The White Mountains

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.

 

The road already traveled on the way to the gate.

The road on the way to the gate.

The peak in the center is White Mountain

The peak in the center is White Mountain.

This is where the gate is usually closed.

This is where the gate is usually closed.

Some of the buildings at the research station.

Some of the buildings at the research station.

The Lab

The Lab

looking back on Barcroft Station. There's some weird X-Files shit going on there.

Looking back on Barcroft Station. There’s some weird X-Files shit going on there.

Off she goes!

Off she goes!

At the top of the first hike a bike because it was too loose and rocky for a single speed, Amelia grumbled, "This is not the way to make me like riding my bike again."

At the top of the first hike a bike because it was too loose and rocky for a single speed, Amelia grumbled, “This is not the way to make me like riding my bike again.”

White Mountain Peak, not as close as it looks!

White Mountain Peak, not as close as it looks!

A no longer in use observatory.

A no longer in use observatory.

Wow!

Wow!

The wide open terrain.

The wide open terrain.

getting closer, kind of.

Getting closer, kind of.

Next year we will wear helmets!

Next year we will wear helmets!

Dismount

Dismount

See the small building?  That's the top.

See the small building? That’s the top.

All smiles.  Look at the nut in the denim jeans.  That's the same guy who always wears a cotton T when biking.

All smiles. Look at the nut in the denim jeans. That’s the same guy who always wears a cotton T when biking.

View of Chalfant Valley.

View of Chalfant Valley.

Amelia chatting it up.

Amelia chatting it up.

On top of the world.

On top of the world.

Stunningly beautiful.

Stunningly beautiful.

Getting off the mountain just in time.

Getting off the mountain just in time.

What a high.

What a high.

Incredible view as descending.

Incredible view as descending.

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.

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “The White Mountains

  1. White Mountain looks great. Hard to plan for a year away, but be sure to give us heads up a month or so before, and we may just have to show up.

  2. Fantastic, amazing, gorgeous, incredible….I’ve got no more words to describe your adventure. Thanks for sharing. Thank goodness they weren’t serving cantaloupe at the summit. Hehe.

    Vinny

  3. What a great adventure! Biking up a 14er. Wow!
    Where the F are your helmets, kids…hmmm? I can’t imagine a head injury at 14K feet would be such an exhilarating experience.
    Missing you both.
    Timoni

    • Yeah, pretty stupid not wearing our helmets. We were saying that while riding. Our recollection from 1999 wasn’t too good…we remembered it being an easy fire road the whole way.

  4. Looks exhilarating! Nothing like altitude to put you in your place. I love the rock brick cabin/shelters out on trails like that. Reminds me of hiking the lower part of Mt Shasta when I was a kid 🙂 Miss you guys. ~Won’t make it to Tunnels next Thursday, but hope we’re able to squeeze in a visit !

    Cheers, Chris

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