Sierra High Route Day 8: Below Muir Pass to Darwin’s Bench

Day 8
Total Miles: 12.3
Cumulative Miles: 90.2
Elevation Gain: 2572 ft
Elevation Loss: 1379 ft
Camp: Lake On Darwin Bench
On Day 8 of the Sierra High Route we were on trail for about 11 miles as we climbed over Muir Pass and hiked through Evolution Basin. We cut off trail for the last 1.3 miles to access the Darwin Bench.
Daily Neet Beat
If you ask anyone what their favorite part of the John Muir Trail is or what is the prettiest place they have been in the Sierra Mountains, you often get the same answer: Evolution Lake, Evolution Basin, the Goddard Divide. 
Evolution Basin and the Goddard Range

Jagged and dark peaks stand like sentinels with snowfields softening their guard, lush alpine meadows invite you to skip through them and lakes reflect the sunlight back with dense laser beams of blue. The beauty is astounding and leaves it’s mark on many a soul.

The well-loved and beautiful Evolution Lake

This is where we walk today. Yes we will be on the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail for ten miles and yes there will be people. But it is Evolution Basin and Muir Pass. Classic high Sierra and loved intensely. After ten miles we will head off the John Muir Trail and hike up to the Darwin Bench. 

We start around our usual time of 6:30am and start climbing up Muir Pass. It is funny how I don’t worry about going up if it is on a trail. Ray and I are both in our element and get into a rhythm as we climb up to the pass. We don’t see many people as we start earlier than most and get to the Pass after four miles around 9am. 
The Muir Hut on Muir Pass

The Muir Hut on the pass is a classic historic place built in 1930 by the Sierra Club for travelers who may be caught in the elements. The stones in the roof are arranged in a spiral and it blends well into the surroundings. We went inside and looked around when we did the John Muir Trail two years ago but this time the bottom part of the door is stuck so we leave it be and don’t linger. The wind is pushing us onward.

Ray and I in front of the Muir Hut

Down we go into the Evolution Basin and pass by the beautiful lakes of McDermand, Wanda and Sapphire. Then onto Evolution Lake.

 After Evolution Lake we climb up onto the Darwin Bench. There is a faint use trail going up but it goes straight up along waterfalls and cascades making there way downslope. 
Ray climbing up to Darwin Bench
Climbing up to Darwin Bench

I am not feeling well today and really feel it as we start climbing up to Darwin Bench. I have had the runs and stomach cramps for about eight days. I am now worried that I need to get medication or fear it may be giardia. I put it out of my mind for now but we may need to figure out what to do.

Waterfall on the way up to Darwin Bench from Evolution Lake

Darwin Bench is gorgeous and we decide to stop at Lake 11,540 below Muriel Peak and the Glacier Divide. 

Campsite at Lake 11,540 with Glacier Divide in the background 

The Sierra High Route from Darwin Bench climbs over Alpine Col next, a tough off-route pass with a lot of talus and boulder scrambling. Ray and I decide to save this pass for tomorrow and discuss options of getting me out to see a doctor as I have now been sick for eight days.

Video Clip of the Day: Muir Pass



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