The striking view of the lake filled Darwin Canyon opens up from Lamarck Col (12,900'). The view is dominated by Mt. Darwin (13,831') and Mt. Mendel (13,710'), which are part of the the large Evolution Group, i.e. nine peaks forming eastern boundary of the neighboring King's Canyon and named after scientific founding fathers of the theory of evolution. Peter Croft's most favorite Evolution Traverse linking all these peaks, from Mt Mendel to Mt. Huxley starts here. The steep north face of Mt. Mendel, visible from Lamarck Col, hosts two High Sierra ice climbing testpieces: Right Mendel Couloir (AI5) and Left Mendel Couloir, aka Ice 9, (AI5+). The north face of Mt Darwin is covered with the massive North Glacier, whcih can be climbed all the way to the top (AI4).
Getting to Lamarck Col with heavy packs is a whole day event. This is a 6 mile hike with 2,600' elevation gain. Obtain wilderness permits at the ranger station in Bishop (get there early, it's a popular trail and only few passes are given on a walk in basis). Take route 168 to North Lake. Car may be parked at an overnight parking lot 0.5 miles from the trailhead. Begin with 2 miles on well-marked Lamarck Lakes Trail until Upper Lamarck Lake. Continue on X-country trail on the south side of the lake (the lake should be on your right as you pass it). The trail starts with the slight descent into a 100 yard rocky groove, climbs up its southern end, winds and goes up and down for a while until climbing steep slopes towards the plateau before Lamarck Cole. Most bivy sites are located on the western slopes of Lamarck Cole but convenient and less populated bivy sites are also located at the lake just below the Lamarck Col on its eastern side.
References: "The Good, the Great, and the Awesome", Peter Croft "Climbing California High Sierras", John Moynier and Claude Fiddler
Wilderness Permits: Inyo National Forest Ranger Station 873 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514 Reservation Line: (760) 873 2483 www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo
The hike from North Lake to Lamarck Col actually gains about 3700 feet (then you descend into the canyon). The views from the col are worth it. Head toward the left side of the col/saddle to go over at the correct spot. The col has a sign so you know you are at the right spot.