Mount Darwin - North Face
11-13 Jul 2003 - by Ron Hudson
Four of us went over Lamarck Col to camp on a meadowed
ledge about 300' above the Darwin Canyon bottom. A dawn
start put us at the bottom of the Left Rib on Darwin's
face, our goal for the trip. The snow between the rocky
and the north ridge looked good and climbable all the way
near the summit. Only a small amount of ice was present
the Darwin glacier. But our goal was the rock route.
rates the rib class 3-4. It looks formidable, rising
above its base, and has pillars, cracks, slabs and near
vertical looking areas as it rises to Darwin's top.
We followed the obvious crack in yellow rock for the
first part of the climb. There it was mostly class 3, but
we did rope up for short sections. To get around the
buttress/block 40% of the way up, I fifth classed it about
100'; where it was exposed and with fewer holds. Onward
2nd class for a while, then the gray near vertical granite
slabs we had cringed about. There was very little
information about this climb, 1930s climbs were referenced
in Secor's book. We also kept our eyes on the 35-50
snow gully next to us as a bail out, or descent route
summiting. We had our axes but did not bring crampons;
midday the snow would be good I figured.
We did find a route among the ledges and cracks in the
slabs; no 5th class face climbing. It was mostly 3rd
decorated by polemonium and alpine gold daisies, again
some class 3-4 roped moves. The last 150' or so was among
some blocky and loose gullies; we didn't use a chimney as
described in the book. Quite vertical there but it went
A lot of loose rock (as for much of the climb) ; prudent
check the security of every block necessary to touch.
finally we were on the football field-sized summit
- Peaks: Mount Darwin
(sorted/filed as Darwin)
- Place: California
- Difficulty: class 3, class 4, ice axe, E Rated, helmet, rope used, snow travel
Next was the detached summit block.
We roped up and got up the awkward looking formation
finally sign the book for this emblem peak. Great view!
Perfect weather (it was 100+ in Owens Valley)! We felt
mountaineers, as we had worked a lot, physically and
technically, for this one.
The ridge to the (east one of the two) notch was our
to proceed downward. Two snowbanks in the notch gully
impeded our progress somewhat, but downclimbing on lead
a rappel got us back to the glacier and security, finally!
I was a bit nervous the whole climb--a sketchy route going
up, then downclimbing what we were not familiar with. But
the uncertainty is what makes an adventure! As the sun
setting; we were relieved to be back on the glacier, safe
and successful. We had been careful and took our time.
A couple hours back to camp, and we still managed some
happy hour snacks and dinner. As we saw the peak again in
the morning, it still seemed kind of amazing that there is
not too technical route up that imposing rib. The next
three of us bagged Mt. Lamarck and got to the trailhead
about 3 PM.
Climbers were Tom McDonnell (leader-great job!), Ron
Hudson (assistant and report author), Patty Rambert, and
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