Summers BM P300
Kavanaugh Ridge
Peak 11,270ft P300 PD
Peak 11,568ft P300

Tue, Sep 5, 2023
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile


Kristine and I had concluded the two days of activity in Alpine County that we'd planned. I had another full day and wanted to do a couple of summits in the Virginia Lakes area of the Hoover Wilderness that Kristine had already done. She tried to talk me into a handful of summits closer to home in Douglas County while I countered with a couple of bonus summits, Summers BM and Kavanaugh Ridge, that she hadn't done. In the end, she stayed home and I did all four of my suggested summits, taking most of the day.

Summers BM

This was the easiest of the day's summits, and I decided to do it first thing in the morning since it appears to be on private property, judging from the public lands layer on the PB app. The well-graded Green Creek and Upper Summers Meadow roads, and an unnamed spur get one within half a mile on the east side of the peak. The topo map shows a Jeep road going higher to a saddle on the south side of the peak, but this no longer appears to be viable, despite the promising look on the satellite view. The climb up the East Slope is moderately brushy, but not too bad, and it would take less than 25min to make my way to the rocky summit. There is a benchmark and the remains of a survey tower, presumeably from 1956 when the benchmark was placed. Not finding a register, I left one I'd carried with me. Views are mostly blocked by the surrounding trees, but there is a partial one to the west looking into the Hoover Wilderness. Heading back down the same route, I spent about 50min on the effort.

Kavanaugh Ridge

This is an 11,000ft+ point out near the end of the long, North Ridge of Dunderberg Peak. Tom Becht had first pointed out that there is a 4WD road that climbs high on the east side of the ridge, potentially making this an easy hike. Kristine had been interested in it, but couldn't convince herself that it would be worth the hour-long drive from her home near Topaz Lake. I didn't know if the road was open, but it certainly looked driveable from the satellite view. It's a pretty long drive in from the Green Creek Rd, taking me about an hour for maybe ten miles. The drive turned out to be moderately challenging - there are several sections that wind through aspen forests like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, creek crossings, and another narrow stretch traversing a steep slope with an impressive drop to one side. The route ends atop a pile of old tailings from what looks to be an unsuccessful mining effort. The road built to reach it still entertains to this day, however. The hike starts above 10,600ft, leaving only about 600ft of gain and something over half a mile to reach the summit. The terrain is a mix of broken granite rock, sand, and stunted pine forest, none of which presents any real obstacle. I spent 30min in reaching the summit at a relaxed pace, finding the views to the east during the ascent, and then the panorama from the summit to be superb. There is another road, not shown on the topo map, that climbs to the 11,000-foot saddle with Dunderberg to the south. This would surely make for the easiest ascent of that SPS summit. I left a register at the highest rocks (the western outcrop is the higher of the two contenders) before heading back down much the same way, finishing up at 9:30a.

Peak 11,270ft - Peak 11,568ft

So much for preliminaries, now for the bigger effort. These two summits are located west of Virginia Lakes, most easily accessed from the Virginia Lakes TH at the end of Virginia Lakes Rd. I spent nearly an hour and a quarter driving back out to US95 and then paved Virginia Lakes Rd, only to realize there was a much shorter route between the two THs that I could have used - several well-graded dirt roads continue south to connect to Virginia Lakes Rd, probably cutting the commute time to less than half. Oh well. I arrived at the Virginia Lakes TH and started off on foot by 10:45a - no real concern that I would run out of daylight for this 9mi outing.

I followed the good trail west for several miles, past picturesque Blue, Cooney, and Frog Lakes to reach a high saddle on Peak 11,568ft's SW Ridge, about a mile from its summit. I would pick up this peak on the way back, choosing to first visit Peak 11,270ft, a few miles further west on the Sierra Crest. From the saddle, I descended into the Green Creek drainage, with views of Summit Lake to the northwest and Hoover Lakes to the northeast. I descended the trail to just below the 10,500-foot level, then left it to start traversing west towards my summit. The topo map shows a handful of small, permanent snowfields in the area, but this year the lingering snow was quite substantial even in September. I'd neglected to bring axe and crampons which would have given me more options, so had to work around the white stuff to find a snow-free route on the steep slopes. I felt somewhat lucky to find a workable route that went at no more than class 3, with some fun scrambling to get me to the crest about half a mile SE of the summit. Once there, the going gets much easier, with a gentle drop to the saddle just below the summit on its SE side, then a standard class 2 talus scramble to get to the top after 2.5hr's effort.

The register jar at the summit held some loose scraps dating to 1999 and a register booklet left by Jason Lakey in 2012. The peak is alternately called "Summit Peak" and "Fathers Peak" by competing entries, but neither of these seem to have taken. I was amused to find the last three entries dating from 2020 were all fellow Sierra Challenge enthusiasts - Scott Barnes, Grant Miller, and Kristine Swigart. The summit sits on the northeast border of Yosemite with views looking down into the heavily forested Virginia Canyon. 10,000-12,000-foot peaks abound in all directions. I had kept an eye out during the ascent for an alternate way down, but none presented themselves, so back down the same way I went. After returning to the trail, I hiked back up to its apex at 12,100ft, then headed cross-country to the second peak to the northeast. At first glance, it appears this could be a tedious trek across much talus, but it worked out to be easier than expected, taking little more than half an hour from the trail. A most unusual sighting was a small frog, about an inch in length, hopping among the stones with no sign of water and very little vegetation about. I guessed he must have hopped his way up from one of the lakes below, the highest one being more than 500ft below the ridgeline I followed - tenacious little guy, but it seems his mountaineering exploits may be his undoing.

Dunderberg rises high to the northeast as a heap of orange talus, while the array of lakes in the Virginia Creek drainage (not be confused with Virginia Canyon in Yosemite) are spread out below to the southeast. I left a register atop this one before looking for an alternate way down. Rather than return along the ridge, I figured it would be easier if I could find a more direct way off the east or southeast side of the peak. I'd spied several possibilities while plying the trail hours earlier, but from the summit I discovered what is probably the easiest and least technical way down, all class 2 talus with some decent boot skiing. The east side from the summit is fraught with cliffs, but there is a nice escape route just to the right (south) of the cliffs that gets one neatly into the talus bowl SE of the summit. No snow, no class 3 rock, just a cruiser descent that got me down to the trail in about half an hour. From there, it was less than two miles back to the TH, allowing me to finish up by 4:45p, about fifteen minutes faster than my initial guess for this one.

I had planned to have dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli before heading back home via Tioga Pass, but decided instead to head north and return over Sonora Pass to give me a chance to do a little Jeeping on the west side of the range the next morning. I found a spot on the east side of the pass at a bend in the highway around the 7,500-foot level. It was too close to the highway to say it would be quiet, but there were only a handful of vehicles going over in the dead of night, and I had good cell coverage to allow me to make plans the next day with the PB app...


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