I decided to do some recon for our attempt at Evolution Traverse next month and headed up to the Lake Sabrina trailhead with plans to do Peak 13332, Haeckel, and Wallace. Thanks in part to my housemates' cat whining at my bedroom door in the wee hours I ended up sleeping through my alarm. So much for an early start. Do you see a pattern here?
I parked my motorcycle at the trailhead and marched around the lake. I made good time, passing a number of Outward Bound students/Boy Scouts, most donning those mosquito head nets. Bad sign. The trail was a bit difficult to follow at times as it meandered over multiple slabs, but I made it through the mosquito infested lakes to the trail's end at Midnight Lake. A use trail led up from here to the basin below Darwin and Peak 13332.
I didn't have any beta on 13332 other than the routes on the S side were easy, but I figured that I could probably find something on the N/NE side. It seemed to take forever to get to the base. There were several obvious chutes, one of which had spilled out a large amount of rockfall. OK, skip that one. The next two chutes appeared to meet up on the top of an interesting looking buttress. I decided to find a way up the buttress, knowing I could bail out on the left if it got too dicey. The buttress was made up of a series of large steps with short class 4 and class 5 cracks connecting them. The steps made even the committing lieback I tried seem less exposed. At the top of the buttress were several snowfields/ramp systems that led to the summit. I attempted to cross the northernmost snow chute, which was a bit sketchy when I first tried to kick steps and hit a sheet of ice. Luckily I managed to step over a few feet and get purchase. Back on the rock, it was class 4 at most to the summit. It had taken me an hour of actual climbing. Once on top I found a history of the first ascent of the Evolution Traverse in the summit register, with entries from all three of Peter Croft's attempts. The peak got little travel with only a small portion of the register being filled since its inception in 1964.
The traverse to Haeckel looked long, but traverses always look longer than they are. Initially I tried to stay on the ridge, but I decided to pretend like I was climbing the route and stick to smaller talus for efficiency. If you stayed low it was pretty much class 2, but a lot of it was covered with snow so I stuck to the rocks. I could see a large notch below Haeckel so I also tried to minimize the amount of elevation gain/loss by contouring. The final section of the ridge before the notch was super rotten. In retrospect I should have bypassed this on the snow. Once in the notch my options for getting to the base of the headwall on Haeckel were pretty obvious: loose class 2 crap or large blocky class 3 with a fun class 4 variation to start. I chose the later. Approaching the headwall I could see several class 3 ramp systems, plus a number of crack systems for spicing up the rating. Since routefinding would be fairly straightforward I figured that I could slack on my scouting duties and have fun. From the summit I could see what was in store on the traverse, fairly easy but long ridges leading over to Wallace, then Fiske. It had taken me ~2 hours from summit to summit. It was getting to be late afternoon and I wasn't psyched to have to do much of the trail in the dark given that it had been slightly difficult to follow in broad daylight.
For variation I thought I would descent via Hungry Packer Lake. Big mistake. The slabs that surround the lake cliff out fairly rapidly and the descent route follows this heinous scree chute. There was a vague cairn leading off and left part way down the chute, but when I checked it out it looked like a false lead so I continued down. This is when I noticed that the cliffs dropped straight down to the lake and it was too deep to wade. The mosquitoes were thick and I inhaled many as I slogged back up the chute to the turnoff I had earlier dismissed. I hoped this was the correct way as the sun was dropping behind the mountains and I was not keen on routefinding through the slabs in the dark. Happy day, the route went and it dropped me out on flatter shoreline and soon the trail.
I started jogging to keep the mosquitoes from swarming around my head. Looking back toward the lake and the granite spires I could see why I heard about this area being so spectacular. No time to doddle. I hurried down the trail to get through as much of the confusing slab sections as possible before total darkness set in. On the way back I lost the trail a few times, but only briefly. I kept waiting for the section where the trail started skirting the lake. It took forever. I could see lights from the boat house on the far end of Sabrina. They taunted me for over a mile. Finally I reached the road and my motorcycle. It had taken 13.5 hours (3 hours of climbing time) for 2 peaks and ~17.5 miles, at least 4 of which were x-country, with ~6000 ft of gain. Ugh, I feel slow.