We woke up late, thinking that Dunderberg Peak would be a quick morning hike. Not much higher than 12,000 feet, we figured it’d be a short scramble to the top and that we would get back in time to lounge around camp for a few hours before dinner. As is typical, though, this hike turned into a bear of a day.
We hiked out along the Virginia Lakes trail, making a quick stop at Blue Lake to take some pictures. Shortly after this lake, we struck off cross-country toward Moat Lake, which rests at the southwestern base of Dunderberg. We sighted somewhat of a granitic chute at the northwestern end of the lake, but with our summit-fever as hot as ever, we struck off early, making a more direct line toward the summit.
We would find out later that the rock is just about as bad anywhere you go along the slope of this volcanic peak. We were slipping, sliding, and cursing our way up the crumbly, broken rock for two hours before we reached the ridge. By now, George had dropped off from our the group, so it was just Michael and me. We climbed along the ridge until we got to the summit, another rather long ridge.
The summit views were incredible. Mono Lake came into view, which we didn’t expect this far north. The Northern Yosemite wilderness stood before us in the other direction. Remote lakes, glaciers, and couloirs filled the scene, and we sat down and had a lunch of hummus and crackers. We kept an eye out for George, but he never showed up on the top.
We headed back down the slopes only a little faster than we had ascended. The rock was too big to slide down safely, but too small to give us solid steps. We slid and tumbled down the southwest slopes toward the lake, and by the time we had reached trail and solid ground, we were tired of the cross-country. This would be a theme of the trip as a whole. We met up with George at the lake. He decided to head back to camp, while we struck off toward Burro Pass.
We climbed the easy trail up to the pass, took a few pictures, then headed back toward camp. We were low on water, and by now, it looked like storm clouds were coming in. We passed a few hikers and fishermen on the way down, most of them moving at a pretty slow pace. More and more of the morning’s landmarks and waypoints came into view, and by the late afternoon, we had made it back to camp.
The weather cleared as we prepared dinner and took naps. We were much more tired than we had thought we would be at the end of this day. What had started as a quick acclimatization hike in preparation for Russell became an all-day hike with plenty of cross-country and steep terrain.