Trip Report: An "instant classic" adventure run of a 50+ mile loop in the remote Northern Yosemite region beginning at Twin Lakes, including five passes, the Benson Lake riviera and a summit of Volunteer Peak. Total elevation gain was over 11,000 feet and the trip time was 15:28 starting at 5:10 am and finishing up at 8:38 pm as light was fading.
This is a fantastic loop with excellent variety of scenery throughout including Peeler Lake, Kerrick Meadows, the tarns of Seavey Pass, Benson Lake's sandy beach, granite-lined Smedberg Lake, Matterhorn Canyon, and the rugged Sawtooth Ridge. I also climbed Volunteer Peak which rises above Smedberg Lake. Volunteer Peak is one of the more remote summits in Yosemite, but the climb itself is straightforward. The panoramic views from the top include much of Northern Yosemite and its many granite ridges. Specifically, the summit afforded views of Mount Conness, Smedberg Lake, Benson Lake, Tower Peak, Sawtooth Ridge, Matterhon Peak, among other notable points.
We encountered generally good trail conditions except a substantial amount of snow remains on the north side of Burro Pass and on both sides of Mule Pass. The snow approaching Mule Pass was becoming hard in the evening and took some time to negotiate with the trail running footwear and no axe/crampons. We saw very few people the entire day and there is a real feeling of solitude and wilderness in this region of the park, which sharply contrasts to the more accessible parts of Yosemite like the Valley or Tuolumne Meadows. I will surely be returning to run this amazing loop again.
Elevations (high and low points):
Start (Twin lakes): 7,092 ft Peeler Lake/Pass: 9,489 ft Depart Kerrick Canyon: ~8,900 ft Seavey Pass: ~9,150 ft Benson Lake: 7,581 ft Smedberg Lake: 9,219 ft Volunteer Peak: 10,481 ft Benson Pass: ~10,100 Matterhorn Canyon: ~8,400 ft Burro Pass: 10,650 ft Piute Canyon Lowpoint: ~9,400 ft Mule Pass: 10,460 ft Finish: 7,092 ft
Total Elevation Gain (including Volunteer Peak): ~11,000+ ft
Gear Notes: Ultimate Direction Wasp Pack; First Endurance EFS and Ultragen; La Sportiva Fireblade; Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles
Approach Notes: Trails are in good shape. Extensive snow remains over Mule Pass and the north side of Burro Pass. There is a wet stream crossing in lower Kerrick Meadows and several wet crossings through Matterhorn Canyon.
Edited by off_the_hook (08/19/1105:10 PM) Edit Reason: Added description
Loc: San Carlos, CA
It varies depending on the elevation gain, ice/snow, trail vs. off trail, etc. On this particular trip, a bit under half the total time was running and the other half was fast hiking/photography stops. In contrast, I ran most of the Rae Lakes Loop but only around 1/4 of the time was running on the Northern Pickets Traverse.
Great trip, Leor. We've backcountry skated a lot of this route in a couple of different trips, the last one just this past May. If you want to see how cool this terrain looks in the Spring, check out these links: