Early morning: The box canyon nature of upper Darwin is
readily seen as the camera pans past the terminal moraine of Darwin
Glacier and then, Mendel Glacier. The sun shines brightly on Mt. Mendel -
2100' above camp at Lake #4.
Darwin Canyon Panorama 2
The view continues down canyon with Lake #3 and swings
right to Lamarck Col. It's the first saddle on the ridge, among the
debris of rock and sand created by a millennia of freeze/thaw.
Climbing over the trailless Col route is the fastest way in to Darwin
Canyon but requires map and compass skills, ability to walk over snow
and ice along with a good heart and strong lungs. It may be quick but
it isn't easy.
Darwin Canyon Panorama 3
From the glacial-green waters of Lake #5 in Darwin
Canyon, look upward to the incredible steepness of Mt. Mendel. Now,
imagine Lt. Gamber and his three aviation cadets flying into this
narrow canyon. Imagine them being lost and not knowing where they are.
Imagine them flying in a cloud and not knowing they are in this place.
Given the outcome of their flight, sometimes it's better not to know.
Mendel Cirque 1
Late afternoon from the foot of Mendel's terminal
moraine - simply a pile of rock the glacier pushed downslope. Just for
scale: Most of those rocks are bigger than your SUV.
Mendel Cirque 2
That 60 degree slope below the summit of Mt. Mendel
holds a crack no wider than a person's outstretched arms. It fills,
most years, with snow that turns to ice, creating "Ice 9" [aka Mendel
Couloir]. It's considered the most difficult and challenging ice climb
in the entire Sierra Nevada, rising nearly 1000 vertical feet in less
than a mile. In October, 2005, two ice climbers found the body of Leo
Mustonen, one of Lt. Gamber's cadets, at the base of Ice 9 where the
bergschrum of the glacier meets the bottom of the couloir.
Mt. Darwin, Mt. Mendel & Darwin Canyon
The ridge containing Mt. Darwin and Mt. Mendel is
actually a short spur of the Sierra Nevada crest. Their east face is
steep and highly dissected; their summits are broad and plateau-like -
just like Mt. Whitney. Moving south to north, this view encompasses
Mt. Darwin [13,831'], Darwin Glacier, and then, Mt. Mendel [13,710'].
Before sweeping across the Mendel terminal moraine and down canyon,
the camera zooms in on the bottom of the Ice 9 couloir and the general
region where Lt. Gamber's Beech 18 AT-7 #41-21079 probably crashed on
November 18, 1942.
Final Flight, Mendel, Mendel
Glacier, Sierra Nevada, Peter Stekel, Leo Mustonen, Ernest Munn, William Gamber,
John Mortenson, Kings Canyon National Park, Beech 18, AT-7, plane crash, mummy,
JPAC, Wilderness Press, finalflightthebook, blog, 41-21070, airplane, lenticular
cloud, hypoxia, navigation, wilderness