True to form I’d left my September turns to the very last minute, mostly due to lack of snow in the Tahoe area thanks to what turned out to be a rather slim winter (didn’t seem that bad during November - April, but when all my usual summer/fall ski spots were dried up by June it really sank in just how low of a snow year it had been).
While Tahoe and the surrounding area got a light dusting over the weekend, I still wasn’t sure it would be enough to schuss. Thus, tentative plans were made to head north to Bend where I knew some decent sized patches existed on Mt. Bachelor. Those plans changed, however, with a simple Facebook message to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. Seems this soon-to-be-new-acquaintance had driven down to Dunderberg over the weekend, but had gotten skunked due to a late start and not so accommodating wheels. Naturally, I offered up the services of my trusty Tacomama and we decided to give the D-Berg another shot.
I scooped up my new skiing partner, Eric, around 7:30 in the morning on September 29th at the intersection of Hwy 89 and Alpine Meadows Road. We then zinged through Tahoe City, connected onto Hwy 28, navigated ourselves through the construction mess that is currently Kings Beach, and then around the east side of the Lake before dipping down into Carson City, Nevada, where we slipped onto the 395 and continued south to Dunderberg Peak/Virginia Lakes. We were atop Kavanaugh Ridge, geared up, and hiking by 10:45.
Eric had never actually been to Dunderberg proper (on the previous Saturday he had only made it part-way up the rugged OHV road before turning back), so we decided to embark on the full tour, which included scoping out Jack’s Glacier at the onset of the morning, then heading up and over the ridge to “Secret Samurai Snowfield”, and a possibility of also hitting the “Heart Patch.” It should be noted that my long-time patch skiing partner, Stev, had been to Dunderberg the first weekend of September and had reported back that neither Jack’s nor Samurai were reasonably skiable due to ice, debris, and not-so-user-friendly exits (i.e. drop-offs, abrupt slope endings, rocks).
Things appeared a bit better this time around thanks to the recent dusting. Fresh snow was layered over much of the landscape and the fluff covered scree and made for interesting hiking. Jack’s Glacier was the smallest I have ever seen it, but contrary to Stev’s report it appeared like it could be skied, albeit the only safe looking line was a short, narrow one to looker’s left of the slope. We decided to save that one for later and continued up the ridge line toward “Secret Samurai Snowfield.” Thankfully, “Jack Rabbit Sam” had laid down a nice paw track for us to follow, perhaps one of the cleanest and most efficient boot packs I’ve ever followed.
'Twas rather nice of Peter Cottontail to lay down a boot-pack for us.
Once at the snowfield I began the arduous task of putting on my rather frigid (and thus rigid) 130 Tecnica Diablo Infernos while Eric began boot-packing up the mid-section of the snowfield. The conditions were fluff on scruff, which required gingerly executed hop turns. Our bases took the brunt of the damage, but neither of us came off this first run worse for wear (although I would be remiss to overlook the fact that I was a bit sketched out over the entirety of my 7 turns). Neither of us were terribly gung-ho to make a second pass on the snowfield and with our first run secured, we decided to head over to the “Heart Patch” to see if the conditions were any better.
Eric boot-packing "Secret Samurai Snowfield".
Our "SSS" tracks.
While noticeably smaller in size, the “Heart Patch” did indeed yield a much better snow situation. Eric took first lap honors again. I followed suit and logged 5 turns this time out, thus legitimizing the day (I have a 10 turn, no matter how you get them, minimum in order for it to be qualified as a ski day). Eric went back up two more times and milked the hell out of the patch. Having left a nice swatch of physical graffiti on it, we packed up and headed back towards my truck and the final ski run of the day: Jack’s Glacier.
Dookey schussing the "Heart Patch".
Our "Heart" tracks.
Once at Jack’s we were able to scope the slope out firsthand and while there were obvious Stegosaurus spines secluded underneath the layering of fresh snow it looked rideable and reasonably safe. I’d say that we supremely lucked out thanks to the weekend’s dusting since we were greeted by a layer of nice, soft snow resting atop the icy ridges and runnels lining the glacier. I took first run honors this time around and managed to bang out 15 turns on some fairly decent snow. Granted, I grazed a few rocks and skidded over my share of ice, but overall it was the best run of the day. Eric followed suit, slipping over one of the ridges and taking a nice bonk du derrière, but otherwise remained unscathed.
Jack's Glacier graffiti.
The hike out was short, although slightly rugged, and it was interesting to see that much of the lower level snow we’d trudged through several hours earlier had now melted away. We arrived back at my truck around 2:15, making the whole hike/ski ordeal roughly 3.5 hours in length. We were back home by 6,making the entire trip somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 hours total.
The only drawbacks to the adventure was forgetting to apply sunscreen (we really anticipated it being much colder, overcast, and windy, which is usually the weather norm for Dunderberg this time of year) and my poor choice in hiking footwear (I chose to hike in trail running shoes which got rather wet due to all the snow we trampled through on our approach and exit). Other’n than those small oversights, September skiing was secured safely and just in the nick of time to keep our turns-all-year streaks intact.
Edited by dookey67 - 10/2/14 at 11:51am