August 18, 2013
Mere words can’t describe the stark beauty of the White Mountains. Compared to the Sierras, it’s difficult to get to and very few people visit the area. For us that’s part of the allure. Our first visit was in 1999. That year we summited White Mountain Peak, 14,252 ft. It was tough, and we paid a high price; both of us got altitude sickness and vomited cantaloupe chunks. I know, not a pretty picture. To be honest, to this day I’m still not able to eat cantaloupe.
Once a year there is an open gate day. This allows you to drive up to Barcroft Station and skip the first two miles, and in my opinion the worse part of the hike. This year it fell on August 18th. So we planned to be in the Big Pine area on that date. We stayed at Sage Flat Campground for three nights.
Our ambitious goal was to ride our single speed bikes as far as we could before dismounting and then hiking to the summit. Since it was open gate day, it would only be a 10 mile round trip trek.
We really lucked out because the weather was perfect in the morning. Usually the wind is punishing and cold on the ridge lines. This time I could’ve worn my typical attire of shorts and Hawaiian shirt. But at 14,000 ft., the weather changes quickly, as evidenced by the photos.
It’s hard to explain the sensation of single speeding above 13,000 ft. The ascent really tested our endurance, lung capacity, and heart rate. The descent was the most exhilarating experience I’ve had on a bike. The views were expansive. The Sierra Nevada range was at the same level and miles below was the Owens Valley. Big puffy clouds were forming and yellow-bellied marmots were scurrying across the trail. I wish the descent lasted forever…it was quite a high.
We must be acclimated to the higher elevation because we experienced no high altitude problems. While at the summit, it was as if we were at sea level.
The entire trek was quicker than expected. Ascent: two hours fifteen minutes. Descent: a quick one hour twenty minutes.
We plan on doing it again next year on open gate day. And would love to take a group of friends. So if you are interested please let us know.