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TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:43 pm
by donnymarcos
Never been to Ionian Basin, and tried last year this time with my brother but was stymied by the massive thunderstorm that took out Hwy 168 for a bit. Decided to try again, alone this time however.

Day 1

Set off from North Lake around 8:30 am. Easy going and great weather, some bugs but tapering off by the time I reached Upper Lamarck Lake.

There was some snow on the trail at the bottom of the switchback section just past Upper Lamarck, but easy enough to navigate. Lots of snow on the slope leading up to the lake beneath Lamarck Col. Plenty of snow on the col itself, but easy climb to the top.

Fair amount of snow in the higher reaches of Darwin Canyon, but was able to find some nice dry campsites near the westernmost lakes, before the bench. Minimal mosquitos, some wildflowers, lots of marmots!

Lamarck Col with tracks visible
Lamarck Col with tracks visible
Darwin Canyon looking fine
Darwin Canyon looking fine
Day 2

Set off down towards JMT. Some snow near Evolution Lake, but still plenty of good camping.

However, the Wanda Lake bench is almost entirely covered in snow, as is the lake itself, so it’s slow going from that point on — expect your shoes to get wet! It’s mostly snowy hiking from Wanda Lake up to Muir Pass and then down to about Helen Lake.

Initially contemplated entering Ionian via Wanda Pass, but changed my mind after seeing that it was snowed in the entire way up. I figured I’d follow the already-beaten path up to Muir Pass and then take a look at Nietzsche Col.

Nietzsche was just as snowy and even looked a little corniced at the top, and I was about to bail on that idea, when I noticed some postholed tracks leading to the top of the col. So I went for it. Difficult climb in the snow, but was easy to kick steps in the late afternoon. Used my ice axe as psychological protection for the last section, but probably would have been okay with a hiking pole.

Had considered climbing Mt. Solomons before starting the trip, but there appeared to be a fair amount of snow on the summit, and it was already 5PM. There is a nice little spot right below the pass that would make a good campsite for a Solomons summit bid (or a bailout site in case you don't have time or energy to drop all the way down to lake 11828).

The 800’ descent down to lake 11828 was snow pretty much the whole way down and an easy slide. The lake area is totally covered in snow, so I headed down to Chasm Lake, hoping to find a better spot to camp.

Chasm Lake is similarly snowed-in, but I found a bare rock outcropping about 200’ above it that had flat enough granite to bivy.

very snowy Wanda Lake
very snowy Wanda Lake
final approach to Nietzsche Col
final approach to Nietzsche Col
looking down toward lake 11828
lake 11828
Day 3

Initial plan had been to spend some time in Ionian doing a bit of peak-bagging, but realized that it was going to take me as much time to get out of the basin as it had taken me to get in. So I started east, climbing up past Chasm towards the basin area below Charybdis.

Ionian is, to say the least, very snowy still.

Charybdis looked a bit too snowy for me to climb, but Black Giant looked clear, so I dropped my backpack at the pass and tagged the summit. Mostly snow-free ascent and wonderful views.

The summit view also convinced me to change my plans. Initially I was going to camp at lake 11428 and cross Echo Col the next day. But the lake was totally snowed in and there was snow all the way up to the col. I’ve never done Echo Col before, didn’t have crampons, and knew that the north side is supposed to be more intense than the south, so I figured this might not be the best time to do it.

I dropped down from Black Giant pass towards Muir Pass. Fun little slide down to the lake level, but absolute murder trying to cross the bowl to Muir. I gave up, descended towards the bottom of the basin, then followed the established trail back up to Muir Pass.

Lots of very exhausted JMT/PCT folks on the trail...not many seemed to be fans of the snow slog.

When I got back to Sapphire Lake, I noticed that the Haeckel Col area looked fairly snow-free. So I camped next to Sapphire and made plans to do Haeckl the next day.

Charybdis
Charybdis
lake 11808 and south side of Echo Col
lake 11808 and south side of Echo Col
Day 4

Easy, mostly snow-free hike up to lake 11808. Took a cue from Bob Burd and started scrambling up the col a little to the west of the talus field that Secor recommends. Some fun class 2 and 3 and only a small bit of steep snow climbing.

The north side of Haeckel Col is snowy but not too steep, and was able to traverse about 50 yards north to talus before continuing down. Lots of snow between 12345 and the ridge between Midnight and Hungry Packer lakes.

Bit of a steep, snowy descent from the ridge down to Midnight Lake, but I might have just picked the wrong line. Rest of the hike out to Sabrina was uneventful. I feel bad for all the folks I encountered who were heading up to Blue Lake, as the mosquitoes are eagerly awaiting them.

Came out at Sabrina, managed to hitch a ride up to North Lake, and drove home very sunburned and very blissed out.

South side of Haeckel Col
South side of Haeckel Col
North side of Haeckel Col
North side of Haeckel Col
Awesome trip. Was great to see Ionian and experience the intense energy of all those ominous black crags towering over you. Obviously conditions limited me a bit and slowed things down, but was pretty cool to see so much snow and yet have such wonderful weather.

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:50 am
by sekihiker
Awesome trip, report, and photos. Wow!

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:49 am
by vinjo
Thanks for all the beautiful pics!

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 2:03 pm
by ryanerb
Great TR, thank you!

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:16 pm
by windknot
Wow, great trip report. Thanks for sharing!

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:54 pm
by Bishop_Bob
Great report! In the Muir Pass area, did you think it was necessary to use extra traction (e.g., microspikes)?

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:12 pm
by donnymarcos
Bishop_Bob wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:54 pm
Great report! In the Muir Pass area, did you think it was necessary to use extra traction (e.g., microspikes)?
They might be helpful early in the day, but both times I was in that area, the snow was pretty slushy and I don't think the spikes would have helped much.

With how hot it was getting, the snow was getting soft pretty quickly, too.

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:15 pm
by notis
Great report! I gave up my permits for that area on those dates; otherwise, we might've run into each other!

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:17 pm
by adornowest
Wow. Thanks for the great report. I really want to see the Basin.

Re: TR: Ionian Basin 7/19 - 7/22

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 10:24 pm
by donnymarcos
notis wrote:
Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:15 pm
Great report! I gave up my permits for that area on those dates; otherwise, we might've run into each other!
Bummer! Thought the snow would be more of a drag than it was -- sure, it slowed things down, but the scenery was pretty epic. Was also fun going downhill, at least.