Monday, October 1, 2012

Dunderburg Peak - September 2012

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Simple things make the Lady happy; make her happy in a big way. She has no interest in Europe or Hawaii or any of the usual travel destinations. A mountain peak will do, will do just fine.

We had seen it many times over the years as we traveled 395 on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. A friend had mentioned skiing it, said to add it to our list. It had been in the back of our minds, along with so many others. And then the Lady got her first real look at it.

This was in July 2010. We were camped high at West Lake in the Hoover Wilderness, a backpack trip. It dominated the high eastern ridge and held the last sunlight of the day. She saw it up close again in October 2010. This time it was dominate on the north ridge of the Virginia Lakes drainage.

She saw it several times in October 2011. First it was high in the northwest from Mono Lake.

Then it was high above Dunderburg Meadows.

And then she saw it in beautiful predawn light above Green Creek.

“I want to climb Dunderburg Peak. I’ve wanted to for three years. Let's climb Dunderburg!” This was the Lady’s answer to the question of what to do when a possible open weekend showed up in our schedule. “I want to climb Dunderburg Peak.” Simple things make the Lady happy.

Our good friend, Dick, is also our optometrist. It was time for our annual appointment, late Friday afternoon in South Lake Tahoe. It was my turn to get the eyes dilated for the updated retina photo. We had dinner with Dick afterward at Tahoe Pizza and then the Lady got to drive. The world wasn’t a bright blur to her.

The light was waning as we reached Monitor Pass. Our favorite camp site is high on the east side. The Lady negotiated the final steep grade over a field of basketball sized rocks on the narrow two track road. I was tossed about. “See, it’s a lot rougher when you don’t have the steering wheel to hold on to. This is good for you.”
“And, it’s good for you to do some driving in low range.” I answered. She smiled.

The night’s silence was wonderful, broken only occasionally by a Harley climbing the grade on 395 north from Topaz Lake, far below. Up at our usual time, we were surprised how much later the sun was coming up. I climbed above camp and took a series of photos as the eastern sky began to brighten.

It was mid morning when we began the climb of Kavanaugh Ridge Road off of Dunderburg Meadows Road.

A small unnamed lake sits in a basin on the high plateau at 10,400 feet. This is where we set up camp.

Our packs were ready and we were too. It was 11:00 am and the Lady wanted to do a circle. We’d traverse up and to the east and gain the long east ridge of Dunderburg. The Lady wanted to top out on each high point before finishing off with Dunderburg proper.

The small lake, Dunderburg Meadows, Green Creek Meadows, Bridgeport Reservoir, and the Sweetwater Range stretched out below us as we climbed.

A nice easy pace, one step at a time, and adventure was ahead for us.

In a short time we were atop Point 11712 with our first view to the south.


Dunderburg is a big pile of rocks. Our next objective was the high sister peak to the east, just 100 feet shy of Dunderburg’s height. It got steeper.



The views from this high point were outstanding.


Down and across another saddle and on to the main Dunderburg Peak with Yosemite’s High Sierra stretching out beyond.

The day was glorious, warm, with only a little wind from the east as we crossed the final saddle.


Soon we were at the final push to the summit and a new vista opened up to the west.

This is where things got exciting.

I saw the shadow and heard the rush of air through feathers, wings beating hard. A Red-Tail Hawk was circling the summit just above the rocks, gliding quietly until it saw me suddenly right in its flight path. It threw on the brakes with its wings. This is what I heard. A split second later as I looked up it was in a banking turn, its belly to me, long legs and talons coming at me as its now outstretched wings caught the air. Those legs and talons came within four feet of me. It instantly dove and rocketed down the ridge line away from us. And it was gone.

We reached the top and the ridge ran out a short ways to the north. The Lady led the way………


……and continued down to get a view down the steep northeast face.

Far down below the Kavanaugh Ridge Road reaches the saddle and the Hoover Wilderness boundary.


Back at the summit the Lady pulled out the quad and identified all the features around us.


It was surprisingly still at the summit, 12,374 feet in elevation. We enjoyed the views, the place, and the solitude.

We started down to the south to get a view of Virginia Lakes and the trailhead below.

To complete the Lady’s circle we dropped back into the saddle between the main peaks and then headed down the steep main gully to the north to intersect with the Kavanaugh Ridge Road and walk it back to our camp at the little lake. It was steep and careful footwork was needed. It would be much easier to climb this mountain with snow cover as an alpine snow climb or on skis. A five mile round trip, we were back at the truck a little before 4 pm. It had been a great day and adventure. The Lady’s mending knee did well with this test and me, after the surgeries and summer of limited movement; I also did well, almost back up to specs.

We relaxed in the late afternoon and watched thunderheads build far out over Yosemite.

After dinner we wandered out the bench until we could see Mono Lake far below with Dunderburg’s shadow moving across the basin.

We turned and the last light was streaming across Kavanaugh Ridge.

It was a still and silent night. No wind, no birds, no animals or their sounds stirred us in our sleep.

We woke early, well before the sun. The Lady made our coffee as I took some long exposures in the still predawn.

An 8 second exposure of our camp.

The skies began to brighten in the east.

I moved out to the east to catch the sunrise and Mono Lake.

First light began to stream into our little basin.

Sunday was a day of exploration. We wandered up to Saddlebag Lake off of Tioga Pass Road (120). We wanted to scout out the trailheads into 20 Lakes Basin that connects with Lundy Canyon.

Saddlebag Lake is a Southern California Edison reservoir with a small resort and a USFS campground.

The canyon and surroundings are spectacular.

From here we headed back toward home, first stopping to check out the associated trailhead for the Hoover Wilderness in Lundy Canyon. The aspens are just starting to put on their fall colors.

We headed north on 395. We stopped for an early dinner at Walker Burger, soon to close for the season. The next stop was more important. The Lady had a couple of books to drop off at the Walker Book Exchange.

This trip had invigorated us. We felt like things are turning around, better with the changing season. We are lucky, very lucky indeed.

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