Blue Moon/White Mountain

31 Jul - 1 Aug 2004 - by Ted Lenzie

On July 31, 2004 participants Leslie, Ben, Sheryl, Maria, Adelle, Kay, my co-leader Dave and myself climbed White Mountain. Normally, White is just a 3,700 foot gain, 15 mile round trip slog up a dirty and rocky road to its 14,246 foot summit. This time we did it in the blue moon of July. Our plan was to hike to the top with enough time to see the sunset, then hang around until the moonrise show started. We started at promptly 4:30 PM. As always the wind was blowing pretty strong but even at 12,000+ it was very warm. We hiked the 2 miles to the Bancroft Research Center. Here we took a short break.

Heading north the once graded road had become more rock than dirt. The road started climbing until we reached the empty observatory. From here we got out first views of White Mountain. Continuing, we dropped several hundred feet to a relatively flat section of the road. This was approximately a mile long. Again, we climbed to another ridge and we dropped several hundred feet again. Earlier, Sheryl said she had no intention of hiking to the top. I guess doing it 8 years ago was enough. So she turned around headed back to the trail head.

At this point we where on the foot of White Mountain. We began the long switchbacks to its summit. By this time we were in the shadow of the mountain. The temperatures began to drop and with the wind chill most of us put on a little more insulation. I went ahead but would stop often to allow the group to catch up. Looking at my watch it was about 6:45 PM when I told my co-leader that we needed to be on top no later than 8:00 PM to see the sunset. I conveyed this information to the others by radio. It seemed to make a difference and the pace picked up. As we climbed, the mountain's shadow stretched across the desert of Nevada. I summited at around 7:30 with the others not far behind. All but two made it in time to see the sunset with the alpenglow on the few clouds in the evening sky. But with the sunset, the mountain's shadow faded into a bluish/black horizon. We sat there enjoying the silhouette of the Sierra Nevada high peaks.

After the sun had gone down two more of our group arrived. It would be a little more than a half- hour before the moonrise. With the cold wind and the sun no more we sat on the east face of the small research building. The building blocked the wind and provided a comfortable place to wait out the moon. Fortunately, most of us brought thermoses full of hot drinks. We share with our other comrades who did not have such a luxury. It was quite comfortable as we waited.

Suddenly, there was a bright glow on the eastern horizon. We sat there with our hot drinks and watched the sliver of light go from a lemon shape to a bright orange ball. Sheryl enjoyed the show from the open landscape just before the Bancroft station. After a few photos we began our descent the way we came. The bright light from the moon was enough that our headlights were not required. We all exited the trail without incident and were back at our cars between 11:45 PM and 12:30 AM.

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