White Mountain Peak
By: Sherry Harsh
WHITE MOUNTAIN AND THE SORRY STATE OF THE SALINE VALLEY ROADS
Sixteen mostly sleepy climbers met at 7;OO a.m. Saturday at the Grandview campground off the White Mountain road, 18 miles from Big Pine, and some 4000 feet higher, which aided our acclimatization (or so we like to think.) The first ten or so miles of the White Mtn. road are paved, the remainder pretty good dirt road (by DPS standards) altho one car had to be abandoned part way up (we did take its passengers, however). We got underway from the locked gate about 9:00 under clear skies. The group ranged from tigers to newcomers, including a few for whom this was their first-ever peak, or first DPS peak, or DPS-qualifying peak. Despite the wide range in experience and conditioning, everyone made the peak except one climber with a painful pulled muscle, and the last of us arrived at the summit around 2:00, an hour and half behind the tigers. We enjoyed a nice lunch on the summit, enjoying the spectacular views of the Owens Valley, the Sierra, and Nevada. We were a bit slow in returning, as a few people were beginning to feel the effect of the altitude, though most recovered by the time we got to the cars (6:00+) or back to Grandview campground (8:00). One disconcerting note about the campground: although we were not particularly noisy, being pretty tired, we were confronted by a very abusive and aggressive camper from a distant campsite who accused us of excessive noise and inconsideration. We pointed out (reasonably, we thought) that it was only 9:00, and the campground rules posted at the entrance stated that "quiet hours" were from 10:00 to 6:00, and we would all be asleep by 10:00, but he would not be placated, continued to rant and rave, and threatened to come back and play his car stereo at us beginning at midnight. We discussed moving camp, as he seemed not only aggressive but probably unstable, but finally decided to chance it and stay where we were. Luckily he didn't come back, but that's a compelling argument for camping in non-established camping spots.
Sunday morning half the group opted to sleep in and hit the hot springs (which were closed, alas) and the rest of us headed for the Squaw Flats road off the Waucoba Canyon road. Less than a quarter mile in we turned around, as the road was in very poor condition and effectively impassable for ordinary cars, and headed for the Whipporwill Flats road, which we thought might be in better shape. It was fine as far as the mines in Marble Canyon, and then deteriorated into a jumbled wash with boulders big as breadboxes, and the people at the mines assured us it got worse further along. The heavy rains in August with accompanying flooding, rockslides1and mudwashes have almost eliminated many of the roads in the area, and they are being bulldozed back into shape fairly slowly. We regrouped at Lone Pine for lunch and discussed trying for Nelson or Pleasant without much enthusiasm. Two hardy souls set off to try for Pleasant (apparently that road was impassable) and the rest of us headed for Darwin Falls. The dirt road into Darwin is marked "closed" but in fact it was in marvelous shape compared to the others we'd seen, so we drove to the wash and then hiked a short distance in what was becoming a very hot day, into the relative coolness of the canyon and scrambled on up to the falls where we soaked heads and feet and cooled off. A group dinner at Tokiwa's (near Cantril) was a pleasant change from the usual 395 fast-food-fare, and we mostly got home before midnight.
Comment: aside from the altitude, White is a good trip for newcomers (assuming they're in some sort of reasonable condition) as it's a good trail the whole way, with relatively little elevation gain, no route finding problems either on foot or by car, which is rare for DPS peaks. There's no great problem if the group gets spread out or even if someone wants to turn back, because of the jeep road, and there's always the high altitude research station to visit - (there's usually some kindly soul around who is happy to talk a bit about what they're doing there.) And the Bristlecone Pine exhibit makes a marvelously interesting and enlightening side trip.
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