Peak(s):  White Mountain Peak - 14,246 feet
Date Posted:  12/22/2009
Date Climbed:   08/14/2009
Author:  DHatfield
 California 14er - White Mountain Peak  

Peak: White Mountain Peak (14,246')
Distinctions (lists): Highpoint of Mono County, Contiguous US 5,000' Prominence Peak ("Ultra"), and a California 14er!
Team: Doug Hatfield & Susan Paul
Trailhead: White Mountain Trailhead
Route: There's a road to the top!
Distance: 14 miles RT
Elevation Gain: Approx. 3,400'
Special Gear: Coyote urine or chicken wire, to protect your vehicle from the varmints.

This TR is *so* late, but I wanted to post it anyway, since some of you may be planning your 2010 out-of-state trips right now, and this California 14er might be a good option. It's not so much a "destination peak" as it is a "last hurrah" summit, do-able on very little sleep and with minimal effort, after the tougher peaks and before the long trip home.

There's another report for this peak - posted to the forum before there was a place on this site to post trip reports. It's here, and it's worth reading:

August 14 2009

This was probably the most tired and sore I have ever been before attempting a peak. In the days prior, Doug and I had done 13er Boundary Peak - Nevada's state highpoint - and 14er Mount Whitney, California's state highpoint. In hindsight, five days in a row of tough peak-bagging was too much, and we should have taken a rest day. Lucky for me, White Mountain Peak is one of the easiest 14ers on the planet!

Anyway, we had spent the night in Bishop, so we got some breakfast there and headed to the trailhead for White Mountain Peak. Aubrey's report has directions, so check that out if you need them. It's kind of a blur to me now...

We drove up to a parking lot with a trailer and some outhouses in it, and we signed in. The ranger was out, but there was this sign on the trailer door:

Yikes. Varmints.

We drove for a while, and White Mountain Peak soon came into view.

It's a pretty peak!

The dirt road wound up, down and around an amazing Bristlecone Pine forest.

The California Bristlecone Reach Around.

Eventually we hit the trailhead, where there were several vehicles, one with its hood open. The hungry marmots were on the attack! I remember distinctly my feeling of dread at this point. I had just scratched the sh!t out of my new car on the road to Boundary Peak the day prior, and now the savages were poised to eat it from the inside out.

Bill Murray had it right... gophers, marmots, they're all the same. And we needed superior fire power, superior intelligence. But all we had was... coyote urine. Doug had a quarter of a bottle packed in the trunk. He sprinkled it around the four corners of the car and we set off. Yay for urine!

The Barcroft Lab is ahead.

This is what the trail looks like, for pretty much the entire way.

Approaching the observatory.

Lab outhouse on stilts.

Lab deely-bob.

Mini lab deely-bob.

Lab weed.

Lab sheep.

Yep... it's a thrilling route. I'm beginning to understand the weed and the sheep now.

But it is a pretty peak!

Just move along, little marmot. And stay away from my car.

You can actually ride a bike to the summit of this peak. In fact, a girl came flying down the road on one, and skittered to a stop beside us. I thought that was strange: bikers stopping to chat with hikers are about as common as skiers stopping to talk to snow-shoers. After a moment or two of small talk, she broke into a huge grin. "Hey, I know you - I recognize the hat!" It was Elaine, the girl we had met four days earlier on Whitney.

She and a couple of guys had done the east face of that peak and were coming down as we were heading up to high camp. And now here she was again, heading down another 14er as we were heading up. I hadn't recognized her, in the helmet and sunglasses - but that smile sure gave her away. Her boyfriend pulled up alongside her and we all talked for a bit. Really nice people - and great memories!

The trail rises to that bump on the right, then down to the saddle at about 13K', before winding back up to the summit.

Unusual blue butterflies.

The trail gets narrow and talusy up high.


Views to the northwest.

Boundary and Montgomery to the north. Boundary is Nevada's highpoint, yet Montgomery - lying just over the border in California - is the actual summit.

Views to the east.

Views to the southwest.

Register box - and one of those green Subaru bumper decorations.

We hung around for awhile on the summit, before heading back down. It was a very long hike out... so long. Fourteen miles and thirty-four hundred feet - even on a road - is a long way to go when you're tired.

The plan for the next day was to do Wheeler Peak - not the one in New Mexico, but the one in Nevada. Wheeler is a 13er, an ultra-prominence peak, and a national park highpoint, so it was on *three* of our many lists. In fact, it had once been the highest point in Nevada, before the state boundary had been adjusted. I wished that it still was. It looked like a much cooler peak than Boundary.

Anyway, after much discussion we realized that - with our current gas situation, and with one very small town within reach between us and Wheeler, and knowing from earlier experiences on this trip that not all towns in Nevada had gas stations, and many that did were not open after dark - we needed to rethink our plan. We had underestimated how much gas it would take to get to the trailhead earlier that day, and now I was worried about getting to the next gas station, and our next peak. We decided to make the final call after getting to the main road, and based on time and how much gas was left in the tank.

Hiking out, into the sunset.

We made it back to the parking lot, where there were now two vehicles stranded, with their hoods up. I was soooo happy when my car started. It seemed to take us forever to get down that very long dirt road, and at some point I took a wrong turn and got lost. There was a guy on the side of the road photographing the Perseids meteor shower, and he was very happy to give us directions, so that we could move on and not ruin his shot. We were tired, and hungry. It was dark, and we were low on gas.

In the end, we decided that risking getting stranded in the Nevada desert was a bad idea. So we got gas in Bishop and drove eight hundred miles, through the night. Death Valley, Las Vegas, Saint George, Grand Junction. We already had a hotel reservation for the next night, so we took turns sleeping and driving, till we got into town. Food, showers, clean beds. It was 2 P.M. and everything was in slow motion now. "What time do you want me to set the alarm for?" "Let's not set it. Let's just sleep till we're not tired anymore." So we did.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Keep on Climbing / Bagging!
12/23/2009 16:35
The trail looked almost as exciting as Antero except for the lack of people. An out house on stilts? That is just wierd!

One of these days I need to get out to CA and climb some of those mountains. There are some really beautiful places out there. Thanks for posting the report and reminding me.

Lastly, the Bill Murray clip is a classic. I use to wonder why everyone surrounded their vehicles with chicken wire, but seems like a great idea. Last thing I would want is a disabled vehicle after a long day hiking.


Superior Intelligence... or just nuts?
12/23/2009 15:24
Thanks Britt, it‘s been a good year! And you know you are always welcome to join us on any hike. We‘re taking this weekend off for family time but we‘ll be out there every weekend in 2010.

Steph, ”Ultra-prominence” refers to those peaks having at least 5,000 feet of prominence. There‘s a good definition on Summit Post: ”By definition an Ultra-prominence peak rises at least 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above its key saddle or surrounding water.” It‘s not a LoJ term, although John does maintain a list of ultras on that site.

I have 11 of the 57 ultras in the lower 48: Elbert, Pikes, and Blanca in Colorado; Rainier in Washington; Whitney and White in California; Gannett in Wyoming; Graham, Humphreys, Lemmon and Chiricahua in Arizona. We tried to do a sweep of the five AZ ultras in September, but got lightninged off Miller, so we‘ll have to go back for that one. You probably have a bunch already, too. It‘s a fun list, and you can work on the state highpoints list and national park highpoints list at the same time.

Damn, Bill Murray is funny. I was going to take the kids to see Avatar on Christmas, but maybe I‘ll just stay home and watch Caddy Shack again... rent that Black Sheep movie, and Men Who Stare at Goats, too - I like that animal theme!


Superior Intelligence...and that‘s all she w
12/23/2009 04:44
There you have it. The quote of quotes! Which could summarize you and Susan‘s adventures. You both are amazing as you trudge around valleys and mnts. climbing more places than most people can imagine. You guys amaze me. Way to go for reaching and checking off more of your goals. Way to live your dreams!

I hope to climb with you both again!

Ridge runner

02/01/2011 00:24
I can understand the weather station and all its gadgets, but I‘m a bit confused with the sheep. Reminds me of the movie ”Black Sheep”... one of the best B-rated horror movies ever. Nice job on what sounds like a very exhausting but memorable trip! BTW, what does ”ultra”-prominence mean? Is that a LOJ term?


Love the TR!
12/23/2009 18:26
You guys always look like you‘re having fun wherever you are!
Definitely a few weird elements here - great, entertaining reading!
Looking forward to more of your TR‘s in 2010!!


Deely-bobs ...
12/23/2009 21:32
Great terminology ... I was waiting for you to whip out ”thingie” (err ... as a term ... not in the literal sense of the word ). Fun read ... thanks for posting. Happy trails!

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