Adventure #3, Bicycling to White Mountain Peak

Paul Doherty White Mountain Peak in back
White Mountain rises behind Paul Doherty.

We couldn't climb Mount Whitney, so I suggested we climb the third highest peak in California, fourteen thousand foot White Mountain.

The interesting thing about White Mountain is that it has a road to its summit, a road that was open to mountain bikes. We drove to the end of the access road which was gated at 7 miles from the peak. We parked and unpacked the bikes. Some assembly was required. Since this was the first time we had taken the bikes out of the van it took us a while to figure out the order of the steps. By the end of the trip we were much better.

Paul Morgan at White Mt Trailhead
Paul Morgan puts the pedals on his bike.

It was a beautiful day. Cool but not cold. I was pleased since it can be brutally cold on the summit ridge of the White Mountains.

Paul Doherty at White Mt. trailhead
Paul Doherty at the beginning of the bicycling road.

The road started at 12,000 feet, so even the gentle first hill took some work to climb.

Paul Morgan bicycles with the snowy Sierra in the background

The road was pretty well cared for. We made good time on the gently climbing portions and slowed down for the hills.

Snow on the road

We passed the Barcroft Laboratories and saw a herd of sheep. I joked that the sheep were probably part of a high altitude adaptation study. Then we read the sign on the pen and found out I was exactly correct. There was a steeper hill behind the laboratory. On top of the hill snow began to cover the road. Luckily a car had driven through the snow so that we could bike in the wheel track. However if you are mountain biking in a wheel rut and veer out of the rut into the snow things go bad in a hurry. You slow rapidly and the wheel turns further out of the rut. When the wheel ruts ended we couldn't bike any more. So we stashed the bikes and started hiking.

As we hiked we saw a herd of mountain sheep.

Mountain Sheep

The road twisted its way to the summit. Since the road had the deepest snow, we cut the switchbacks on bare rock. It was a perfect day at the summit. Calm, almost warm. We read the summit register and ate lunch.

Paul Morgan on the summit of White Mountain

The return trip was much faster. We returned to our bikes and really made time down hill.

Near the bikes we saw a rabbit. It really believed in its camouflage and let us get very close while it stood still.

A rabbit in the White Mountains

We made it back to the cars after an exhilarating downhill ride.

We started bicycling at 9:45 AM, reached the summit at 1:45 PM, departed the summit at 2:15 PM and were back at the car by 4: 20 PM. It was early in the trip so we weren't in shape yet and we were not adapted to altitude.

Go To Owens Moab Adventure#4

Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty


11 October 2005