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Climbing Tower Peak the day before wasn't much of a warmup day, it wore me out as much as any day of the Challenge would, and in fact took more hours than any of the coming days would. I was looking for a very easy day today, and Dunderberg fit the bill beautifully. A tall, SPS-listed peak that lies a little more than a mile from the trailhead. I'm not sure there is an easier SPS peak to be found.
I packed up my car with my gear and left the motel in Bridgeport around 6:20a. I wouldn't recommend staying in that town to anyone. I stayed in the dumpiest place available and it was way overpriced at $100/night, the most expensive room I had the whole week on US395. The sun had already risen and was shining brightly on the barren, sandy brown slopes of Dunderberg to the southwest as I drove south from Bridgeport. I took the Virginia Lakes exit and drove about 5 miles to the end of the road and parked. Dunderberg rose some 2,500ft a mile and a half to the north, an impressive rise if it didn't look like such a slog. The peak is volcanic in nature, and like many of it's brethren in the Mammoth Lakes area, it is really just a huge pile of talus. No one ever sold this as an exciting climb.
From the parking lot I struck off cross-country for the southeast slopes starting at 7a. There is no trail going even part-way up the mountain, but it hardly needs one. There is some very low scrub on the lower slopes only a foot or foot and a half high, easily navigable. This lasts for a few hundred yards and then the mountain is essentially bare of all but a minimal amount of vegetation due to a lack of soil material. I headed for a ridge on the south side that looked to offer a bit less talus and perhaps some interesting rock climbing. While I still found tons of talus to climb, there was plenty of class 3 scrambling that made the climb quite enjoyable. That the rock was loose and crumbly only made it more challenging, but not less enjoyable. If the climbing was harder or more sustained it would have bothered me, but it was really just a series of short scrambling problems - highly recommended.
After about an hour of climbing I reached the broad plateau between the east and higher west summits. There was no avoiding a long talus slog from there to the summit, and I dutifully plodded the remaining distance to the summit. A huge cairn adorned the highpoint with two large wooden poles angling to one side protruding from the top, and not one, but two summit register boxes. One was the classic Sierra Club aluminum variety, the other the also-popular ammo box. The latter held the registers, encased in Ziplock bags with a few writing utensils. I straightened out the cairn while I had a snack, then took in the views. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the views were wonderful, evidently why this peak made the SPS list. It is the highest peak between Twin Peaks to the northwest and Mt. Conness to the southwest, and because it lies off the Sierra Crest it provides a fine view of the northeastern Yosemite border peaks. One can see far south to the Mammoth Lakes area, a nice view of Mono Lake, and many, many interesting peaks to the northeast and north that I have no experience with and unable to identify without a map (NNW - N - NNE - ENE - E - SE - SSE - SSW - SW - WSW - W - NW).
It was chilly on the summit with a breeze blowing, and after my snack I didn't stay long. Looking around I noted that the peak is class 2 accessible from nearly every possible direction - there just isn't much in the way of serious cliffs, surprising considering its height. On the north side there is a high plateau between Green Creek and Dunderberg, and one can see 4x4 roads that rise to the plateau from the east. On the northern flank of Dunderberg there appears to be a use trail rising from the highest lake on the plateau - possibly the easiest access to the summit (I didn't consult the SPS trip reports for beta on this peak, just the short summary found in Secor's book). Since I had plenty of time left in the day I decided to take a more circuitous descent route, heading off down the West Ridge. The decent off the summit had no redeeming qualities, the footing consisting entirely of loose talus or medium-sized boulder hopping. It brought me to a saddle with class 2 access between Virginia Canyon and Green Creek - useful information for some future loop route in the area. The nicest part of the descent was to be found upon reaching Moat Lake, about 500ft below and southeast of the saddle. It is a very picturesque lake in a small cirque, and apparently popular with the fishermen, three or four of whom I saw scattered around the lake's edges. As I hiked down to the lake's outlet, I picked up a use trail that provided easy travelling the rest of the way down to Virginia Lakes. I came across delightful wildflower displays in the lusher region surrounding the stream, through which the trail meandered. A couple I ran into on their way up asked me if they were nearly at Moat Lake, to which I responded, "Yes, less than a quarter mile." That was the first I'd heard the lake's name, but since it was the only one I'd passed it seemed logical that it must be the one they were after.
It was a short while later before I reached the maintained trail below and took this past blue Lake and back to the trailhead, arriving back shortly after 11:30a. That was one of the shortest hikes ever I thought, perhaps only surpassed by the easier hike to Red Lake Peak near Carson Pass. I would have the whole afternoon to rest up back in Bridgeport. There was a classic car show in Reno I was told which had all the rooms booked between there and Bridgeport, accounting for the larger than usual crowds about town. Sure seemed like a long way to Reno to have such an effect, but what do I know about classic car shows and the size of the crowds they may attract? (answer: nothing.) I had lunch in town at a burger/shake joint that had a long line and poor food. Blah. I wasn't liking Bridgeport much. Oh well. I got a few supplies at the local grocery store before holing up in my motel room with a slow modem connection to the Internet. Warmup complete, it was time for the 2003 Sierra Challenge to get underway, and I went to bed early anticipating a good workout the next day on Virginia and Stanton Peaks.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Dunderberg Peak
This page last updated: Sat Apr 7 17:05:03 2007
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