White Mountain 14250 ft

3 Sep 2000 - by Arun Mahajan

It did not look likely that anybody would be in the mountains this Labour Day weekend as we slept in the car at Camp-9 with the cold wind rocking it and the rain pattering on the windshield. Dawn looked even worse but we still decided to race to the Lake Sabrina trailhead to meet up with Kai Weidman and Cecil Anison to do the scheduled trip to Mt Goddard. The sky was remarkably clear at Mammoth and points south but it was still cold at Lake Sabrina and Cecil and Kai had heard from the locals that the weather would continue to be unsettled. So, changing gears, we decided to head up White Mountain. Cecil had hiked it before and Hal had ski-traversed from halfway between Boundary Peak and White, all the way upto White.

Up Highway 168, closed 30 miles up from Big Pine due to the danger of flash floods to the Grandview Campground at approx 8000 ft where fortuitously, a SUV leaving a camping spot made one available to us and then a 4.5 mile hike in Schulman Grove among the venerable Bristlecone Pines exuding a youthful fragrance that belied their millenial geriatry with a backdrop of the Sierra crest, completed the Saturday.

Sunday morning and the unpaved 16 mile stretch from Schulman Grove to the now opened gate on the White Mtn road gave no problems to my car and I am sure Mike's Landrover treated it with even more disdain. Since the Barcroft Lab that is two miles up the road from the gate has an open house on the Sunday of Labour Day and gets enough visitors that clog up it's limited parking, all White Mountain bound hikers were asked to park their vehicles at the gate and to either hike from there itself or to take a shuttle bus that runs every half hour till 5 pm by the two uniformed volunteers who sat shivering in the cold wind, bravely manning their posts. Like hardcore mountaineers, sneering at the people who were hiking like hicks, the six of us choose to ride up in the shuttle to the Barcroft Lab, Kai Weidman (leader), Cecil Anison (leader), Hal Tompkins, Noriko Sekikawa, Mike McDermitt and myself, Arun Mahajan.

9.40 am, fortified by the free cookies generously provided by the Barcroft staff, a cold wind making us wear multiple layers, we set off on the road. Hal took off, his lungs acclimated by his recent stint in the Peruvian Andes, fuelling his rocket like speed, while we followed at a more stately pace. White had received a nice dusting of snow and presented an imposing sight and despite the cold cold wind, amidst several parties of hikers, we summitted a little before 12.20 pm to the sight of a rather solid looking hut and dutifully signed the register and departed soon after, the cold making it inhospitable to linger long. Back at the lab to check out the highly singular Barcroft Lab avoiding the doleful gaze of the research sheep and then to take the ride back in the shuttle bus.

A small walk in the Patriarch Grove, a few miles down the White Mtn Road, on the way back to Grandview to see the Methusaleh, the largest Bristlecone Pine tree, completed this scenic but not unduly taxing PCS trip.

Trip stats: 10 miles RT from the Barcroft Lab to the summit of White Mountain in under 5 hrs. Due to the drastic altitude gain and the cold wind that whips up, despite being entirely class-1, lots of warm and wind proof layers are recommended while doing this high and wonderfully scenic mountain.

Bernd Klopfer writes:

Last summer [2003] I did White Mountain twice and also visited the various bristlecone pine trails. Methuselah (note spelling!) is very definitely not in Patriarch Grove. It is somewhere, unidentified to most people, along the Methuselah Trail. It is the oldest known, not biggest, bristlecone pine.

The White Mountain hike is fairly easy, even for a 65-year old like me.

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