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North America, United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Evolution Traverse, First Complete Ascent, Previously Unreported

Evolution Traverse, First Complete Ascent, Previously Unreported. In early summer, 1999, I finally traversed the Evolution Crest. This is a jagged, eight-mile ridge of nine 13,000-foot peaks in the central Sierra. I say finally, because in 1997 and 1998 I climbed sections of it with two different partners but failed both times to link the whole enchilada. In 1997, it was with Galen Rowell, and failure that time was due to my not being adamant in starting at the first peak and the long rocky ridge that formed its skyline. Galen and I started with Mt. Mendel, the second peak, and climbed south over several peaks to Mt. Haeckel, where Galen, opting for the fleshpots of base camp, bailed. I continued alone on the last half. It was a very good traverse with great rock, but I knew I had blown it.

The next year I was back again, this time with Dayle Mazzerella and this time starting at the beginning. A mile of great knife-edge led over Peak 13,360 to Mendel and then on over a few more peaks before we realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. So we dropped off the crest to Mt. Spencer and on down to the valley.

In 1999, I returned to try it alone. My friend Kevin Calder came along to camp out. With big packs, the hike into this area is fairly brutal, so we drank a lot of tequila when we got there.

After a day to recover, I started at the first sign of light. I traveled lighter this time, carrying no rope or hardwear. On the other hand, I was still murky with a hangover. This time, though, everything went great: weather, climbing, and eventually even my head. I got back to camp at dark.

This is the best traverse that I have done in the Sierra. It has a clear beginning and end, the rock is excellent, and unlike many traverses, the line of least resistance is on the very crest for virtually all eight miles. The route (VI 5.9) starts on the west-southwest ridge of Peak 13,360 and then traverses on over Mendel, Darwin, Peak 13,322, Haeckel, Wallace, Fiske, Warlow, and Huxley.

Peter Croft, unaffiliated