Trip ReportEvolution Traverse
In early August 2013, Keith Robinson and I successfully completed the Evolution Traverse (VI, 5.9). We spent 3 days on the route, 5 total including the hike in and out. It turned out to be one of the more memorable experiences I've had in the mountains.
We read a number of trip reports that shared varied strategies regarding speed and safety. We really liked the style that was documented by Jed Porter/Alex Few in their trip report on Supertopo.com.
This was my first trip to the High Sierra and Keith had been to the Hulk once before, so we wanted to choose a strategy that would give us the best shot at success. We opted to reserve a day each for the hike in and out of Darwin Benches and planned for 2-3 days on the route. We chose to take a 60m 7.7 Sterling Ice Thong which gave us options for increased safety where we wanted it.
Here is how our strategy panned out....
Day 1: Hike into Darwin Benches
Day 2: Start traverse and bivy on summit of Mt. Darwin
Day 3: Bivy at Haeckel Col
Day 4: Finish traverse and hike back to Darwin Benches
Day 5: Hike out
A little luck.....
It had rained in the mountains over several days the week prior to our attempt at the EVO, and we became the beneficiaries of water that accumulated in potholes of boulders atop Mt. Darwin & past Mt. Warlow. Finding enough water on the summit of Darwin gave us added flexibility and led to our decision to bivi on Darwin and add an extra day on route than we had originally planned.
The Evolution Traverse is a very doable objective for those with prior experience climbing in the alpine environment. Strategies abound regarding how to tackle the route. We picked a style that we thought fit our ability and experience. It paid off.
It was a good choice for us to bring a rope. We used it a fair amount simo-climbing, pitching small sections out, and short-roping making use of terrain belays where the opportunity presented itself. Neither Keith nor I had a ton of experience in the High Sierra, much less soloing there, so the added security of the rope was helpful. All that being said, we climbed way more of the traverse un-roped than we did roped up, probably 75% to 25% respectively.
Keith and I live in North Carolina. It is difficult to replicate the High Sierra on the east coast, so I did a significant amount of gym-based training prior to this trip....more than I have for any other trip. It helped my confidence going into the trip knowing that I was fit. I ended up subscribing to Mountain Athlete and did their "base fitness" programming until about 8 weeks out from our trip. I switched to their "Peak Bagger Training Program" for the final bit leading up to our trip. It kicked my ass and I was better for it. What I noticed most was that I recovered well day to day in the mountains. I was tired, but never really that sore. I'd recommend you check them out.
Other thoughts...my two cents...
Acclimatize well, especially if your coming from the lower elevations.
Wear approach shoes that climb well & don't bring rock shoes
Take your time getting off Darwin. It is the route-finding crux. Thankfully, we chose wisely and nailed it...staying out of the sandy gullies that I had read about in other trip reports.
Lightweight gear is helpful (our packs weighed about 25 lbs each)
I think I read this in another trip report, but "don't freak out on the length"! Keep moving...there is a lot of 3rd/4th class with short sections of low 5th class climbing up to about 5.8. We rappelled past the 5.9 down-climbing off of Darwin. The rock quality is really good throughout.
Traverses are the Jam
I want to do more rock traverses! This was a incredibly inspiring experience for me. It is such a cool way to move through the mountains, and to have that opportunity in the beautiful landscape of the High Sierra with a trusted climbing partner/friend was an absolute pleasure!
Special thanks to Keith's wife, Shelly, for putting together the video!
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