The Tour de Darwin

A great loop tour, this trip starts and finishes near North Lake, above Bishop Creek. We ascend Paiute Creek up into the wonderful ski terrain in the Alpine Col region. If time allows we can drop packs to enjoy long runs on nearby Goethe Peak or perhaps Mt. Darwin. Highlights include great views of the entire Evolution area and northern Kings Canyon National Park. With two major pass crossings we find it to be a great introduction to more complex backcountry tours. It is also a great tune up for the longer harder trips such as the High Route and we have skiers who do this tour first as a warm up before the High Route.


We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000 feet) just prior to the trip. Spending a night or two in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground would do the trick.

SMC does not rent ski equipment, but we work with Mammoth Mountaineering (760-934-4191) to get you set up on the correct equipment. MMS has a very wide range of rental equipment that is probably the best you will find anywhere in California. All gear is current state of the art, well tuned and rental fees are deductible if you buy a set up from them. (We highly recommend renting before you buy so as to find what suits you best, since a full setup is pretty pricey). We can coordinate the rental and suggest that if you can you arrive Mammoth the night before and get fully set up since boot fitting can take some time.

Return to Backcountry Spring Tours

Our first day is an easy day to aid in acclimatization as we take the road from Aspendell to our hut at North Lake. We review avalanche rescue procedures that day and on the second day we head up the North Fork of Bishop Creek leaving behind the trees and cross Paiute Pass, camping the second night above treeline near Alpine Col, in the great glacial cirque below Mt. Goethe. The third day starts with a short and steep haul over Alpine Col but then brings us to our home for the next night, the Darwin Bench. Situated right at treeline this area has incredible views of the Mt. Goddard region to the west, down precipitous Evolution Canyon.

The last day climb up and over Lamarck Col, passing below the giant peaks of the region: Mounts Mendel and Darwin and a great couple of thousand foot run, generally on perfect corn snow carving wide turns back to our starting point near North Lake.

Though it’s only twenty miles in length this trip packs a lot into its distance.

Whether you’ve skied other tours or if you are aspiring to do some of the longer, more difficult routes like the Monarch Divide tour or High Route, this is a great trip through some of the most spectacular terrain in the Sierra.

Program Prerequisites:

You need SMC Intermediate Ski Skills or better for this tour. You should be able to ski intermediate ski area runs confidently and be proficient at kick turns, traversing on 30 degree slopes, side slipping and Christie turns all while carrying a pack of about 35 pounds. Prior winter camping and mountaineering skills are advised. You will be traveling up to seven miles a day and gaining up to 3000 feet a day so a very good level of aerobic fitness is required.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding,hut stay, permits, all necessary group gear, avalanche beacons, tents, kitchen gear and dinners, lunches and breakfasts (you bring snack items).

We do not include accommodation in the pricing but can make local suggestions for you.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details and itinerary
    Equipment list
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Tour de Darwin map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.