We were planning on doing Whitney a week later, so we decided to head up to White Mountain Peak for some altitude exposure over the weekend. It's the third highest mountain in CA, standing 14,246 feet tall. It is also the easiest 14er to hike in CA; the trailhead is at roughly 11700 feet. So, a perfect match for our goal!
Friday Oct 6th 2006
I left work at noon and took off with Chrissy to meet up with Eric in Northridge, CA. As he's blessed with a company truck, we decided to take his ride. By night time we met up with Allen
where the 14 highway meets up with US395. He was swamped with work but as usual, I could tempt him to another high country adventure (and an adventure it shall be...) ...
Moonrise just at the junction of the 14 and 395 highways.
It was already dark when we hit the dirt road up to the Grandview Campground (8500 feet). When we rolled in, the temperature had dropped to about 38 degrees but it was a beautiful night with crisp and clear skies. We set up our tents and decided to still make a campfire. With gloves and a hat, it was actually pretty enjoyable. We had some beers and snacks and laughed and chatted the night away. Turned out to be a fun camping night! It was past midnight when we hit the sack.
Saturday Oct 7th 2006 - A quick hike ... NOT...
Around 8am we woke up to a mild frost. After a quick and chilly breakfast, we broke up camp and were on our way to the trailhead. The views of the High Sierra were absolutely awesome and I immediately recognized Middle Palisade. That's one of those peaks that fascinates me. Probably because
What a great view of the Palisades!
it was the first 14er I saw up close and it looked truly impressive to me. We got out and snapped a few pics.
10:30am, 27 degrees. Ready to leave the trailhead! It's one of those beautiful days with a mixture of clouds and blue skies. Looking at the dirt road, it looked like cakewalk but the altitude was very noticeable!
The clouds created a mystic atmosphere.
The hike turned out to be rather mystic getting higher up. A moon landscape combined with clouds floating around us. A little past the 2nd Observatory, we were walking in the clouds and it started snowing. About half way to the switchbacks, there was snow on the road up to about a foot in places. With poor visibility and snow getting heavier, Eric decided to turn around. It was agreed that we would continue to the summit and meet up with him back at the truck.
Close to the switchbacks (13200') the snow got really heavy and we weren't sure if it was really worth it to continue to the summit; we wouldn't be
Chrissy and Allen encountering some heavy snow.
able to see anything anyway. Moreover we realized Eric's truck is only 2wd and we had no chains... Ok, it's below freezing, snowing hard and we have a 2wd vehicle at almost 12000 feet... Time to turn around! No need to get stuck up there!
Getting closer to the trailhead, the clouds partly broke up. Oh my, what a scene! Black clouds mixed with sun and a very bright white landscape! I tried taking several pictures but as usual, it didn't do justice to it.
When we got back to the truck, I was actually pretty tired and shivering
Clouds are breaking up. What a scene!
from the cold. It's one of those days where I didn't eat enough again. Oh well, who cares if it is 23 degrees, we were back in the warm truck and would probably be sitting down for dinner around 6pm. Wohow!
The drive back... the 'fun' begins...
TWO flat tires!
We were driving back over the dirt road. The snow was very patchy. Some parts of the road were dry, others were covered with several inches of snow. It was a little scary driving up the steeper snowy hills but the powdery snow provided excellent traction and soon we were past the snow zone. It was just cruising now!
All of a sudden the drive got a little rougher and Eric suspected we had a flat tire. I could feel it too; Eric slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. I immediately saw the flat tire in the side mirror. We got out of the car and assessed the damage. Yep, the right rear tire was entirely flat. Crap, it's cold and we're hungry. Oh well, let's change the tire and get it over it. I turned around to go get my gloves and ... OH NO! The front one is flat too!! Now what!?
What are our options? Well, it's pretty simple 1) get a spare tire and bring it back up here or 2) get towed to civilization. As a responsible salesman, Eric has a premium AAA membership, so we decided to try to get a tow. Let's give them a call... Oh, wait..., of course, no cell phone reception! Well, looks like we're dependent on other car traffic...
Finally a small truck rolled up. As Eric would have to be the guy calling AAA, he decided to ride in the cab of the truck to phone reception. Allen joined him; I was freezing cold and in case we had to spend the night in the truck, it seemed logic that I stayed with my fiancee...
Off they were and we waited in the truck, occasionally firing it up to heat up the cab. It was kind of peaceful and the stormy sunset above the Palisades was nothing short of stunning! Time went by slowly and soon it was dark. Being past 6pm, I thought Allen and Eric would spend the night in town and come back in the morning. I didn't think AAA would come all the way up here. Chrissy and I got our sleeping bags out of the back and prepared for a long night...
The rescue... sort of...
Around 6pm I saw 2 faint headlights making their way up to our truck! AAA, wohow, finally! Food and a bed are coming closer to reality again (well, that's what I thought).
Allen looked pretty miserable. Apparently they had been waiting outside the ranger station until the tow truck showed up (it was about 20 degrees now). He got in the truck and together with Eric, I spent some time outside. The tow truck driver had to look for tools under the back seat anyway. He didn't have a spare tire, so he decided to put the two good tires on the front and tow us out backwards. Oh, and he advised us that Allen, Chrissy and I had to sit in the truck. Oh well, no problem, let's get rolling! Nobody could sit behind the steering wheel, so Allen and I sat in the back seat. If you've been in a truck, you know the back seats are pretty straight and with the vehicle been towed backwards, ... you pretty much lean forward causing pressure on your lower back. It was uncomfortable from the start and only... 3 HOURS later we arrived in Bishop. 10pm, nice! We all felt pretty miserable and I was starving by now. Good thing we were back in town; let's get some food and hit the sack... or not?
Some food and ... a bed... maybe?
The tow truck driver was kind enough to drive us into town with five people packed in the front. Luckily it was only 2 miles from the tire shop. We walked into a motel right across from Denny's (forgot the name). "A room for four please!" The lady looked at us a little concerned when she said there was no availability. Oh well, let's call some other ones then! "Uh, everything from Bishop down to Lone Pine will be fully booked", she said. What?! Apparently there was a classic car show going on AND a western filmfestival down in Lone Pine! What are the odds?!? So, I guess we'll have to stay up all night or walk 2 miles back to the truck to sleep in it? Both options sucked!
Thank God Denny's was open 24 hours! At least we could get some food. Going through our options (we did NOT look forward to a sleepless night), Eric decided to call AAA again. They would pay for a room if we could find one. Hmm, what about Mammoth? A few phone calls later, we found availability in Mammoth, finally!! Oh wait, we can't get there... A cab!! Oh, there are none in Bishop! Frustration... again!!
Somehow Eric found a private shuttle service in Mammoth. As they weren't too busy, they would hook us up with a ride for $100 each way. Great!! They picked us up around 12:30am.
Getting to the motel, we took a quick shower and by 2am, this day finally ended... Didn't look like Allen would get his work done on Sunday...
I don't want to make this trip report too much longer but the trouble wasn't completely over yet:
* In the morning, Eric's fleet company couldn't authorize the replacement of the tires. Apparently after hours and on weekends they didn't work. What?! So, we were risking to be charged for the repair... After almost 2 hours of call transfers and discussions, we couldn't convince them...
* When we got to the tire shop, they managed to put the two new tires on one side of the truck?! Consequence; they had to take everything back off and realign the thing...
* I got home on Sunday 8pm; a day late...
I guess it could've been worse... Hmmm, really? :)