Mount Darwin

30-Jun-90 (Private Trip)

By: Patty Kline


The Fourth of July weekend was coming in a month and I held a permit for 2 for Lamarck Col. I decided to do Darwin with Mel Daybell. Mel and I had never done this peak and always wanted to. We didn't want a hurried trip, so this 5 day trip was perfect.

We got a leisurely start about 8:30 a.m. from North Lake over Lamarck Col on June 30th. Lamarck Col is my favorite pass in the Sierra with the magnificent view of Darwin and other peaks from the top of the Col as you enter Kings Canyon National Park. There was no snow except the small permanent snow field on the northeast side of the Col just above the lake in this low snow year. We picked our way slowly down the sand and boulders to one the lakes in the Darwin Canyon chain. It was now 7:00 p.m. and the wind was about to blow us away. As soon as we set up the tent, the wind stopped. My pack weighed a lot, partly because of all the good food I brought. Tonight it was spaghetti dinner with a specially prepared sauce. None of this freeze-dried stuff for me.

The next day we continued on to Evolution take, not grabbing Goethe along the way, We realized this is a break with tradition. There was the afternoon to idle away.

We had copies of the route on Darwin from Vogue and Roper. It is hard to see the route from the take off point from Evolution Lake, but it became more obvious as we ascended. Roper only said it was "a classic exercise in route finding." Vogue seemed more helpful for the class 3 west side route, giving a precise chute which would work. At the top of the series of chutes was a short knife edge which was to be straddled. That we did, looking straight down below on the left 1000 or more feet.

The summit was very flat. We boogied across the flat, wind eroded boulders to the southeast side where the much talked about summit pinnacle stands.

Since dawn at 5:00 a.m, the sky had been overcast. First there were stratus clouds. It had started to sprinkle an hour or two into the climb. I figured we didn't have a prayer to get Darwin and would turn back any minute. I was pleased to get this far. The route had been in white out a few times on the way up. Now the pinnacle was drifting in and out of the fog. It was misting. Mel and I both felt if we didn't ge the pinnacle, we didn't get the peak. Was it worth coming back for? No, probably not. We huddled together eating lunch on the flat top of Darwin as the wind picked up. After 30 minutes we were both fairly numb. Mel said he would go check out the pinnacle and holler if the weather permitted climbing it. Miraculously, the fog lifted a little and the pinnacle came into full view. Why it looks like a brick tower with an oversized bird bill on top I'11 never know. Finally, Mell called to come over to the 4th class ice chimney below the pinnacle. It was easy to find my way there were little drops of blood marking the route. Mel didn't really hurt himself, it just looked bad on the rock. Mel gave me a belay in the chimney. Then we climbed to the pinnacle proper and signed the register. There were two registers to sign. One spiral and one bound SPS one.

We both rapelled down the slippery chimney off of mel's parisian Baudrier sling from the Rock climbing Section class a few years back. When we reached the flat part of Darwin again, the wind had blown all the storm clouds away. It was perfectly clear. The view was fantastic from this Emblem Peak. It looked like you could touch Humphreys. After much photography and three hours on the summit, we left. We descended in perfect weather Nature was truly kind to us today. Two days were taken to retrace our steps to North Lake where we ran into Marta Flores in the parking lot. She was going over Lamarck Col the next day. Mel and I had a very enjoyable trip.


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