Wed, Aug 12, 2015
White Mountain Peak
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White Mountain Peak previously climbed Fri, Jul 19, 2002|
Mt. Barcroft previously climbed Sat, Aug 24, 2013
For the first 14 years of the Challenge, all the peaks we climbed were in the Sierra Nevada by design - after all the full name is the Sierra Challenge. I had intended it to continue this way indefinitely and if it had been up to a committee any deviation from the norm would probably have been shot down. But the Challenge isn't designed by committee so I'm free to break the rules as I deem fit. So far, this hasn't posed much of a problem since there really aren't many folks that care about the rules per se - most just want to know which trailhead we're using and what time we're starting. The rest is details. Peak 13,615ft is a CA 13ers I had not yet visited in the White Mountains, found a few miles north of the highpoint, White Mountain Peak. Our route to the unnamed 13er would necessitate our going within a few hundred yards of White Mtn Peak, so that 14er was almost a freebie bonus for today's Challenge. A trail (really a road) goes to White Mtn Peak, some 7mi from the trailhead below the Barcroft Research Station, making for only a moderate challenge. The real part of interest was the cross-country ridge traverse between the two, with a section reported to be class 3 and knife-edged.
There were only six of us at the 6a start on a windy, cold Wednesday morning. The big detraction for those that didn't appear was the long drive from Big Pine to reach it. A number of these simply did alternate peaks in the Sierra with far less driving. The road was in decent shape and I managed to drive it the evening before without incident. I'd brought Eric with me as he had no car, and about half a dozen of us slept outside or in our vehicles that night. A few more showed up in the morning just as we were leaving or not long after. Two participants had started early and several others would start later - not a bad idea considering how cold we were. Eric, fresh off two days' rest following his accident that left his middle finger heavily bandaged was at a great disadvantage. His gear had been at Daria's place in Big Pine the past few days and what he'd brought with him the night before was mostly his sleeping gear. He'd hoped Daria would remember to bring his daypack (which had most of his warm clothes) with her when she drove up in the morning, but this was not the case. I had extra gloves and others offered various spare clothing items, but Eric refused them all, decked only in a pair of shorts and a couple of shirts which he figured might be sufficient once we got moving and warmed up.
Our pre-chilled crew headed up the road, happy for the sunshine that lit up the range shortly after we started but finding it wholey inadequate. We reached the Barcroft Station after the first half hour, finding it quiet and seemingly unoccupied without the small herd of sheep I'd seen in pens when I went by here on my first visit more than a decade ago. Eric did not seem to improve much as we continued, his bandaged hand tucked under his shirt, his other hand carrying a Gatorade bottle filled with water, his only gear besides the clothes he wore. He continued to decline offers of clothes but he did relent and allow me to carry his water bottle for him so he could tuck his bare good hand under his shirt as well. We carried on as a group, hiking the road for several hours. Tom left us briefly to make use of a shortcut that bypasses a bend in the road. I'm not sure why we didn't follow him, but it may have been that we weren't sure it would work (it did) or that it would offer much benefit (not much), but it seemed easier to just follow the road. As we climbed higher our group splintered some, Daria and a few others dropping back as the wind kept hammering at us, sapping our energy. What I had expected (or perhaps, hoped) to be a fairly casual walk to the top of White Mtn Peak was far tougher.
2hr20min after starting out, the first of our group reached the summit of this 14er. Among those was Eric in his shorts and bandaged hand. We used a ladder leaning against the summit building to gain an additional 10ft of elevation. A few climbed the antenna attached to the building to gain a few feet more. I paid a side visit a short ways down the west side of the summit in search of the Wilderness HP. I had gotten a coordinate from LoJ and used this to navigate about 200ft down the loose, rocky ridgeline, looking for a small cairn or register to mark the spot but finding little. Nothing save a polished chrome dog bowl I came across along the way, cemented among the rocks on the side of the mountain. A last tribute to someone's trusty canine pal? I never did find any info on this little mystery when I did an online search afterwards.
I rejoined the others at the summit to take a few photos before continuing on - hanging around here while my heartrate lowered wasn't going to help me keep from freezing. Off I went with a handful of others in tow. Eric did not join us as he was ready to cut his losses and return. Daria would do likewise after reaching White Mtn Peak. Four of us (Rob, Robert, Tom, myself) dropped off the north side to begin the traverse along the crest. Shortly before reaching the class 3 section we came upon Ken. He had started early, already reaching White Mtn Peak before us, but turned back at the class 3 section after finding it a little too rich for his blood. Just before us now, the class 3 knife-edge lived up to expectation and turned out to be the most exciting part of the day. It involved some good scrambling on surprisingly solid rock with several short sections of knife-edge. It took the four of us about 15min to cover the distance to easier ground, after which things became more relaxed.
Temperatures steadily improved with the rising sun, and though still windy it was not as biting as it had been earlier. We cruised along the crest of the range for another mile and a half alternating between somewhat tedious rocky sections and the more delightful grassy sections. Summer storms had kept portions of the crest green which made for a nice contrast with the abundant talus. As we neared the final climb from a saddle up to Peak 13,615ft we spied Chris and Jeff ahead, the last of our group to start early. Chris was on his way back taking a line close to the crest while Jeff was traversing low towards the peak. Evidently they never saw each other when I asked Jeff later - like two ships passing in the night. In a line not stretching too far, five of us managed to reach the top around 10a. We found a makeshift register consisting of a few paper scraps left by Bob Packard at an unknown date, sometime before 2009. Most of the names I recognized, including Bob Sumner, Daryn Dodge, Paul Garry, Keith Christensen, Teresa Gergen and Chuck Ramm. There were only 3-4 that were unfamiliar among the collection. We added our names in a corner of the second page and posed for a group picture while trying to stay warm. Our visit at the summit would not last long. Though it had a dramatic view of the High Sierra profile, it was not appreciably different from that obtained from White Mtn Peak.
As we were heading back across the talus we met up with Scott who had started sometime later - the drive to the TH had taken him longer than he'd expected. Rob, meanwhile, was doing a good job of not letting me out of his sight. I had started the return at a strong pace, distancing myself from all but Rob. When we got to the class 3 section I knew I could traverse it faster than Rob and set out to do exactly that. By the time I had reached the end of it and started back up to White Mtn Peak he was out of view so I took off running. I made a cross-country dash straight down the switchbacks on the 14er's east side, hoping to get more distance between Rob and I before he figured out what happened to me. But he was on to me sooner than I had thought and before I reached the base of the switchbacks he was right on my heels - all that effort had gained me nothing. We resumed walking when we reached the flat area below and returned to the road and had a fine laugh while we discussed the episode. As we were walking the long section back towards Barcroft Rob decided to pick up the pace to a jog again. I congratulated him on his perseverance in keeping the Yellow Jersey lead but did not keep pace. I had not told him I planned to visit Mt. Barcroft in way of a bonus peak, preferring to keep him guessing that I was not far behind. I had been to Mt. Barcroft a few years earlier, but not from the north side. There is nothing special about climbing this 13er which is class 2 from every angle, a steady but unremarkable climb however it is approached. It gave me a chance to hike cross-country on my own for a while and get lost in my thoughts. The summit has a really nice view of White Mtn Peak's colorful south-facing facade and features an unusual summit register found in a wooden crate installed in a rock wall with a short wooden ladder (completely extraneous) to complete the odd scene.
Back at the TH I found Rob, Eric and Daria relaxing in the sun. Like Robert, Rob had bypassed Mt. Barcroft to easily beat me back. Eric was actually smiling and Daria was feeling better than she had in the morning though still bundled in her down parka. It wasn't quite 1:15p, the outing taking just over 7hrs - not bad for an 18mi day with 5,000ft of gain. Now for the long, long drive back to Bishop...
Robert had done well to pick up 45min today in the Yellow jersey lead, improving his lead to a comfortable hour. Still, he would not relax and felt the lead anything but comfortable judging by his conversations back in Bishop that evening. Chris picked up two bonus peaks today (White Mtn Peak and Barcroft) to give him a one summit lead for the Polka Dot jersey over Michael Graupe who had climbed Mary Austin and Black today out of the Baxter Pass TH.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: White Mountain Peak - Mt. Barcroft
This page last updated: Mon Nov 2 11:29:39 2015
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