Mt. Goddard Loop Trip
As long-time residents of Echo Lake in the Northern Sierra, it was only natural that at some point we plan a trip which included Echo Lake and Col in the southern part of the range. We settled on an early September loop trip over Echo Col and out via a knapsack route between Mt. Haeckel and Wallace.
This Echo Lake turned out to be quite a bit different as it was higher and rockier situated as it was above timberline. Skirting the lake on the way to the Col, I noticed some good-sized trout that would have to wait until the return leg of the trip. Fortunately we found the right notch without much difficulty and scrambled to the top to look down on the deep gorge of the Middle Fork of the Kings River. We picked our way down and then angled across sloping ledges to intersect the John Muir Trail on its way north to Muir Pass.
Soon we were taking photos next to the Muir Hut built in 1930 to provide emergency shelter for the traveler caught in bad weather in this austere region of rock and snow. We headed down to find a campsite on the western side of treeless Wanda Lake where we spent a cold night. The next day dawned clear and still, and we enjoyed a perfect day for a climb of Mt. Goddard (13,568 ft.). On the way back, we descended a lot of loose talus to a high lake a little over 12,000 ft. above Ionian Basin at the upper end of the fabled Enchanted Gorge. Next came a very quick dip in the lake which we estimated would break the family record for high elevation swims. Once before, we had considered a survival swim in half-frozen Tulainyo Lake near the Sierra Crest but had thought better of it.
Via a circuitous route, we went back to our Wanda Lake campsite and began packing up. The plan was to spend the night above Sapphire Lake from where we would be in good position for our planned exit on the following day. Later from our new campsite, this long, tiring but memorable day ended with a spectacular evening of alpenglow on the cliffs of Mt. Spencer and Haeckel followed by a full moon.
Treated again to another beautiful day, we climbed up into the upper part of the basin to the highest lake. My brother decided he wanted to try picking out a route up the cliffs on the southwestern side of Haeckel while I settled for the chute leading up to the Haeckel-Wallace saddle. The upper part of my route was a real struggle with rivers of loose scree. Several times, I found the best maneuver was to get up some momentum and take a couple of quick steps from one side to the other before all the loose rock decided to slide off down the gully. Once at the saddle, it was a relatively easy climb up large blocks to the summit of Mt. Wallace (13,377 ft.). where I was glad to see a solitary figure descending the ridge from the summit of Mt. Haeckel (13,345 ft.).
We joined up feeling exhilirated by our respective successes and picked our way down to Echo Lake. Time to rescue a few of those lonely trout! Further down, we witnessed a helicopter rescue of an injured hiker, and we were thankful that we had nearly completed our adventure without need for that kind of assistance. Returning to the friendly, forested shores of our Echo, we agreed that our loop trip into the Evolution region definitely rated inclusion into our list of Sierra highlights.
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