Trip Report
Evolution Basin Ski Tour with Pulmonary Edema and Helo Evac
Tuesday May 23, 2017 12:07pm
Adventure started at the Lake Sabrina campground on Wednesday night.

Descending the south side of Echo Col.
Descending the south side of Echo Col.
Credit: bradL

Thursday 8am ish we headed down the trail. Splitter weather. Somewhat complex route finding to get to Echo Col. Beautiful views of Picture Peak. Got to unmelted snow just under Echo Col by about 3pm. We crossed, having to tunnel through a cornice on the JMT-side of the Col. Camped at Lake 11,400.

Credit: bradL

Skiing in the High Sierra is okay.
Skiing in the High Sierra is okay.
Credit: bradL

Friday crossed Muir Pass and skied Black Giant. Great ski descent. We could see the entire range from Banner and Ritter to the Kaweahs and Whitney.

Credit: bradL

Friday night a member of the group complains of altitude pains: headache, nausea, canít eat, canít drink water. Saturday we spend the day moving down, but weíre trapped: Evolution Basin is just so darn high. The only way to get lower: 15mi to Muir Ranch or else have to hike uphill, which isnít going to happen. Saturday 7pm he gets helo evacíed. We get a satellite text message that he gets to the hospital and is recovering from High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. Wow.

Sunday we ski Darwin. One of the best ski descents of my life. Complex feelings fill my thoughts: about our buddy who got evacuated, about my newly born son, about friends who have died in the mountains in the last year, about ravens.

Darwin and Mendel
Darwin and Mendel
Credit: bradL

Sunday night we camp atop Lamarck Col. Monday morning we watch the sunrise over the White Mountains and enjoy another fine ski descent. Rather clean (minimal bushwhacking) descent to North Lake Road and our cars.

Hiking out on North Lake Road
Hiking out on North Lake Road
Credit: bradL

Parting thoughts: satellite texting saved us, going over Echo Cool on day one maybe too aggressive, the Sierras can be more remote than they feel.

  Trip Report Views: 2,025
About the Author
bradL is a trad climber from Lake Tahoe, NV.

Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  May 23, 2017 - 12:21pm PT
Wow, what an adventure. Hope your buddy is recovering well. Best-lars

Oakland, CA
  May 23, 2017 - 12:40pm PT
Thanks for sharing, good stuff.

What would have happened w/o the heli rescue, do you think? Would your friend have been able to hoof it over the col eventually?

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe, NV
Author's Reply  May 23, 2017 - 12:46pm PT
It would have been rough. He could barely walk. We would have made a sled from his skis and manhauled him over Lamarck. But with his symptoms presenting at 10,500', this would have been risky.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  May 23, 2017 - 12:50pm PT
Looks like a wonderful trip, but marred by scary stuff w/ partner. Hope he heals fully and quickly. How was his aerobic conditioning and prior experience over 10k feet?

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe, NV
Author's Reply  May 23, 2017 - 02:10pm PT
Yes, he is a pretty fit guy. Regular 1hr cardio/day plus some recent longer workouts at moderate elevation. Doesn't seem obvious that his fitness was the problem. But would better fitness have possibly prevented the problem? I'm not sure.
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  May 23, 2017 - 06:00pm PT
Fitness? Maybe, but how about there was some other underlying illnes/condition. Pulmenary edema happens in the Sierra, but the few times I've seen it there was another health isssue going on. Undiagnosed heart condition in one, and the onset of lupis in another.

It could also be bad luck. Either way, not something to be trifled with. I've seen it fatal one time, blue lips and bloody spittle another.


Social climber
Moorpark, CA.
  May 23, 2017 - 05:56pm PT
Good thing it all worked out.

Beautiful photos.

Thanks for posting.

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  May 23, 2017 - 06:00pm PT
nice photos, please post more of Mendel NF if you can

regarding the sickness -- would you elaborate your acclimatization schedule? perhaps you came from one of the metropolitan areas in the West that are near sea level (e.g. LA, SF)? if that's so, you went from just above sea level to 10,000 feet on Wed, and stayed above 10,000 for the next 48-72 hours

if that's the scenario, I'm kind of surprised by problems becoming acute after 2-3 days in the BC. maybe he (she? didn't read that carefully) didn't vocalize difficulties until they became severe
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 23, 2017 - 06:05pm PT
I am glad everyone came out ok,
Good thoughts above

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  May 23, 2017 - 06:09pm PT
Nice tr...beautiful pictures. Thanks!
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, A sailboat, or some time zone
  May 23, 2017 - 06:16pm PT
So glad for your buddy.
A memorable trip for so many reasons!!!


Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  May 23, 2017 - 07:32pm PT
Nice TR. Glad your friend is OK. I've done variations of your trip and yes, feels remote out there.

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
  May 23, 2017 - 07:38pm PT
Too bad you couldn't have talked the pilot into landing you on a peak for some more runs...
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  May 23, 2017 - 08:29pm PT
Fun was had, nobody died. Good work!

I would love to do that run.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  May 23, 2017 - 08:58pm PT
Thanks for posting, love that zone....hope your partner is doing well.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  May 23, 2017 - 09:08pm PT
Whoah. Things can get real "real" out there really fast. So glad all turned out well. Thanks for the report and the fantastic photos. Nice work on Darwin by the way.


Trad climber
Lake Tahoe, NV
Author's Reply  May 23, 2017 - 09:22pm PT
Thanks for the comments and well wishes, everybody.

Acclimatization went as:

Day 0 Sea Level
Day 1 Drive to 9000' and camp
Day 2 Climb to 12,500' and camp at 11,400'
Day 3 Symptoms first appear
Day 4 Evac...

Communication may have played a role on Day 3 with our friend being a bit too stoic for his own good. By that point we had really already committed to the route, so better communication alone wouldn't have completely solved the problem.
Delhi Dog

Good Question...
  May 23, 2017 - 09:30pm PT
thanks for the share and glad things worked out.

Man there is a LOT of snow up there!

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  May 23, 2017 - 09:47pm PT
regarding the sickness -- would you elaborate your acclimatization schedule?

Classic Cali no schedule . . . HAPE symptoms can occur as low as 8000 feet in elevation . . . mountains are hazardous and beautiful.

Trad climber
  Jun 3, 2017 - 05:54pm PT
Many years ago on an attempted ascent of Whitney East Face I got severe Cerebral Edema. I was young a very fit. The literature then said it tended to hit young, fit males harder than others. We had to abandon the attempt. The next time I took Diamox and it was a wonder drug. Scampered up like a mountain goat. Funny, the older I got, the less of an issue it became.
Q- Ball

Mountain climber
but to scared to climb them anymore
  Jun 3, 2017 - 07:12pm PT
Glad he is going to be alright!

I know a former Everest guy that got cerebral edema on a hike at just 10,000 ft. You just never know...take care all!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jun 3, 2017 - 07:50pm PT
Wonderful TR!
Mike Dahlquist

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 6, 2017 - 10:16am PT
You see the big pile of burned trash (including what looked like plastic) that some a$$holes left next to the frozen lake down below Lamarck Col in Darwin Canyon?
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report