Dunderberg Peak

After hiking Mts Stanford and Morgan the previous day, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself on Tuesday. The original plan was to hike Goddard so I hadn’t anticipated being capable of a hike the following day. Rafee mentioned a few peaks in the area which he had passing interest in climbing but didn’t seem especially stoked on any of them. He pitched Dunderberg Peak as a “short and awful slog straight uphill,” and he seemed surprised when that didn’t immediately convince me to join him. After having dinner with Mihai who recommended the hike and reading an affirming trip report, I decided that the peak sounded interesting enough to be worth climbing.

Dunderberg Peak. We climbed the gentle ridge, center left.

Even though we were both planning on driving home after the hike, we took our time leaving the motel and hitting the road, since it would be a short hike and we preferred a few extra hours sleep and a warmer trailhead. We set out from Virginia Lakes at 8:30 and almost immediately left the trail heading northwest up the obvious ridge.

Excelsior Mountain above Virginia Lakes basin.

After a short stint through scratchy shin-high sage the slope began to steepen and became more rocky. Westward, Excelsior Mountain rose above the upper Virginia Lakes basin. Many of the creeks joining the lakes were thick with frozen waterfall ice and looked to be great ice climbing!

Rafee passes below a gendarme.

We stayed high along the ridge and encountered a few gendarmes which presented some difficult climbing. We didn’t try very hard to avoid them and I found myself on class three scrambles a few times, although I don’t doubt that there would be easier routes for someone with the patience to downclimb.

East toward a craggy ridge and Mono Lake beyond.

It wasn’t long before I gained the top of the ridge and began a fairly long traverse west toward the summit, trying to catch up with Rafee. I joined him at the summit shortly after 10:30 and despite the gloomy weather was quite impressed by the views.

The view west.

Far to the north, I recognized many peaks in the Tahoe neighborhood, including Hawkins Peak, the Freel Group, and Mt Rose. To the south Mt Conness was near and imposing, rising high above its glacier.

Rafee searches for a descent route. Mts Lyell and Maclure, left.

Neither of us were keen on returning the way we’d come if we could find an easier route and we eventually decided that the chute due south of the summit would do just fine.

The descent gully.

The going ended up being fast, but tedious. The rock was slippery and loose and we had to be careful not to turn an ankle. Eventually the rock became loose enough that we could plunge step, but this also meant that it was loose enough to pick up momentum. I was fortunate to happen to look back up the slope just as the rock was starting to slide on its own and shouted to Rafee to take cover. We managed to jump to the side as several soccer ball sized rocks came hurtling past. The rest of the way we kept a careful eye on the slope behind us and stopped to let it settle whenever it looked like it might start picking up speed.

Rafee descends the lower slopes of Dunderberg Peak. Moat Lake beyond.

The slope eased up toward the bottom and risk of rockslide diminished as we approached the trail.

Back on the trail above Virginia Lakes.

We returned to the trailhead near noon and set off for home, knowing that this would probably be our last hike of the year.

GPS Data

Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft

Total distance: 4.08 mi

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