
External LinksDay 8 of JMT Adventure