Volunteer Peak P300 SPS / WSC

Tue, Jul 14, 2009
Etymology Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 Profile

With 20 SPS peaks left to dayhike, it was time to buckle down and start hitting up the really hard ones. Volunteer was the last, and hardest, of three peaks buried deep in Northern Yosemite. Matthew had managed to combine this with nearby Pettit Peak in a long outing, but just doing Pettit in a long, 18hr day had been enough for me. And so it was finally time to come back to get this one, my last SPS peak north of Kings Canyon NP.

It was midnight when I pulled into the Twin Lakes Resort parking lot, and my first problem was deciding where to park. The overnight lot at the south end required a nightly payment for which one got a receipt to hang in the window. The dayuse lot at the north end very specifically states No Overnight Parking. Does it qualify as "overnight" if you arrive in the middle of the night? I chose to believe not, and not really having any other options, left the van there as the sole occupant of the lot and headed out.

I wandered through the campground heading west, eventually running out of campground without finding the start of the trail. Having been through this exercise before (the Barney Lake Trail is almost completely unmarked going through the campground), I continued cross-country until I intersected a trail heading off in the right direction (there's only one, so it's hard to make a mistake once you find it).

For several hours I plied my way up the trail, past Barney Lake and a few trail junctions. My pauses to read the map were more an excuse to rest as I knew which forks to take from previous visits. It wasn't a pleasant rest as I found mosquitoes active at all hours, ready to pounce as soon as I stopped moving. They would become incessant and obnoxious as the day came on. There was some small banks of lingering snow in the trail recesses just before Peeler Lake. It was 3a as I entered Yosemite Park at the pass and started the long slow haul down Rancheria Creek and Kerrick Meadow. A number of toads were plying the trail through the meadow and it was only luck that kept me from stepping on one of them. Their camoflage was quite good and it was only after they jumped that I noticed their presence.

By 5a daylight was making itself felt in the eastern sky. Shortly afterwards I found it necessary to remove my boots and ford the creek by headlamp. The water was cold but strangely refreshing. Mosquitoes took the opportunity to attack my unprotected feet and ankles.

6a saw sunrise on Piute Mtn a short distance away as I made my way through Seavey Pass in the shadows cast by the early morning sun. The lakes were shaded, but not calm as usual at this time of morning. A breeze had come up to ruffle the waters, but did nothing to quell the mosquito hordes. The first of several DEET applications through the day was needed to keep them at bay.

I dropped down from Seavey Pass, past Piute Mtn, down towards Benson Lake and then started up the other side of the canyon. Like much of Northern Yosemite, the place is rife with granite domes, delightful meadows (aka, mosquito hatcheries) and blue lakes. Just past one trail junction I passed by a few PCTers, one with a mosquito headnet, though his companion had none and wore shorts as well. Seems the mosquitoes don't bother everyone to the same degree.

It was nearly 8:30a before I had reached the base of Volunteer on its west side. Holy Cow, that was a long way to go just to reach a peak. I knew the easiest route was to follow the trail up to a saddle and take the SW Ridge or Slopes, but the West Face didn't look too bad, and besides it seemed I deserved a little fun scrambling. And so I did. I climbed up the right side of the lower section of the West Face, not much more than class 2, then found the upper headwall a bit more vertical. Still, it was nicely broken with scrambling opportunities and I managed to find a healthy dose of class 3+ stuff to help substitute for the morning caffeine.

It was just after 9a when I reached the top. Though partially hazy, the views were sweeping, taking in most of Yosemite from Tower and Matterhorn Peaks in the north, to Lyell and Maclure to the south. Much of the foreground was taken up by many square miles of granite slabs and domes for which the northern part of the park is well known. The register dated to 1994 and I had little trouble locating Matthew's entry from the peak's first dayhike in 2005. Michael Graupe had visited in 2006 (coming in over Horsecreek Pass), though not as a dayhike. The peak sees only a few visits each year.

For the descent I followed the easier path down the SW Ridge, dropping back to the west side of the peak when it was easy enough to do so. The return back to Twin Lakes was not as difficult as I'd imagined it might be. Doing so in broad daylight provided exemplary scenery to distract my mind, I talked briefly with half a dozen PCT parties that I met along the way, and as on my hike to Piute Mtn, I stopped at Peeler Lake to strip my clothes off and take a very refreshing, albeit brisk, swim. There were some clouds forming over Twin Lakes and elsewhere upon my return, but none of them were ever seriously threatening to storm. It was after 6p before I got back to the Twin Lakes Resort, and then nearly midnight before I got home again to San Jose. I was going to have to get used to this sort of routine if I was going to continue to make progress on the harder peaks on the SPS list.

Matt W. comments on 07/21/09:
Looking forward to this one. I was just plotting out this route on TOPO a few days ago, amazed at the mileage required. I can see I wasn't mistaken!
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