Southern Evolution Loop

Notes by piero scaruffi | California hikes
Pictures of the hikes
The Southern Evolution region of the Eastern Sierra can be reached from Bishop on a day hike via Lake Sabrina (see also the main Evolution loop).

Lake Sabrina (2780m) is located at the end of 168, west of Bishop. From Bishop take 168 west, aka West Line St, all the way to the end.

The trailhead for the Lake Sabrina routes is located before the Lake Sabrina dam on the left-hand side of the road. There are very few parking spots and overnight parking is not allowed. There is free parking along the road near the campground (about 1km before the dam).

After coasting Lake Sabrina for about 2 kms, the trail climbs steeeply to Blue Lake. Logs help you cross the creek that drains Blue Lake. At the fork for Donkey Lake take the right turn towards Dingleberry Lake. Careful not to end up at Donkey Lake. It is very easy to make a mistake here, as the trail disappears and only cairns mark the route: you should be turning 90 degrees west away from the lake if you are on the right trail. This frustrating trail goes up and down. It drops elevation to Dingleberry Lake, that will be on your right handside. After passing this lake, and after another creek crossing over stones, you reach another fork. You can go left to Hungry Packer Lake, or right to Midnight Lake (3300m).

Take the trail on the left to Hungry Packer Lake for about 30 minutes until the trail hits a wide creek (ignore any tiny seasonal creek). Leave the trail and head straight for Moonlight Lake through a moraine (pile of boulders) that cuts the ridge in front of you in half. Between you and this moraine there should be a little lake. Stay on its right side while heading for the moraine. You should hit Moolight Lake approximately in the middle. Head upstream along the creek that feeds this lake. If you see any other creek on that side of the lake, it's a seasonal one: take the first one. It is also the only one that comes down from a canyon as opposed to a steep mountain slope.

There is a use-trail on the right side of Moonlight Lake but you will lose it because it is in terrible conditions, especially when the bouldering begins. Alternatively, you can just walk along the creek that feeds this lake: it comes down from Echo Lake. The saddle above you is actually a narrow gorge with some pretty waterfalls. Best is that you avoid the gorge: the use-trail actually climbs to its right.

There are two ways to cross into the Evolution region: Echo Pass or Wallace Col. To head for Echo Pass (not recommended), cross the creek before Echo Lake and coast the lake to the left. There is a natural ramp that heads east, the wrong direction, but this will take you high enough to move south avoiding the steep granite slabs that rise from the lake. Then walk into the cirque and head up whichever way is easier. In the middle of the cirque you might trip into the remnants of a 1983 airplane crash.

Echo Pass:

Andy Duncan's photo of the pass from a different angle:

Echo Pass is a misnomer. It is not a pass at all. It is the point where the eastern and northern ridges of Mt Clyde converge. You are climbing the eastern ridge and then descending the northern ridge. Therefore it is not the lowest point in the saddle between Mt Powell (east) and Mt Clyde (west). All the chutes to the left of Echo Pass are at least class 4 at the top, and most of them are class 5 on the other side. Echo Pass itself is class 4 at the top. The cirque below Echo Pass (south of Echo Lake) used to be always covered in snow and ice but in august 2015 there wasn't a single patch of snow. On the other side head towards the very visible lake and then continue in the southwestern direction until you hit the John Muir trail, hopefully at Helen Lake.

A much better alternative to Echo Pass is Wallace Col (3950m), located just south of Mt Wallace. See the Mt Wallace page. On the other side of Wallace Col there is a lake. Head north from that lake to another lake which is roughly at the same elevation. From here ascend to the left until it is safe to move over the northern ridge towards the Haeckel Pass.

Whichever way to hit the trail, from here the JMT heads north. Leave it at Sapphire Lake and find a notch left of Mt Haeckel.

  • Lake Sabrina (2780m):
  • Muir sign 20'
  • Second waterfall and beginning of switchbacks 50'
  • Blue lake, crossing on logs 1h30'
  • Donkey Lake junction and downhill 1h50'
  • End of downhill and small creek crossing 2h5'
  • Dingleberry Lake and crossing on rocks (3200m) 2h30til058
  • Midnight-Hungry Packers sign 3h15'
  • Moonlight Lake 3h45'
  • Echo Lake (3536m): 4h30'
  • Echo Pass (3800m): 7h
See the page on Mt Wallace for the route via Wallace Col.

See the page on the northern Evolution Loop for returning via Haeckel Pass.

Pictures of this hike
See also:
Weather forecast for the Evolution region