Trip Date: Saturday, June 27, 2020
Trail: White Mountain trail
Distance: 14.7 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 3,087 ft.
Location: White Mountains, Mono County
Permits: Not required.
If we’re not floating around the alpine lakes of the Eastern Sierra, or stocking up on jerky in Bishop, we’re most likely to be found somewhere in the backcountry either seeking out our next big adventure or on the road to the next! This specific weekend, the weather had different plans for our alpine lake adventure; strong winds in the late afternoons kept us from heading out into the backcountry but did not keep us from hiking California’s 3rd tallest peak, White Mountain. At 14,252 ft. I am happy to say that White Mountain is officially my first 14er!
As with every Eastern Sierra adventure, nearly 85% of the time we are waking up in Alabama Hills. The alpenglow on Mount Whitney that morning was beautiful and had me excited for this new adventure. Although we started our morning a little later than we hoped for, we were still on the road to the trailhead by 6 AM.
The drive to the trailhead is already half the journey. White Mountain Rd. is a windy dirt road that is approximately 26.2 miles to the locked gate at the trailhead. It is recommended to have a 4×4 vehicle, however, my Dodge Journey AWD SUV did just fine, and we even saw smaller passenger vehicles slowly making their way. It must have taken us a good 1.5 hours to the trailhead and getting a late start that morning already had us rushing against time. I was a little nervous about not being able to acclimate properly before our hike, and now we’re rushing to beat the late afternoon winds. At 9:20 AM we were at the trailhead and ready to start our hike.
I’d be lying if I said that I was ready for this hike. To be honest, I mentally gave up within the first mile! Thoughts about not properly acclimating, getting a later start, and having to hike nearly 15-miles that day, did not sound appealing to me at all. Thankfully, my hiking partner was still in good spirits and didn’t really mind my slow pace. One foot in front of the other. It was important to keep reminding myself that this trail is, in fact, the easiest 14er to hike and for some reason, that mentality really helped me along the way.
A little after mile 3, we stopped for a quick lunch break. We had packed in our banh mi sandwiches from the previous night and I was too excited to finish mine. It was the perfect trail lunch I had in a while and totally worth the wait. Still a little nervous about my first 14er, I stocked up on electrolytes and we continued our hike. With the trailhead starting at 11,654 ft., this trail is fully exposed and we lucked out with a nice breeze in the morning as we started to climb, up and over when we eventually came in sight with White Mountain.
At this point, the trail flattens out quite a bit and is a nice hike to the bottom of White Mountain. Now practically surrounded by 360° views of the Eastern Sierra mountain range, I knew we were making our way up- slowly, but surely! As we got closer to White Mountian, the more intimidated I got. Now realizing that a majority of our climb is really within those last 2ish miles! By this time, we had run into a few people who were already making their way back down. Around mile 5, the trail quickly descends ~170 ft in less than half a mile. Irritated that our hike back down will no longer be all downhill, we continued on.
At 1:30 PM, 7.35 miles and 4 hours 10 minutes later, we reached the top of White Mountain. I was a little emotional, but my heart was full. The feeling of accomplishment after hiking all day and reaching your destination, let alone the highest point ever, was overwhelming. We hung out at the peak for a good hour or so, snapping photos and chatting with a few other hikers that day. As soon as I realized that I had cell service, I called my family to tell them “hello from the 3rd tallest mountain in California!” We enjoyed some snacks, just as the winds started to pick up, and sooner than later we were making our way back down, red-nosed and all bundled up. It was a long way down, the high winds were not making this easy hike any easier, neither did the small inclines, but by 5:30 PM we reached the trailhead and completed our hike to White Mountain Peak.