Trailhead Elevation: 11,675 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,252 ft.
Total Gain: 3,015 ft.
Distance: 15.5 miles r/t
White Mountain Peak is considered one of the easier “14ers” in CA to summit, and it’s the third highest peak in the state. I figured it would be a great way to see how it feels to be at that altitude, without needing any technical skills. My buddy Phil and I set off from work in Hollywood around 6:30p, for the five hour drive north. The peak is in the White Mountains, just northeast of Bishop, CA. We arrived around midnight at a campground situated nicely at 8,500 ft. Four hours later, we got up and hit the road for the last hour drive to the trailhead.
When all was said and done, we started hiking around 7am. The approach to the actual peak was long, about 8 miles one way along a rough, rocky road. This hike is unique because it starts at 11k+ feet. Two miles into the hike we came across a scientific research station run by UC San Diego. It’s one of the highest research facilities in the country. We cruised past it and continued up at a reasonable pace. Even at 12,000 feet the altitude makes itself very apparent. I had spent the last 8 weekends hiking above 10k, but Phil had never set foot much higher than Los Angeles, about 400 feet above sea level. It felt like all of my training hikes were really paying off. Even though my breathing was much harder than normal, I never felt very fatigued.
Once we reached 13,000 feet, we took a lunch break. The final 2 miles of the hike were definitely the most difficult. Almost all of the elevation gained is in the last 2 miles up to the summit. At this point the road turned into more of a rocky trail, climbing steeply up the side of the peak. There were a few snow fields, but nothing to worry about. We made it to the top around 1pm. Once I relaxed for a few minutes, I felt great. Being at 14,000 feet was a big accomplishment for me, and I was very glad I made it. After taking some good photos and snacking on some trail mix, we decided it would be best to start the long trek back to the car. Going downhill was definitely a welcomed task. It still took a long while though, as we had about 8 miles to cover. The light at this elevation seemed magical, cascading through the clouds onto the barren, grass covered plains.
We made it back to the car about 6pm, quite a bit later than I had originally planned. Phil was on the edge of bonking for the last few hours, so we had to slow our pace down quite a bit. After changing out of our boots and shaking off the dust, we started the two hour drive to our next adventure…