This was an amazing experience. Summiting White Mountain Peak via the "locked gate" trailhead is a long day hike and although it's a non-technical "walk up", because of the high altitude you need to be properly acclimitized to enjoy your attempt at the summit.
This was part of our annual fall Yosemite trip and wanting something more challenging than the usual Yosemite fare, so we decided on this 14er.
One day before departing on this trip, the 9-11tragedy happened. So, there was definite reluctance to going, both to see how things would turn out and also because we were not in a mood to enjoy ourselves.
We decided to go as we felt a "get away" was appropriate. We started early on 9/13 on the trail after having driven that morning very early from Tulomne Meadows, where we were staying (about 90 mile trip each way). The ride was wonderful and we saw the sun rise in the east as we drove towards the Owens valley. For those that haven't been in these parts, let me tell you that the scenery is STUNNING. The mountain ranges around the Owen's valley and the town of Bishop are literally the best I've seen anywhere - you must go and see it, simply put.
The town of Bishop was your typical American small town, but the range of amenities surprised us, including a Swedish bakery that rivals any full-featured bakery in any US major city - wow - very yummy!
The drive up to White Mtn. Peak was generally very pleasant and beautiful UNTIL the 17 mile dirt road. We even rented a 4WD SUV for this trip and I'll tell you that it was still unpleasant. Keep this in mind, if you're in a hurry.
The day and hike itself were amazing. There are very little people you're going to see on this day hike. We saw mabye less than 6 people the whole day. The views are lunar-like and impressive. Make sure you take all of the usual precautions: layered clothing, sun protection, food/water, etc. especially for this altitude and because of how exposed you are up here.
Everything went well on this "walk up", but keep in mind that you will need to be acclimitized. We spent the previous night at Yosemite at around 8,500', but then the trip here was down to 5-6,000' and then back up again. The end result was that we were not fully ready to do this. Although, we made it up, the last 600' was one of the biggest physical challenges ever. Note that we're in excellent condition, runners (have run marathons, etc.). Bottom line, since AMS/high-altitude problems are fairly unpredictable, just try to get a solid day in at 7,000' or above before doing any 14er for best results.
Because of the amount of physical challenge involved in getting up and the events of the previous days, the summit was a sweet sweet achievement. It was also very eerie due to the lock down of the national airspace --- there was NOTHING in the sky, no planes, nothing. A sight that hasn't been seen in decades and one that we'll hopefully never have to see again.
Overall, an extraordinary experience, can be very demanding both getting there and the hike itself, but also very rewarding. The views are spectacular, the entire Sierra crest is visibile, you peer over the Owens valley and can also peer 100+ miles into Nevada in the other direction. Be prepared and this will be a memorable experience for you.
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