Evolution Basin

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Northern Virginia Hiking Club (NVHC) - Backpacking Trip:
Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Dates: Sat Aug 25 to Mon Sep 3, 2012 (Labor Day)
Backpack starts Sun Aug 26 and goes to Sat Sep 1 or Sun Sep 2 depending on whether we do one or two layover days on the trial. I have permits for 10 people total.

Location: Kings Canyon National Park, John Muir Wilderness, and Inyo National Forest, California

Trip details: 60.5 miles not counting mileage on one or two layover days
Elevation gain / loss = 8923' / 9401', peak elevation = 11,972' Bishop Pass, elevation range = 8,000 to 11,972'

Estimated Trip Cost: $358.93 per person
See cost details at bottom of trip description for what is and is not included, actual cost could be higher or lower

Maximum number of participants: 10

Date of last revision: 7/23/2012

Post Trip Update:
This was a fantastic but difficult backpack to one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I've seen, and I've been to many great places. This series of trails didn't give up! Providing spectacular views day after day deep into numerous pristine wilderness areas. This trip went through the Inyo National Forest, Sierra National Forest, John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia & Kings Canyon Wilderness, and Kings Canyon National Park. The quasi loop route covered 60 miles, with an additional 10+ miles spent during two days of exploring Evolution Basin and Darwin Canyon.

In addition to my normal backpacking load I was carrying 10 lbs of photography gear, and shot well over 4000 photos. I'm working on processing some of these now. I shot a lot of High Dynamic Range (HDR) panoramas which can entail as many as 18 separate images which will be composited / stitched into a single image panorama. This means lots of image processing time. The rest will be added to my already gigantic backlog of unprocessed images, to be dealt with in the future. While on these trips, I operate in image capture mode; processing will be dealt with later as time permits.

This trip is highly recommended for experienced, fit backpackers, with the appropriate gear; not a trip for beginners.

A link to the NVHC

Northern Virginia Hiking Club

Trip Description

Evolution Basin Backpack: Kings Canyon National Park, John Muir Wilderness, & Inyo National Forest

This is the North Lake to South Lake Loop which I am calling the Evolution Basin Backpack as that is one of the central features of the trip and sounds so much more interesting than North Lake to South Lake Loop. The first day (Saturday) will be used for travel time, picking up our permits, buying stove fuel, and repacking gear. We will spend the first and last nights in a motel plus one or two layover days on trail during the backpack itself. The backpack will be spread over 7-8 days total on trail with at least one layover day on the trail in Evolution Basin. We could take a second layover day on the trail or have an open day after the backpack. The on trail layover day(s) would be used for other activities such as: dayhiking, photography, or licking our wounds. There are tremendous opportunities for off-trail dayhikes in this region. Photographically speaking, it will be a target rich environment.

This backpack will explore three high alpine lakes basins: Humphreys, Evolution, and Dusy; go through four canyons: Piute, lower Goddard, Evolution Valley, and LeConte; as well as wind along both the North and South Fork of Bishop Creek. Starting at the North Lake TH, we will cross Piute Pass (11,423'). From there we pass through the giant cirque of Humphreys Basin, and into Hutchinson Meadow, and Piute Canyon. Next we go through Evolution Valley skirting Darwin Canyon, passing through Evolution Basin and crossing the Goddard Divide just before going over Muir Pass (11,855'). From there we follow LeConte Canyon into Dusy Basin and over Bishop Pass (11,972') eventually ending at the South Lake TH. If we have two or more cars we will do our own shuttle, otherwise we will have to schedule and pay for a shuttle.

This entire trip is rated strenuous and is suitable for experienced, physically fit backpackers with the appropriate gear. All participants must have previously and successfully completed at least three weekend backpacking trips, or one week long backpacking trip, within the past three years. They also must engage in a regular physical fitness program on a weekly basis - working out four to five days per week minimum. All participants must be able to backpack at 8,000' to 12,000' of elevation. We will spend the night before the backpack at 9,000' to help acclimatize to the elevation. Participants should be able to get along well with others.

Individual pack weight will vary but most people will be carrying from 40 to 60 lbs. Each person is responsible for providing their own gear and meals. If people want to, they may elect to share tents, meals, stoves, first aid kits, and water purifiers/filters. A roster of trip participants will be posted, and I will coordinate sharing this common gear with participants.

Some rock scrambling is always a possibility on a backpacking trip, so participants should have good eye-hand-foot coordination. This is a backpacking trip, not a mountain climbing or rock climbing trip - all travel will be on hiking trails. Participants will have to fill out an information form regarding their relevant medical history, physical condition and conditioning, prior backpacking experience, and backpacking gear. All participants must sign a liability release.

Required Gear

  •  sturdy, waterproof, broken in hiking boots that fit properly
  •  Teva's or equivalent for stream / river crossing and around camp
  •  two sets of socks
  •  properly fitted and adjusted backpack, 4500 to 6000 cubic inches
  •  pack rain cover
  •  small lightweight tent
  •  sleeping bag plus pad, rated to +35 F
  •  light weight backpacking stove & fuel (we will buy fuel out there)
  •  personal first aid items (no scented toiletries)
  •  water purifier/filter and water purification tablets
  •  rain suit - ponchos are not allowed it's potentially too windy above treeline, they can act like a sail blowing you off a cliff
  •  extra clothes (include long sleeve shirt and long pants as well as shorts and T shirt), synthetic only
  •  base wicking layers MUST be synthetic only
  •  insulation layers can be fleece, wool, or down
  •  swim suit (optional)
  •  sunscreen, sunglasses, hat with visor or brim, we will be above treeline for a lot of this trip
  •  light but warm knit hat
  •  1 pr light to medium weight gloves or mittens
  •  headlamp, extra bulb and batteries or two lights
  •  baseplate compass readable to one or two degrees - declination correction strongly preferred - mirror for signaling
  •  topographic map
  •  toilet paper + trowel
  •  matches in waterproof container, fire starter for emergencies
  •  pocket knife
  •  whistle
  •  unscented biodegradable soap, wash cloth, backpacker towel
  •  backpacking food - see details below
  •  bear canister REQUIRED for ALL food, toiletries, garbage - except what you carry for the first day - see requirements below
  •  2 quarts or liters of water or energy drink
  •  insect repellant
  •  mosquito headnet (optional)
  •  40' of 1/8" nylon line for hanging things (We will not hang food) (optional)
  •  dry waterproof bags for your sleeping bag, clothing, camera, film, electronics (sleeping bag recommended, the rest is optional)
  •  huge, light, cheap duffle bag to protect your backpack from the airline bears
  •  drivers license, health insurance card
  •  sufficient cash and credit cards for gas, meals, and other expenses


Trip Itinerary

Day Date Activity
Prt rip - Ship empty stoves & fuel bottles to hotel if necessary (see notes about stoves & fuel), allow 10 days for ground shipping
Saturday Aug 25 Fly from BWI to LA, pick up rental car(s), drive to Bishop, CA, buy fuel for stoves, get permit if possible, check into hotel
Sunday Aug 26 Leave one car at South Lake TH, Drive to North Lake TH, start backpack
Monday Aug 27 On trail
Tuesday Aug 28 On trail
Wednesday Aug 29 On trail
Thursday Aug 30 Layover day in Evolution Basin (the 30th is just an estimate)
Friday Aug 31 On trail
Saturday Sep 1 End backpack at South Lake TH (with one layover day on trail)
Sunday Sep 2 End backpack at South Lake TH (with two layover days on trail), or open day if we end on Sep 1
Drive to motel in LA, ship stoves and fuel bottles home if necessary
Monday Sep 3 Fly from LA to BWI, Labor Day


Inyo National Forest

351 Pacu Lane, Suite 200
Bishop, CA 93514

While most of our trail will be in Kings Canyon NP and the John Muir Wilderness, the starting and ending trailhead's are in Inyo National Forest and that is the organization we get the permits from.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP Link

These are two separate national parks but are administered as one.

Common Items

If people want to share: tents, stoves & fuel, water purifiers/filters, first aid kits, or meals, you can work that out for yourselves from the trip roster. At a minimum we need one stove, fuel, purifier/filter, and first aid kit for every two to three people. I will coordinate this with participants. We would like to use stoves that accept the same fuel in case one fails.

In addition to the above items there may be some other common gear that we will have to split up - probably not much. Some common gear that I will carry myself includes an altimeter, and a large detailed topographic map. Other items might include the 40' of 1/8" nylon rope - one or two would be enough for the whole group.

Guidebook & Maps

"Backpacking California", Paul Backhurst, Ed., Wilderness Press, 2001, Trip # 33, South Lake to North Lake, Kathy Morey

National Geographic Topographic Maps, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

I will also provide a custom printed topographic map for our route.


Bear Canisters are legally required for Backpackers in much of the Sierra Nevada mountains including the route we will be taking through Dusy Basin. In addition to food we also have to put garbage, and any toiletries in the Bear Canister. Bears are attracted to anything with an odor and their noses are 1,000's of times more sensitive than ours. Do not bring toiletries that have an odor. Bring unscented biodegradable soap, toothpaste, sun block, lip balm, and insect repellent. Bear canisters can be rented from some National Parks. Bears can be a problem along this entire route, that's why we have to use Bear Canisters.

Food Storage & Bear Canisters

Wilderness Food Storage - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Bear Canisters Allowed

A great website for bear information

Get Bear Smart Society

Information about bears sense of smell


Horses, Mules, Burros, Llamas

We may meet horses, or other pack animals on some portions of trail, they have the right of way. Step off the trail 10' on the downhill side and wait quietly until they pass.

Deer, Marmots, Rodents

Deer, marmots, and other animals are attracted to urine and sweat to eat salt and other minerals. Do not leave sweaty clothing or boots unattended, they may be chewed and destroyed. Marmots can be a problem for stealing food. The good news is that every Bear Canister, by definition, is also a Marmot Canister. Or as a buddy at work calls them, the "Little" Bears.


While the weather in the Sierra Nevada Range is usually pretty good, it could be anything from warm, sunny conditions to high winds and a snow storm. You must be prepared with gear and clothing to deal with either extreme. From AccuWeather.com, the historical average daily highs and lows for Bishop, CA (4000') in August are 95F and 52F. At 8000' we have to subtract 12F, at 12,000' we have to subtract 24F which gives us highs of 83-71F and lows of 40-28F.


Everyone is responsible for providing their own backpacking food for meals and energy snacks. This is not a commissary based trip, they are way too inefficient. Bring more food than you would normally eat at home, but don't over do it - many people lose their appetite somewhat at altitude. As a backpacker, you will appreciate the concept of food as fuel. Bring things that are lightweight, tasty, and nutritious but easy to prepare, cook, and clean up after. Extra points for meals that pass the "Lick Test". If you don't know what the lick test is you should buy the late Colin Fletcher's "The Complete Walker" and read about it. This book is the Old Testament of Backpacking, Backpacker Magazine is the New Testament.

Don't plan on buying backpacking food out there, it's too time consuming and we won't have time to do that. All of your food for the entire trip should be packed before we get on the plane. If you see  some fresh food out there that looks good, add it to your pack but don't plan on it. Plan for food, energy snacks and drinks, from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day for 8 days. We will eat breakfast on the starting day and dinner on the ending day in a restaurant.

Getting 7 days worth of food into a Bear Canister is difficult, but not impossible. If you have a big appetite you may have to carry a large and small Bear Canister. The first days lunch, dinner, and snacks do not go in the canister.


We will have to treat all drinking water either with a purifier, filter, or tablets. I want each person to have at least two quart / liter bottles or bladders, bring the cap for the bladder.

Leave No Trace

We will practice "Leave No Trace" backcountry ethics. This means that we pack out all of our trash and garbage. It also means that we do not use soap or shampoo to wash in lakes or streams. Just swimming in the water without using soap works pretty well all by itself for getting your body fairly clean. Use a folding canvas basin and/or wash cloth and soap 100' away from lakes or streams to wash more thoroughly. It's okay to use a tiny amount (couple of drops) of biodegradable soap in the lake or stream just to wash your hands and face.

Stove Fuel

Vapor Fuel Canisters (the simple plan):

Carry the stove in your luggage, buy a vapor gas canister out there. This is what I normally use for three season flight backpacking trips. I will estimate how many canisters we will need for 8 days.

Liquid Fuel (the complicated plan):

We will be shipping our empty stoves and empty fuel bottles to the starting motel. We cannot carry our stoves or fuel bottles with us on the airplane unless they are brand new and have NEVER been used. Once used they will contain fuel residue and cannot be taken onboard the plane. Although this policy varies from airline to airline. NO AIRLINE WILL ALLOW FUEL OF ANY KIND ON THE AIRPLANE! We will ship the stoves via Parcel Plus, or Mail Boxes Etc. they have been trained to deal with empty fuel containers (so they say). We will have to buy fuel out there before the trip, and ship the empty stoves and empty fuel bottles back home the same way in the same boxes. We need to ship the stoves about 10 days prior to our trip departure to ensure that they are there IN TIME as THEY must BE SHIPPED ground. This is what I use for ALL winter trips.

Estimated Trip Cost

The trip cost includes: NPS per person per night permit fees, your share of a rental car, your share of a shuttle if necessary, and the first and last night in a motel. Not included: everything else, such as airfare, park entrance fee, meals, drinks, necessary backpacking food and gear, rental car gas, tips, personal expenses, and any other necessary but excluded expenses.

It is important that each participant bring sufficient cash/credit cards for incidental personal expenses. If the trip plans should change for any reason such as injuries, or the backpack being shortened or extended by a few days due to circumstances beyond our control such as: weather, fire, high water, snowstorm, bear closure, etc - it could have an impact on your individual cost. 

Make checks payable to:   Ted Fryberger and mail to me at the address below, do not send any money until you have been approved for the trip.

Estimated per person costs
  $5.60    NPS permit fee         $56.00 / 10 people
133.33    Rental car                $400.00 / 3 people per car
  40.00     Shuttle                     $400.00 / 10 people
  180.00    Motel                         first & last night in motel
$358.93  Total estimated per person cost, the actual cost could be higher or lower

Participant - To Do

Make Airline reservation from BWI, or some other airport, to Los Angeles (LAX) for Sat 8/25
Participants must pay for the airfare themselves, it's not included in the trip price
My direct BWI Southwest flight arrives at 11:05 am in LAX

It's very important that we all get there as close to this time as possible so we can all use the minimum number of rental cars. If you schedule a flight that comes in several hours later you will have to rent your own car. There are several airports around LA, we all need to use LAX. If you fly into a different airport you will have to rent your own car.

Trip Leader:

Ted Fryberger
6259 Deep River Canyon
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 443-917-2902(W/H)

Copyright 2000 - 2023 by Ted Fryberger & DeepSoft, LLC, All Rights Reserved