Route: Evolution Traverse (CA)

California, US

This route is considered the best of all the traverses in the Sierra. It is a great, long, and sometimes intimidating outing. 
The rock is mostly excellent, with a couple loose spots in between. 
Getting down from Darwin is the most dangerous and difficult part of the climb, with either a manky rappel or a 5.9 downclimb. 
The number of pitches you belay greatly depends on how comfortable you are soloing 5th class. Simulclimbing is not a good idea. 
The most challenging section from both a technical and route finding standpoint is the traverse between Darwin and 13,332. There's a obvious manky 5.6 down climb right below the summit block. From here depending on which way you go you will encounter down climbing/traversing up to 5.9. The Mendel headwall is 5.6. There are a number of ways to go up Huxley, but most people have encountered climbing up to 5.7 or 5.8. 
Water is a problem, unless you go early in the season, which is recommended if the snow year was not big. The closest water source is a lake a few hundred feet below Haeckel. 
Good bivy spots are not abundant. The top of Darwin is excellent, and around Haeckel there are a few. After the descent from Darwin you can drop down the ridge a little, and find reasonable spots.


Sean O'Roarke provides some perspective:

The Evolution Traverse, pioneered by Peter Croft in the 1990s, connects a long ridge of peaks from “Mount Steven Jay Gould” to Mount Huxley in the Evolution region of the Sierra. Thanks to mostly good rock and to Croft’s imprimatur, it sees a fair amount of attention from Real Climbers. “Evo” has been at the outer limit of my ambitions for the past couple of years, as its 5.9 rating is out of my league. However, this is a “Sierra traverse rating,” not a true YDS rating: as with the similarly “VI 5.9” Kaweah traverse, it can be made easier with a bit of creative route-finding.


Vitaly M gives some stats for the route:

Estimated total round trip stats are 34-35 miles with about 15,000-16,000 ft of vertical elevation gain, all at high elevation with much of it at 13,000 ft.

Vitaly M is generally credited with the early car-to-car FKT for the traverse of 27h in 2013.  His detailed TR with many excellent photos is here:


Steve Brezovec provided some additional information:

Kiff Alcocer went Darwin Benches to Huxley in 13h 30m on 8/17/13 which I believe is the best known on-route time. Myself and partner started at the same time and finished 3.5h behind him.

I believe this is Matt Samet's TR, which indicates he made camp and did not CTC. Perhaps he has returned and bested his previous, would love to hear that account.

Croft's published account states he made camp at Darwin Benches, didn't CTC - perhaps he returned and did it in a push. Would certainly not be surprised. Love to hear that account. 

Aaron Richards held the previous FKT at 29h 20m CTC. 

Haven't heard the Honnold account. What's the story? I believe there was one from his 2008 traverse but I believe that he said he base camped. 

37.1676192, -118.6728405


In 2003 I went CTC sans bivy gear on Evolution Traverse, in just under 29 hours. It was one of the coolest adventures of my life. My good friend Aaron Smith and I started together, having never even driven up Bishop Creek prior. We brought a rope, rack and climbing shoes, and left the car at 2am. Unfortunately Aaron started having some health issues that slowed us considerably by Mendel. At Darwin he decided to bail down the gully to Evolution Valley. He took the rope and gear, as we had not used it or climbing shoes yet(he waited while I downclimbed the choss crux.) I continued on alone and finished the last peak sometime after sunset, descended to the valley, and lapped water like a dog out of the first lake I reached. Then I had a long, sleepy, cold and knee pained hike up to Lamarck Col which I reached at sunrise. I trudged into the parking lot at 7am and thankfully found Aaron snoozing away, safe and sound. I was inspired on this adventure by my buddy John Pierner, who died near Picture Peak in 2001. We had fantasized about doing the traverse someday.