ApproachThe route begins in Jeffery Mine Canyon.
From Bishop take highway 6 north past Chalfant. After Chalfant, the road goes up a rise, and then descends. There is a small settlement called Hammil where the road begins to ascend again. Turn right on the first paved road at the settlement (19.03 miles from Bishop). Follow this as it turns into a dirt road. Soon it splits - take the left fork (0.65 miles). Drive on this dirt road as it parallels the back of some property, and take the second obvious dirt road on the right (0.3 miles). Follow this dirt road as far as your vehicle can go!
There is space for turning around before entering the canyon 1 mile up this final dirt road (5,000 ft) and just past the mouth of the canyon at 2.3 miles (ca. 5700 ft). The road is blocked to vehicular traffic at 2.8 miles (ca. 6100 ft), where there is a final turn around.
Route DescriptionNote: All distances are relative to the lowest turnaround point on the dirt road unless stated otherwise)
1-Way Distance: 7.69 miles
Elevation Gain: 9,600 ft
From wherever you parked, walk up the road. Eventually it becomes impassable to vehicles and the the only recent use apparent is walking. Eventually the road climbs out of the creek to the right and begins ascending more steeply. Keep following the road and eventually all traces of it will disappear, but there is a well maintained hiking trail. Follow this up Jeffery Mine Canyon to the Black Eagle Camp at Jeffery Mine at 7,550 ft (ca. 3 miles)
A note about Black Eagle Camp - these are some WONDERFUL free-to-use cabins built and maintained by volunteers working to restore Jeffery Mine. Anyone can feel free to use these cabins, which have outhouses, electricity, beds (no sheets though), cooking supplies, books, and even Monopoly! They also have running water and a shower during certain times of the year. More information can be found at http://www.blackeaglecamp.org
There is one lone cabin encountered first, and then a whole complex about 100 yards farther down the trail. From here the route becomes less certain for the south ridge.
South Ridge Variation
(I only descended this route, and my way down wasn't the most pleasant, but I'm not aware of any better way to gain the ridge, so here are the ways that I'm aware of (feel free to tell me if you know a better way))
Continue following the trail as it passes by the cabins. Eventually the trail reaches a creek and ends abruptly on the south side at a small mineshaft. From here, scramble up to the top of the ridgeline anyway that seems to work. One way is to follow the stream uphill for about 0.14 miles (or ca. 300 vertical feet) beyond the mine shaft, where some chutes enter the river. Follow these dirt-filled chutes up to the flat clearing on the South Ridge just below the large vegetated talus slope at 9,000 ft. From here, just keep following the ridgeline all the way to the top!
There are some flat spaces for camping at the base of this slope at 9,00 feet, or at the top at 10,400 ft. Beyon this point the elevation gain is gradual until 11,400 ft.
At 11,400 ft the South Ridge merges with the North Ridge, and a steep talus and scree slope follows. After half a dozen false summits, the unnamed 13,200 ft peak on the ridgeline is gained. Beyond the highest summit is a slightly rugged class 3 ridgeline. This ridgeline is overcome by scrambling on either side and on top along various points along it. To avoid the ridgeline all together, you may have to traverse the steep slopes as far as 1,000 ft below the unnamed peak.
Eventually a saddle is gained (ca. 13,000ft) and there is an uninterrupted talus and scree slope leading to White Mountain's lower west summit (ca. 13,900ft). For the remainder of the route, the talus and scree is very loose and its stability is hard to predict - I'd reccomend doing the route when this part has 100% snow cover, if possible. DO NOT go all the way to the summit unless you want to climb it - it is impassable on the other side. Instead, traverse around the slopes to the north of the summit about 100 ft below it to gaint the saddle between the east and west summits. From here it is just a short scramble to the main summit!
North Ridge Variation
DO NOT DO THIS ROUTE UNLESS YOU LIKE BUSHWACKING! Just beyond the long west-facing cabin (which as of this writing is unfinished), there is a smaller trail that branches off to the left. Follow this up a creek, and then out of the creek, switchbacking up a small ridge. Eventually a flat area is reached and the trail becomes harder to follow as it seems to have been swept away by a landslide on the southern flanks of this ridge. Continue scrambling up this ridge until the main North Ridge is gained. From here, just scramble/bushwack around the gendarmes on the ridgeline until the route meets the nicer South Ridge at 11,400 ft. The remainder of the route is the same as that for the South Ridge.
Alternative Approach and Route DescriptionDirk "Diggler" Summers recently completed the route by taking a different approach and was able to stay on the south spur of the West Ridge the entire way. His route might be preferable to mine, so I'm listing it here in its entirety as a recommended alternative:
Note: following abbreviations are used throughout this ‘comment:’ S = south; N = north; W = west; E = east; R = right; L = left; WMP = White Mountain Peak; mi = mile(s).
If approaching the W ridge of WMP from the N (i.e. Bay Area, Lee Vining, Reno), I would say that it is more expedient to drive the following way (which is more direct), route instead of going S to Bishop then basically turning around & going back N (as described in the current section- essentially backtracking) until reaching the turnoff on Highway 6 for WMP. I’d say it is approximately 60 vs. 84 miles.
From the 120-395 junction (just S of Lee Vining), go S for approximately 5 miles to where the 120 splits from the 395S to go E. Take the 120E for about 45 miles to Benton (look out for deer at night!). Where the road dead-ends at a T-intersection (@ Benton), hang a R & head S on the 6 for approximately 15 mi. Directly at/past the green marker for Post Mile (PM) 19, hang a L (W) onto White Mtn. Ranch Rd (directly across the 6 it continues as Chidago Cyn Rd going Wward).
(start the trip-meter here, i.e. 0.0) Follow White Mtn Ranch Rd E towards WMP. After approximately .5 mi (there is some type of building on ones L) the road turns to dirt. Continue down this road. At 2.5 miles a spur branches off & goes up the mountain- this is the beginning of the S spur of the W ridge. I think that this should be passable by a standard car (however, I did this in my 4X4 Tacoma, so don’t know for sure). Directly after this split (~100’ beyond) is a place to park (between the road one has been following & one that parallels it to the L, i.e. on the ‘mountain’ side). There is room here for 1, & definitely not more than 2 or 3, cars. This is also a good place to bivy- it allows one to acclimate to some degree before setting off (hopefully early!) the next morning.
The start is approximately 5,500’ elevation. Follow the spur road upwards. After passing a shack & dilapidated radar dish (~6,500’?), at a certain point the road peters out & disappears. Go over a bulge. From here one can discern a trail. Follow this as far as possible until you lose it. Go through the forest (for reference, the slope through this section steepens toward the canon to the N, & mellows out to the S) until a steep, ugly, scree-covered headwall is encountered (~9,000’)-. Slog up this until it is surmounted (~10,000’). At this point the ridge is well defined. Follow it to the summit, traversing up & down over several humps en route (some class 3). The psychological crux starts at a notch in the ridgeline at approximately 11,200’. One drops a disheartening 150’ or so to get here. The N spur of the W ridge joins with the S one above this notch. Above this low-point looms an ugly, 1000’ tall scree slope that must be surmounted. It is as bad as it looks, & quite possibly worse on the descent (much ankle-twisting potential). When this is surmounted, the ridge solidifies somewhat, & there is actually some pleasant 3rd class on the way to the summit.
• Bring LOTS o’ water! 5 quarts/litres per individual should suffice for all but the hottest days of summer (unless there is snow, there will be virtually no water on the route either).
• Being acclimated prior to starting is a huge benefit on this route!
• Bring hiking poles (at least once snow-free; otherwise an ice axe probably a good idea)- any potential injury to a delicate ego from using them is insignificant compared with the benefit gained by lessening the damage to ones knees over the course of the ascent/descent, as well as the potential to save sprained ankles in the numerous horrible scree sections (esp. for those with weak ankles).
• Bring a headlamp- this is a LONG route!
• Look around (& behind- i.e. the way things will look during the descent) during the ascent! Much of this route is X-country, & knowing/remembering what to expect on the descent can save one a lot of time (esp. if it gets dark)! (this is a good procedure for any mountain, I’ve learned)
• Be prepared for both extremely hot & extremely cold temp’s- I’ve experienced both on this mountain!
Essential GearBring lots of water! There is a stream in the canyon where you can refill water, but it only goes so high and can dry up in the summer!
Good hiking boots, possibly a helmet for the upper parts of the route.
When snow is present, ice axe, crampons, and avalanche rescue gear.
Miscellaneous InfoIf you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.
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