2017 Lower Lamarck and Wonder Lakes

Description: 3-day trip to Lower Lamarck and off-trail excursion to Wonder Lakes

Forecasted showers, thunderstorms and monsoonal moisture conditions did not deter us from this trip. Nor did lingering snow, swollen creeks, and washed out roads, the result of one of the largest snow pack seasons I’ve witnessed. And after receiving the divine message the day before our entry date that the road to the trailhead was finally repaired and open for motor vehicles, reducing the first and last day's hike by 2 miles, the green light was blazing. For the record, I took measures to ensure we would remain safe. The week prior, I monitored weather forecasts, scanned trip reports, noted all of the possible creek crossings along our route and was prepared to turn back if necessary.

I chose the short North Lake to Lower Lamarck Lake trail for the first day, as Richard and I had to drive 6-7 hours from the SF Bay Area. We started our hike at 2pm. Thunder cracked incessantly during the last half of our hike as I tried to determine whether the dark clouds above were building over us or blowing away. After reaching the lake and setting up camp, the sky cleared so we decided to get a head-start on finding an off-trail route to the Wonder Lakes basin, tomorrow’s destination. My original intention was to skirt along the north shore of Lower Lamarck Lake but this was not possible without a short swim due to a cliff section. However, this path might work when the water level is lower. So instead, we contoured up and around the hill above us for a bit and then returned to camp. Mosquitoes kept us in long pants and long sleeves all day and a head net for most of it.

Approaching Lower Lamarck Lake

Floating log bridge to Upper Lamarck Lake

Lower Lamarck Lake

The next morning, we packed up and followed the route we had scouted the day before, going up and around the hill and then descending towards the tarn that is northwest of Lower Lamarck Lake. The creek crossings I noted were the ones that entered and exited this tarn. Neither posed any danger as we navigated across, hopping on various rocks. It was just within my comfort level for keeping my boots on. We continued on, up the lightly forested basin, over and around small patches of snow. It was easy to maintain our direction, as we just had to aim for Peak 12,691. Other times, between the waterfall to the right and the steep wall to the left, there was only one obvious direction. As we approached the final climb to Wonder Lake #1, we were confronted by a steep snow slope.

Barrier to Wonder Lake #1

A dangerous snow-covered creek was to our right so we explored left and found a narrow gap between the steep snow and the adjacent granite wall. This was my first backpacking trip since last year’s accident so was more risk averse. Besides, I did not want to be responsible for my brother’s injury. As I was about to call it a bust, he started climbing. So I followed. From the top, we reached the lake almost immediately, leaving nearly all of the afternoon for exploring and lounging. Wonder Lake #2, further up the basin, looked much more difficult to reach due to the large patches of snow we observed along the cliffs. But Wonder Lake #1, with its cascading waterfalls at the western end, and the Wonder Basin that we explored, was so truly wonderful, only photos can describe.  I can't wait to return and explore the upper part of the basin some day.

Wonder Lake #1

Wonder Lake #1

Wonder Lake #1

Wonder Lake #1

Wonder Lake #1

Parting shot of Lower Lamarck Lake