Darwin Canyon Tour
- Advanced mountain terrain including two somewhat steep passes (30 degrees or so)
- 21 miles in 3 days
- Cumulative gain, loss: +5200', -5200'
- Avg. Relief: 500'/mile
- Topos: Mt. Goddard (15'); Mt. Darwin, Mt. Thompson (7.5')
This is a very fine tour, whose highlights are the beautiful Darwin Bench, perched
overlooking Evolution Valley, and the long descent from Lamarck Col at the end of the
This trip begins and ends as close to North Lake as you can get by car. By mid-spring,
most years, you should be able to drive up to the bottom of the dirt road that leads to
North Lake, elevation 8960'. Earlier in the season, the winter closure is at Aspendell,
8270', and late season, you may be able to drive all the way to North Lake, 9250'.
This tour has an average elevation of about 11000', so April or May should be a good
time to do it in a typical season.
Wherever you park, continue on foot up to the North Lake trailhead, and follow the
vicinity of the trail up to Piute Lake, our first camp. This is a pretty easy day, but
I don't like to camp higher than 11000' on the first night out.
Darwin Lakes; photo by Andy Luks
Day 2, we head up over Piute Pass, and bear left around the back side of Muriel Pk., over
the Glacier Divide via Alpine Col. Follow the lakes in your descent down to the next camp,
at Darwin Bench, to the west of Darwin Canyon. There should be time to day-tour southward
to get a view of Evolution Lake and Evolution Valley.
The next day, venture into Darwin Canyon. After crossing the fourth lake, head
northeast up to the not exactly obvious Lamarck Col. From Lamarck, descend to the
northeast. At 12200', rather than taking the steep chute into Lamarck Lake, you want
to stay right, and then continue downward. At 11000', the trail route cuts left out of
this drainage, but you can continue to ski downward, towards and past Grass Lake. A mile
later, you will reach North Lake.
Ascending Lamarck Col from Darwin Lakes; photo by Andy Luks
An account of the final day of our 5/96 Darwin Canyon trip
General info and disclaimer about backcountry skiing
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