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Ascent of White Mountain Peak on 2011-09-10

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:James Barlow
Date:Saturday, September 10, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:White Mountain Peak
    Location:USA-California
    Elevation:14246 ft / 4342 m

Ascent Trip Report

White Mountain Peak is a popular hike and is one of the easiest USA “fourteeners” to climb. The standard hike is about 8 miles each way on a well-graded dirt road, starting at a locked gate on the access road at 11,700 feet.

James Barlow and I thought we would try to make this summit even easier by mountain biking the road behind the locked gate. We were both heading to the Mount Grant event on Sept. 11, 2011, and we planned our bike trip for the day before. We wanted to be in Hawthorne, NV by 4 or 5 PM after our climb, and we hoped that biking would save us time.

Neither James nor I are strong or experienced mountain bike riders. I had just arrived from sea level the day before, and James was trying out a new mountain bike. So we had to stop a lot to either catch our breath, put our chains back on, or otherwise adjust gear. I am sure an acclimatized and skilled rider could easily improve on our times.

We slept at the trailhead and started biking at 6:25 AM. After passing by the gate, the first two miles of road were passenger-car quality as it led to the Barcroft Laboratory at 12,400 feet . We did that section in about a half-hour. After that, the road becomes much rockier and rougher as it switchbacks up about 350 feet to an observatory, and we had to dismount and push our bikes uphill.

From the observatory we easily rode downhill 250 feet, then we were able to cycle up gentle grades for the next couple of miles, with only a few places where we had to get off and push. This took us to a high point at about 13,175 feet, where the road dropped steeply to a notch before the final climb.

We should have cached our bikes there. Instead, we unsteadily barreled down the rocky trail, and quickly found the grades on the final switchbacks to the summit were too steep and rocky to ride. So we finally ditched our bikes just above the notch, at about 13,070 feet. We then hiked the remaining 2 miles up to the 14,246-foot summit without incident. We were up top at 11 AM, about 4.5 hours up. This was probably not much shorter as it would have taken without our bikes—much of the savings we made pedaling uphill was lost by the effort of pushing our bikes up several sections.

After a long summit rest and chatting with other hikers (including a fit trail-runner who made the summit in 3 hours), we hiked down to our bikes from 11:30 to about noon. We were able to coast down to the 13,000-foot col for a minute, and then we had a miserable grunt as we pushed our bikes up 175 feet on the rocky road to the flat area. We really wished we had left our bikes at the top of this hill.

We left the top of the 13,175-foot rise at 12:15 PM and were able to ride 90% of the way back to our cars. The terrain was mostly easy downhill, and we were able to ride almost all of the uphill to the observatory, and somehow stayed on our bikes on the rough rocks of the switchbacks down to the main laboratory buildings. From there, it was an exceptionally fun 10-minute coast down the 2 miles of high-quality road to the gate and our cars. The 5.8 miles from the rise at 13,175 feet to the car took us 52 minutes, an average speed of 6.7 MPH. We were playing tag with the trail runner guy for the first part of way down, but after the laboratory we left him totally behind on the good road.

We were at the cars at 1:07 PM, and after a stop at the Bristlecone Pines we made it to Hawthorne by about 5 PM for the Mount Grant picnic and orientation get-together.

I would definitely recommend taking along a mountain bike for White Mountain Peak if you have one handy and have at least some experience on rocky trails. We are on the low end of the mountain bike skill spectrum and likely saved about two hours on our trip, most of it on the downhill—it was a real joy to finally cruise down a perfectly good road instead of slogging along on foot at the end of a long day. Even riding only the 2 miles to the laboratory would be a timesaver, and that is within the means of almost any cyclist. Fit and skilled riders would save more time than we did and could even get almost to the summit.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3396 ft / 1034 m
    Extra Gain:425 ft / 129 m
    Distance:15.6 mi / 25.1 km
    Route:WMP Road
    Trailhead:Locked Gate  11700 ft / 3566 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike
    Gear Used:
Bicycle
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:4 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Hours 37 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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