Nancy Fiddler

Talus Happens

Here I am again, two blogs in two days. This time I wanted to share the experience of a recent backpack trip Laurel and I took together.

It was the middle of August and I was figuring out that I hadn’t been anywhere all summer (let’s not count Bishop). Our family always takes a week or more long backpack trip in the summer, headed up by Claude. He had big plans to get back to the Brooks Range in AK on a Boys Trip, so the girls were left at home with enough leftover gear to put together a Sierra trip. This time, Mom was in charge.

There’s no better way to give your mind a break from the daily grind than to shoulder a big pack and head into the mountains. For starters, all your mind can process is how heavy the pack is. I believe that walking around in the mountains all day for a series of days is a great way to do some high quality training. About this time of the summer I get tired of rollerskiing, interval training, and strength work. Backpacking covers all those topics without ever being boring.

We decided to hike out of North Lake, just west of Bishop. We only had four days, but managed to choose a large enough chunk of landscape to cover to keep the level of adventure high and the scenery spectacular. We went in Paiute Pass, a relatively easy access to the backcountry and on a real trail. Those who have hiked me know how bored I get walking on a trail for very long. We camped near the Wahoo Lakes on the northwest side of the Glacier Divide. The next day we crossed an exciting pass at 12,200 ft. above the Wahoo Lakes. First we scampered up the sun cupped slope, then we got into some steep, hard packed dirt. Basically, any rock we touched was loose. We inched our way up the safest looking route and popped over the top to views of the Evolution Valley and peaks. Wow.

Our route next called for a long traverse at about the 11,200 ft elevation to the Darwin Bench. It was strange, but we didn’t see anyone the whole day. Plenty of signs that Ancient Man had travelled this same way at one time, though. We fell exhausted into one of the prettiest camps I have ever seen, with plenty of time for a quick dip in the lake.

I am a big fan of “if you like it here, then stay a while” while backpacking, so we spent the next day climbing Mt. Goethe, which stands as the high point of the Glacier Divide at over 13,200 ft.

Our fourth day was spent traveling up Darwin Canyon’s series of lakes to our return route over Lamarck Col. Darwin Canyon is spectacular, sitting beneath the hulks of Mts Darwin and Mendel. Lamarck Col was a piece of cake, having an easy to follow “use trail” to the top. We said goodbye to the high Sierra, navigated some 4 ft. deep suncups for a piece, and finally headed down to the land of hamburgers and root beers. We eventually wound up on the beaten track again, and trudged the dusty trail back to North Lake. We were able to find a great swimming hole in the creek near the trailhead, which left us as good as new and ready for the next adventure.

By the end of the trip, I had formulated the next week of Comp and Devo training plans in detail. I was ready to go back to traditional training, almost ready to face the flocks of summer tourists in Mammoth again, and definitely pleased with our four days in the mountains. We did lots of overdistance, some serious strength training with the packs, intervals when the terrain demanded more effort and practiced agility dancing on loose talus. We even came up with a replacement phrase for #@*$ Happens!

2 replies
  1. drkimberly
    drkimberly says:

    Your adventure with your daughter was fun/interesting to read. A far cry from most mother/daughter trips (to the mall)! You are so lucky to spend time exploring the beauty and wonder of the Sierra’s together.

    Just wanted to let you know that I founded Plumas Sierra Nordic Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) here in the Graeagle area (north of Truckee). We will be operating out of Grizzly Ranch Golf Course near Lake Davis. I’d love to tell you more about it and possibly “pick your brain” for funding resources.

    Please email me if you get a spare moment at

    Hope we have a long fall to make up for no spring….
    Kimberly Kaznowski

Comments are closed.