Evolution Peaks, Grand Traverse. The Evolution Peaks were judged to be the scenic culmination of the High Sierra by the 19th century scrambler Theodore Solomons, who named them after the great evolutionary scientists and thinkers of the time. Located far from road- heads at the middle of the John Muir Trail, they have had very little technical rock climbing. Peter Croft and I followed this tradition by not using ropes or hardware on the first traverse of the Evolution range in mid-July.
At 4:30 a.m., we started by headlamp from our camp at 10,800 feet on Evolution Lake, climbing a 4th class route on Mount Mendel to reach the summit ridge at dawn. From there, a mile of knife-edged ridge (4th and 5th-class climbing) brought us to the summit pinnacle of Mount Darwin (13,831”). As we continued south, we came to the crux of the day, which involved exposed, unroped 5.9 climbing with some loose rock along a series of pinnacles just below Darwin.
We continued traversing several more 13,000-foot peaks with spots of 5.8 until we reached the easier classic Northwest Arête of Mount Haeckel. Having completed all the peaks on the main crest, and with hands that could barely touch the rock, I decided to descend. Peter continued alone, veering off the main crest to traverse over mounts Wallace, Fiske, Warlow, and Huxley to complete the entire arc of Evolution Peaks. He returned to camp at about 7 p.m., having traversed 35,000 feet of horizontal rock climbing with close to 10,000 feet of vertical gain, which he considered to be more than the equivalent of a one-day Grade VI wall climb.