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1991: North Lake — South Lake

August 25, 1991

Trip report for North Lake-Lamarck-South lake Semi loop (40 miles)

August 9-15, 1991

Nick, Brett and Gary

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Day 1: North Lake to Darwin Basin (6 miles)

Day 2: Darwin Basin to Wanda Lake (8 miles)

Day 3: Wanda Lake to Big Pete Meadow (8 miles)

Day 4: Big Pete Meadow to Dusy Basin (6 miles)

Day 5: Dusy Basin to Ruwau Lake (6 miles)

Day 6: Rest day

Day 7: Ruwau Lake to South Lake (3 miles)

This was my first backpacking trip I had done in over 10 years, when my friend, Brett, invited me to join him and the husband of a mutual colleague of ours. I borrowed an old generic external frame pack from him.

We drove from Santa Cruz to a campground near South Lake where we spent the first night. Our original plan had been to start the trip at South Lake and end up at North Lake. We had not gotten a permit in advance, so we needed to get one in the morning. We ended up going and to the station very early in the morning and waiting in line—seeing people already camped out there (at that time there was a station near South Lake). When it got to our turn, all the permits for South Lake were taken, so we took a permit to go in at North Lake and reversed our itinerary.

Day 1: North Lake to Darwin Basin (6 miles)

9,300' - 13,000' - 11,800'

9,300′ – 13,000′ – 11,800′

 

Gary, Brett, Nick

Gary, Brett, Nick

The trip starts with a steady climb up to Lamarck Lake where the trail ends.

Nick overlooking Granite Lake

Nick overlooking Granite Lake

Then it levels out somewhat as one heads to the base of Lamarck (though there was somewhat of a use trail).

Brett fishing at Lamarck Lake

Brett fishing at Lamarck Lake

We stopped at Lamarck for a break, and Brett tried a little fishing.

Brett pointing up at Lamarck Col

Brett pointing up at Lamarck Col

At that point Gary started to get altitude sickness, mostly a headache. We rested a bit, and Brett and I took a bunch of his gear to lighten his load, and we headed up to the col, over some scree and snow and boulders.

Nick, Brett and Gary at Lamarck Col

Nick, Brett and Gary at Lamarck Col

At the col it clouded up and was quite windy. However, Gary seemed to have recovered by then. After a brief snack and rest at the col, we headed down—lots of boulder hopping on the way down to Darwin Basin.

Campsite at Darwin Basin

Campsite at Darwin Basin

We stopped at the first lake at the bottom, finding a small green patch to camp on at the south end of the Lake. In the evening I took a scramble up to a basin above the south side of the lake for a great view.

Day 2: Darwin Basin to Wanda Lake (8 miles)

11,800' - 10,700' - 11,400'

11,800′ – 10,700′ – 11,400′

Lake at Darwin

Lake at Darwin

The next day we headed out of the basin to find out way down to the John Muir Trail and Evolution Basin. One has to just pick one’s way along the lakes—it is probably best to stay on the North Side of the first string of Lakes, though whether to stay along them or stay up higher is hard to judge—either way one has to do a bit of slogging and boulder hopping. Then at the last of the lakes cross over the outlet and follow the outlet down. Here it can get tricky as there are paths that can lead one astray as has happened to us on this trip (and to me on another trip as well).

Gary and Brett at Darwin Basin down into Evolution Basin

Gary and Brett at Darwin Basin down into Evolution Basin

We did not find the trial down (though there is a well worn one), and ended up on a ledge and scrambling our way down to the JMT. From there we followed the trial up to Evolution basin, where it levels out, and just gradually rises up to Wanda Lake.

Messy campsite at Wanda--airing out gear

Messy campsite at Wanda–airing out gear

We camped at the North (outlet) end of Wanda where there is a lot of good camping. It rained some that night, though not for long.

Day 3: Wanda Lake to Big Pete Meadow (8 miles)

11,400' - 12,000' - 9,200'

11,400′ – 12,000′ – 9,200′

Nick and Gary in Muir Hut

Nick and Gary in Muir Hut

Muir Hut at the pass

Muir Hut at the pass

This day was a slight climb up to the pass, where we checked out the Muir Hut—a stone shelter right at the pass—to be used only in cases of emergency—but it is very roomy with a fire place and all.

Gary and Nick hiking down into the meadow

Gary and Nick hiking down into the meadow

From there it was all downhill for the rest of the day. However it started raining in the afternoon and did not let up until the next day. Our campground in big Pete meadow was not near water—we had to go back about a quarter of a mile to get water.

Camp in big Pete Meadow

Camp in big Pete Meadow

We cooked our meal under the entrance fly of the tent. To top it off Brett caught a cold (that luckily only lasted the day).

 

Day 4: Big Pete Meadow to Dusy Basin (6 miles)

9,200 - 8,800' - 10,800'

9,200 – 8,800′ – 10,800′

Big Pete Meadow

Big Pete Meadow

We continued south on the JMT for a little under 2 miles until the junction to turn east up to Dusy Basin. It is a long climb up to Dusy following the drainage.

View on way up to Dusy Basin

View on way up to Dusy Basin

It is a gorgeous hike up, as the water cascades down the rocks and one gets lots of views down the canyon. We also decided it was classed Dusy, because it is a “doosy” of a climb up.

Gary Fishing at Dusy

Gary Fishing at Dusy

I think we stopped at the first of lakes on the way up, though there are probably better spots higher up at the further lakes.

Day 5: Dusy Basin to Ruwau Lake (6 miles)

10,800' - 12,000' - 10,800' - 11,100'

10,800′ – 12,000′ – 10,800′ – 11,100′

This was another steady climb up to Bishop Pass.

Gary at Bishop Pass

Gary at Bishop Pass

Over the pass was a fairly large snowfield to cross, though it was basically flat.

Brett and Gary with fish at Long Lake

Brett and Gary with fish at Long Lake

Then a steady climb back down to about the same elevation at Long lake, where we stopped to fish. We quickly caught about half a dozen small trout, and then headed up to Ruwau Lake, which was a steep climb again.

45 hanging food

Remember the days of hanging food?

We found a nice spot on the North side of the Lake, though it was a bit up from the water. That night we heard some rick slides come crashing down from the cliffs on the other side of the lake.

 

Day 6: Rest day

46 Nick at cholcolate Mtn

We spent that day just enjoying the day around the area, and took a day hike to Chocolate Peak, named for the Dark Brown color of the rock. We picked some small quartz crystals that were pretty abundant.

Day 7: Ruwau Lake to South Lake (3 miles)

Profile 6

End at South lake

End at South lake

Then it was a short easy hike all downhill back to South Lake. As we had taken my car, I was the one to hitchhike back to North Lake to pick up the car.

To see the full set of pictures from this hike you can link here to my Flickr album

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