Gennady Farber and Steve Eckert headed up the Green Lake trailhead on 10/21/95 for a late-season attempt at Virginia and Twin Peaks. The leaves were glowing brilliant yellow, and softly carpeting the trail as we started up the unfamiliar route.
To make a long story short, the trail signs are wrong: The first junction is marked "Green Lake" to the left, "West Lake" to the right. It turns out that East Lake is to the left, and Green Lake and West Lake are both to the right. So we wound up on some unnamed saddle looking down on Summit Lake, with great views of Dunderberg and others.
That's when we decided to make it a big loop: We dropped down to the valley between Virginia Peak and Virginia Pass to camp, then did a big loop following the third class ridge from the south of Virginia up to Twin Peaks, and returning down the second class chute between the twin peaks.
The incessant wind howled the whole time. I wore heavy fleece with wind shells top and bottom much of the day. On Virginia, my cheap thermometer showed 25 degrees at 9:30, with 40 mph winds that gusted strongly enough to have us grabbing each other for support. Water bottles were freezing instead of thawing, but by early afternoon it was up to 40 degrees even though the wind kept up.
Along the way, we traded stories about climbing Mt Elbrus in Russia (which I did as a tourist and Gennady snuck up as a citizen of Russia who was officially prohibited from climbing higher than the pass), about climbing from peak lists (here) and from government approved pass lists (there), etc.
We managed to find Virginia Pass on the way out, and other than one nasty ice field without ice axes the hike out was uneventful. The brilliant leaves had turned to mostly brown and black in just two days, and ice stayed all day along streams as low as 9500 feet. It's not over, but this season is definitely on its way out!
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