At 12,374 feet, Dunderberg Peak is one of the many skiable peaks in the Virginia Lakes basin. The dual summits of Dunderberg claim the highest point in the Humboldt Toyabe National Forest, making it a great climb and descent for backcountry skiers/riders or peak baggers looking to check off high points of the area.
Timing a ski for when Virginia Lakes Road is partially or totally open makes Dunderberg an accessible half-day outing. This can be the case early or late in the snow season or throughout the season during low snow years. On bigger years when the road is closed closer to the turnoff from Highway 395, Dunderberg is better suited for an overnight ski and winter camping adventure.
While there are multiple ascent and descent options on Dunderberg's various aspects, this description focuses on the western-most southeast facing gully that drops from Dunderberg's south ridge, which rises up between Blue Lake and Trumball Lake. To access the south ridge, drive as far up Virginia Lakes Road as possible, parking near the Virginia Lakes Recreation Area sign (or skinning to the sign) and head north into the trees. You'll pass through a middle-aged stand of sweetly scented Jeffery pines and the Trumball Lake Campground. Once above tree line, the south ridge of Dunderberg Peak reveals itself.
After climbing the low-angled slopes westward away from the campground, gain the south ridge trending toward it's eastern side for easier route finding, once it narrows. Bootpacking up snow slopes is essential to get around some of the rock outcroppings along the ridgeline. Continue climbing until you reach your desired descent route into the southeast gully - there are multiple options. One There are a few Class 3 sections exposed to steep terrain so use caution and travel one at a time in the steeper sections. From near the summit, views of Mono Lake are second to none. A saddle between Dunderberg's two peaks provides an obvious drop in from the top of the gully. Many descent options present themselves along the upper ridge, however, so if climbing becomes challenging one can always drop into one of the east facing feeder chutes that funnel into the southeast gully.
After skiing the gully, keep descending past Trumball Lake until you catch your skin track back to the car.
Other common ascent routes for Dunderberg Peak climb the gradual east ridge and the gully to the east of the one described above. This more eastern southeast gully offers an intermediate descent option. A longer descent, but one that typically involves a shuttle, drops off Dunderberg's north aspect down to Green Creek Road.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.