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1994: North Lake to Lake Sabrina Loop

August 30, 1994

Trip report for North Lake–Lake Sabrina Loop (40 miles)

August 2–8, 1994

Nick, Brett, Charlie

Topo

Topo

Full profile

Day 1: North Lake Trailhead to Lower Desolation Lake (7 miles)

Day 2: Day hiking at Desolation lakes

Day 3: Lower Desolation to Piute/JMT junction (11 miles)

Day 4: Piute/JMT junction to Colby Meadow (8 miles)

Day 5: Rest Day at Colby Meadow

Day 6: Colby Meadow to Darwin Canyon (5 miles)

Day 7: Darwin Canyon to Lake Sabrina (7.5 miles)

This trip took place many years before writing this report.  The original itinerary had us ending up back at North Lake for a full loop, but a wrong turn took us to Sabrina.

We car camped the night before after our drive from Santa Cruz. We had to get our permit the next day. Back then, there was a ranger station t the junction between North and South Lakes that issued permits.

Day 1: North Lake Trailhead to Lower Desolation Lake (7 miles)

Day1 profile

We left that morning after getting our permits up the Piute trail, at 9400′.  It was a steady climb for the first 4-5 miles to Piute pass at 11400′.

Nick at Piute Pass

Nick at Piute Pass

Then a light drop to the turn off to go up to Desolation Lakes, and a small climb up to them at just over 11,200.

Brett fishing at Desolation Lake

Brett fishing at Desolation Lake

Desolation Lakes lived up to their name, with very little vegetation at all, just an open rocky scape. The mosquitoes turned out to be really bad there though.

We spent an extra day there exploring up to the upper lake and hiking over to a ridge to the north-west past Square Lake.

Day 3: Lower Desolation to Piute/JMT junction (11 miles)

Day2 profile

We cross-countried it back down the open terrain to the trail, so as not to backtrack. Then we followed the trail along the Piute Canyon.

Charlie along the Piute

Charlie along the Piute

Although it was all downhill,  the last couple of miles I was getting very worn out, wanting to stop, but my hiking mates said we needed to keep going. We stopped at the junction of the John Muir Trail, where the Piute meets the San Juaquin, at 8000′.

Piute Creek

Piute Creek

Of course they were right, as the campsite by the junction of the rivers was lovely developed campground with tress and water. I took a dip in a nice pool just near us. Unlike Desolation, it was practically mosquito free. We also ran into a group of hikers, one of whom had developed blisters all over both feet from using brand new cheap boots. We ended up giving him loads of molefoam, though not sure how much it could help at that point.

Day 4: Piute/JMT junction to Colby Meadow (8 miles)

Day3 profile

This was the opposite of the previous day in terms of hiking—a steady climb all day, up a couple of sets of switchbacks, and one river to ford. From there we saw some lovely falls along the way.

Nick at falls

Nick at falls

We stopped at a place off the trail at Colby meadows, right by the river at 9800′.

Brett at Colby

Brett at Colby

We spent an extra day there as well, just enjoying the river, Brett doing some fishing. Found some lovely pools for swimming in as well.

Day 6: Colby Meadow to Darwin Canyon (5 miles)

Day4 profile

After a few miles we headed up out of Evolution Valley toward Evolution Basin.

Nick climbing out of Evolution Valley

Nick climbing out of Evolution Valley

We looked for where to turn off for the use trail up to Darwin Basin, but not finding it, found our own way up (not having found it either on the trip the year before going the other way). Once up in the basin there was a use trail on and off, but it is difficult going at places getting around the lakes.

Nick at Darwin Basin

Nick at Darwin Basin

We arrived at the last lake at about 2pm, at 11800′. Here we had an argument, as Charlie wanted to go over the col that day. I said no way, as we had already climbed a couple of thousand feet, and I knew it would be a long trudge up to the top, about another 1500′ straight up, on not so fresh legs.

Campsite at Darwin

Campsite at Darwin

Charlie pouted and camped separately that night.

Day 7: Darwin Canyon to Lake Sabrina (7.5 miles)

Day5 profile

We headed up the next day, and it did take 2-3 hours for me to reach the col, on the way losing my water bottle down between some boulders.

Charlie and Brett head up Lamarck

Charlie and Brett head up Lamarck

Charlie, who was in better shape than Brett or I, reached the top before us, but unlike Brett and I, he did not have a map.

Nick at Lamark col

Nick at Lamark col

Instead of waiting for us, he headed down. Once Brett and I got up to the col at 13000′, we were committed to following him, but as we worked our way down the pure scree we thought it did not look right (we had gone over the col from the other direction the previous year). It was just stepping and sliding on the scree and loose boulders all the way down, often having to use hands to keep one’s balance.

Nick Bret Charlie at Schober

Nick Bret Charlie at Schober

Once we got down the scree to the Schober Lakes and checked our topos, it was clear what we had done wrong. I was quite mad at Charlie at this point, for leading us the wrong way. To make matter worse, it had started to drizzle. It was clear that going back up was not a reasonbale option. We did not see a good way back over to the Lamarck Lakes area.

After studying the maps we figured a route to take us to Lake Sabrina. We stayed to the north of the Schober Lakes, then first tried to head south around Bottelneck lake but got stymied. We then went all the way around the lake, though it took a little scrambling. From there we went up over the ridge, heading south east to hit a trail. As we found the trail, it started raining harder, and we found a rock to hide under and have lunch.

Lake Sabrina

Lake Sabrina

As we finished lunch the rain ended and we followed the trail to Lake Sabrina. We had a bit of refreshment at the Café there, and I got elected to hitchhike to go get the car.

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

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