Sheep Mountain is a mountain no one’s really heard of. Grossly overshadowed by the glory of California’s 3rd highest peak, White Mountain
, which lies some ten miles to the north along the spine of the White Mountains, who’d every think to head up this nice, little 12er?
Being a very short and easy stroll over rolling terrain from a decent dirt road traveling along near the crest of the range at over 11,000 feet, minimal effort rewards the mountain’s visitors with stunning views of the gorgeous Sierra Nevada, just a few miles away across the Owens Valley. Solitude is assured.
With a roundtrip of about 2 miles and roughly 1100-1200 feet of gain, the east slopes still allow plenty of time to visit Patriarch Grove
, one of the two outstanding visitor-friendly (maintained trails, interpretive signs, etc.) bristlecone pine groves to be found in the area.
One might also take the time to explore Piute Mountain
, another high peak a mile to the north of Sheep, or Campito Mountain, a lower peak to Sheep’s south. This is a beautiful and surreal area, with a lunar landscape you won’t soon forget.
From Big Pine, California, get onto highway 168 and head east toward the Inyo-White Mountains. After about 12-13 miles, just before reaching Westgard Pass, you’ll reach the junction with the signed (and paved) White Mountain Road (& Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest) on the left.
White Mountain Road features stellar lunar high-country scenery, bristlecone pines near the road as you gain elevation, as well as the possibility of a wild horse sighting.
Turning north onto White Mountain Road, follow it until you reach the signed turn-off to Patriarch Grove. Although the pavement ends about 10 miles from highway 168, and just past the turn-off to Schulman Grove (and the visitor’s center), the quality of the dirt road is generally good, and passenger cars should be able to make slow but steady progress. Continuing past the turn-off to Schulman Grove (to the right), go another 13 miles or so until you come to the turn-off to Patriarch Grove. The turn-off (on your right) is signed.
Look for a place to park off the road at about 11,300 feet and in the vicinity of the turn-off to Patriarch Grove.
* Alternately, if a roundtrip of 2 miles and 1200 feet of gain is too much to consider, those with high clearance vehicles, or lower vehicles they’re willing to beat up a little, can proceed up the main road a bit closer to the peak (and higher). The road definitely starts to worsen a bit past the Patriarch Grove turn-off.
On 9-30-07, Phydeux
kindly offered this update:
"Since a lot of persons seem to be using Limestone Pk, Sheep & Piute Mtns as "warm-ups" for White Mtn, the NFS has made an informal parking lot closer to the Piute/Sheep Mtns area. Instead of parking near the Patriarch Grove, take the road towards White Mountain. When you get to the top of the first rise (White Mtn will appear off in the distance), you can turn off and park on the flat area on the EAST side of the road. Start hiking up the hill on the west and you'll first top out on Limestone Peak, can traverse to nearby Sheep Mtn, then traverse once more to Piute Mtn. A relaxing 4-5 hr hike."
None that I’m aware of.
When To Climb
Summer or fall is ideal.
The peak could also be done in spring or winter, but expect a long hike 8000+ feet up from the desert floor below or a relentless slog along the unplowed (and long) dirt road. Why bother?
A few miles off of highway 168 along the White Mountain Road is the Grandview Campground. There are a few dozen nice sites, all of which are free and available on a first-come first-served basis.
The campground is only open May to October. Being at over 8500 feet, the campground makes for a nice spot to acclimate before heading to points higher, such as White Mountain, etc.
a weather link for Big Pine, California. Since the Inyo-White Mountains lie in the rain shadow of the Sierra, conditions tend to be somewhat better, and certainly drier, than those in the nearby Sierra. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Whites don’t get their fair share of snow, rain, wind and lightning.