The Evolution Traverse / by Eric Dacus

The Evolution Traverse, Grade VI 5.9. 

Its hard to summarize a route, an experience like this, but to start, this was the biggest route I've ever tried.

We figured that we should bevy at Haeckel Lake given that Peter Croft has written that this traverse in a day, onsight is harder than the Nose in a day, onsight. We left everything non-essential at our camp on the Darwin Benches and started the route with a bivy kit, harnesses, a 30m rappel line, some bail slings, food for two days, and 4L of water each. Also, I don't see any reason to bring actual climbing shoes, just approach shoes as there would be too much time lost switching between. 

Right out of camp we gained the first peak in two hours, and from then until we dropped down to the lake, we stayed at or above 13,000' for the next 12 hours or so. We climbed, walked, hopped, down-climbed and rappelled our way across the sky over over 5 or so peaks. The climbing never got over 5.8 for us, and all the rappels had slings which sped things up. There were so many ridges, spines, walls and steps to navigate that it all kinda blurs together now. I think I used every climbing move and trick I know. The quality of the rock and exposure was truly amazing.

The technical crux of the route is the next 2/3rds of a mile after rappelling off the summit ridge of Mt Darwin (13,831 ft) We were about halfway across this at 7:30pm. This left us with about an hour and a half of daylight and we were passing bivy sights tucked into the ridge. Rather than stopping somewhere easy, we decided to punch it for the lake. Hopefully, this would keep us from spending the night up high with no water source. Very thankfully we made it just as full darkness dropped and racing the daylight down to the lake was joyous despite the dehydration and exhaustion. 

We got to bivy on soft sand and mercifully there were no mosquitoes at Haeckel Lake at 12,345'. The next morning we had a cold breakfast (no stove), and set off back up to the ridge and up to the first peak of the day, Mount Haeckel at 13,418. After Mt Wallace, an unnamed 13-er, and Mt Fisk I was completely mentally done with soloing, the ass-over-space exposure, and route finding. I left the traverse at 80% complete, while Sam went on over Mt Warlow and Huxley to complete the thing. I met him along the John Muir Trail to hike back to camp. The next day we hiked the 10 miles back to the car. 

I don't regret the bail. I pushed harder and further out of my comfort zone than I have on anything previous. The introspection and evaluation that has come from the honest, "I'm having zero fun any more bail" has left me with the edge of my map: this was as much unknown and as uncomfortable for as long as I could deal with. I wasn't enough to complete the traverse, but the traverse was enough to find a new internal limit. I believe its important to bight off more than I think I can chew, from time to time, and see what happens & how I react. I think I learn more from looking at that reaction, after the fact. 

The Evolution Traverse will cause its own small evolution in me, and the next time I take off up a big route I'll have this as a new reference.