This trip was easy and fun, although the usually perfect Sierra autumn weather was not to be had. It rained, hailed, and/or snowed late in the afternoon on three days. Fortunately I also experienced some contrastingly beautiful clear morning skies.
Burro Lake was a fine surprise and its intense turquoise blue color was something I had never previously seen in the Sierra. Virginia Peak was an easy ascent and the views and weather on top were good. As a reminder that autumn weather in the Sierras is not always stable, a thunderstorm hit just as I summited Excelsior Mountain so I got off as fast as I could.
After ascending Virginia Pass I was hoping to climb Twin Peaks via the ridge that connects it and Virginia Peak, but icy snow forced me much further south along the ridge than I had planned, leaving me without enough time to climb both Twin Peaks and Virginia Peak. The ridgetop ascent to Twin Peaks would have included more 3rd class terrain that I felt comfortable doing quickly on a solo trip.
The descent of Spiller Creek Canyon was an absolutely fabulous cross-country walk. The canyon is isolated, beautiful and remarkably easy to walk down. Big open meadows, a fine creek and lovely stands of trees made this place a pleasure to visit.
What was most surprising to me on this trip was just how much snow remained from the exceptionally heavy snowpack from the prior winter. There was more snow and it was at lower altitude than I can remember for many years past and it felt a lot more like late June or early July than mid-September. Many snowfields were covered with a layer of slippery rock-hard ice, and even at extremely low angles were not walkable without the crampons I did not have. This prevented me from going to a couple places I had planned to visit. The mountains always bring surprises and judgement and flexibility are necessary.
I can heartily recommend this walk to anyone with the requisite off-trail skills who wants a short, fun, Sierra hike with simple logistics.