White Mountain Peak, California (14,246')
August 8, 1998
Doug and I met Craig out in Antelope Valley at an In and Out at 6am. The day looked perfect, and good weather was forcast for our quick weekend of camping and bike riding in California's White Mountains.
The previous fall (1997) it had snowed 4 days before our trip and closed White Mountain Road, making what we wanted to do impossible. We had planned to make the easy 7-mile ride from the trailhead up to the summit of White Mountain Peak. We had been waiting for several months for a chance to give it another try.
Craig tailed us up to Big Pine, following Route 14 through the Mojavi Desert, then Route 395 northwest paralleling the Nevada border. At Big Pine we topped off the tanks with gas and headed towards Nevada on Route 168. It is about 12.5 miles to White Mountain Road, then another 25 miles north to the trailhead. Somewhere between Schulman Grove and the Patriarch Grove Craig's truck disappeared from my rearview mirror. Because of the dust I was kicking up, I wasn't sure if he had just disappeared, or if he had been gone for a while. We pulled over and waited. And waited. We found Craig about a mile behind us with a flat tire. We made short work of changing it and were on our way within 10 minutes.
We got to the trailhead at about 1pm, and instantly changed our minds about waiting until Sunday to attempt the peak. The weather was clear and beautiful, and we all felt good. I was (by far) the weakest mountain biker of the three of us, Doug is a machine, he has competed in those 24-hour team riding competions where normal people would sieze up and die (his team came in second recently). Craig is "just" a hard-core biker and rock climber; I was the lacky (and that quickly became appaernt as I struggled up the first incline from 11,680' to the Barcroft Research Station).
The Research Station had some sheep outside, and a few cars and trucks parked around it as we passed by. Just past the station, we crested a hill and got the view of White Mountain Peak a few miles off to the north. The track is an old road, and is still passable, but is very bumpy and covered in most places by small rocks. Riding was pretty easy, but Doug was waiting up for Craig and I as we occasionally fell behind. The middle part of the trail (between the station and the final slope) is on a long plateau that is relatively flat.
Just before the final slope to the summit, the trail loses elevation (about 300' ?) before switchbacking to the small research hut on top. Doug cranked ahead, Craig in the middle, them me bringing up the rear. Just below the summit there was a large snowfield that we decided not to take our bike across. It had been beaten by the sun and was all cupped-out which made for tricky walking in bike shoes. We had been breathing hard and decided to take a short rest with the summit only 15 minutes above us. I remember Craig and Doug talking, then nothing for a while. I just fell asleep. Soundly. They woke me and we took the last few steps onto the summit area. There was a small, locked research hut and a great spot for a few tents, and a wonderful view of the Sierras across the valley. The weather was perfect and the skies clear and we were in no hurry to get back to the parking lot, so we just explored and talked for a while before rock hopping back down to our bikes.
The ride back took about as long as the ride up (about 3 hours). Craig was feeling bad from the altitude and we decided not to camp up in the mountains, but headed to Lone Pine for lower elevations and some food. We were treated to one of the most amazing moon rises I have ever seen as we drove back down towards Route 168. After a rest and some food (at a much lower elevation), Craig was better and we just drove back to LA, arriving 20 hours after leaving.
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updated: 1 November, 2000