By: Aaron Schuman
Eight climbers, four seasons, two valleys and one summit.
Steve Eckert (leader), Tom Sexton (coleader), Terry Flood, Tim Huh, David Harris, Craig Calhoun, Brian Smith, and your correspondent, Aaron Schuman, headed into the Virginia Lake Basin, south of Bridgeport, on March 15, 1997, for some winter climbing. This outing brought together an unusual combination of PCS climbers from the Santa Clara Valley and SPS climbers from the San Fernando Valley (on an SPS trip). We traversed the cultural arete that separates us, and together ascended 12374 foot Dunderberg Peak.
Beginning near highway 395, we walked six miles up the hard packed snowmobile track on unplowed Virginia Lake Road. We dropped our packs and hiked up the crusted snow up the south couloir of Dunderberg. We never needed to put on our snowshoes. On the plateau, the snow changed to icy wind slabs, and it was harder to drive our boots into the surface, but we summitted without putting on our crampons. In summer, the big rounded hump of Dunderberg would have made for a dusty scree slog, but m winter, it was an enjoyable snow trip.
We stopped at the utmost height to enjoy a panorama of the whole northern Sierra. The contrast between the dark granite features and the blinding white snow outlines stunned us.
We plummeted back to our frozen lake in sitting glissades, and set up camp m a small grove of pines. We cooked and turned in, and then at about 3:00, were awakened by a wailing gale and the sound of our tent flies beating like the sails of ships. "Barf me out! Maximum groty!", cried the Angelenos. "I can't interface to this!", declared the Siliconians. Though we had planned to rise at 4:30 to climb Excelsior Mountain, we agreed to wait until 6:00 to see if the conditions would improve. The morning light revealed Excelsior enshrouded in storm, and an armada of lenticular clouds over Nevada. We retreated, leaving Excelsior for another day.
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