White Mountain Peak
September 7-10, 2006
The rest as told by Bob himself...
"Not the best kept secret in the house, my latest try at summiting CA's 14,242'
White Mountain Peak. This was going to be a mix of great people this trip - three I'd
met (Carol, Todd and hikerduane) and two I knew only from the Backpacker forums -
ScenicRoute and hikrchick395 (Andy and Cheryl). Driving home Sunday evening I
found myself a blur of thoughts and impressions, not just that I'd gone farther than
I had at any point in the past, but of the people without whose help I'd have had no
I was the first one at Grandview CG Thursday afternoon, at 8500 feet. We were to
meet there, and as I passed through Bishop on the way I met Cheryl at the ranger
station. I filled container after container of water as we talked for quite awhile. I
was glad she'd driven into town to say "hi", and looked forward to her joining us up on
the mountain the next day. Just as the sun was going down, Andy pulled into the CG.
Carol and Todd were due that evening, too, as was Duane. We settled in after
setting up, grabbed a warm campfire and talked. All were finally sleeping by 11:30 or
so, as we looked forward to a leisurely drive up to Barcroft Lab the next day.
Friday went according to plan - a stop at the Visitor's Center at Schulman Grove
where we got our first look at the bristlecone pines, then up the dusty road to
Patriarch Grove, one of the most scenic places on Earth, beautiful in its starkness,
awesome as you think how these trees, thousands of years old, withstand the harsh
conditions in which they appear to thrive. Talking to Andy during the brief time we'd
had together brought forth impressions - we'd never met, yet we talked and
interacted as if we were old pals catching up on things. The thunderstorms of
Thursday evening gave way to absolutely perfect weather, and given the team that
had assembled to help me out it appeared as if we were in for one heckuva good trip!
We drove to the locked gate indicating the entrance to the Barcroft Lab facility,
maintained by University of California. They have graciously given me permission to
drive to the lab and use it as a base camp, at 12,200 feet. This made the round trip
to the peak 11 miles, over some of the gnarliest terrain a crazy wheelchair hiker can
be exposed to. I had decided to sleep in my car Friday night, Andy in his, Carol and
Todd in their tent. It was just before dusk we caught up with Duane, as he was
getting back from his first summit hike. I drove him down to the gate to pick up his
truck, and we all chatted and laughed at Barcroft until we passed out for the
evening. It was at this point my old nemeses, nausea due to a combnation of altitude
and high blood sugar kicked in. As much water as I drank that night, I coughed up at
regular intervals from 1 AM until dawn. But it didn't wipe me out like last year. I
woke up sore and tired, but with more than enough energy to move forward, up the
nasty, rocky half mile to the Barcroft Observatory and, hopefully, beyond.
As I was trying to assemble my gear for the trip over the next hill, Andy let me
know he'd planned to take his gear out with me, then return to our starting point to
pick up my pack. He and Cheryl lugged my pack along after bringing their own gear.
Cheryl is a true mountaineer - she glided up the trail no matter what she was
carrying and no matter that my pace was snail - slow. It didn't appear that either
she nor Andy was gassed at the altitude, although I was sucking wind in a big way. We
reached the observatory, where I picked up a gallon of water Carol had lugged up for
me earlier that morning. And I felt guilty -Andy and Cheryl were gracuoisly, even
cheerfully lugging my pack, then going back at intervals for their own. As we dropped
down about a mile north of the Observatory, Cheryl and I staked out a pleasant camp
site as Andy went back a long way for his gear. I was tired, and again nausea caught
up with me at this point. It was here we found company provided by a camera -
seeking marmot, who'd posed for a long while as Andy and Cheryl took pictures - he /
she was doing classic marmot poses - standing up as if her was searching earnestly
for...something. Cheryl helped me set up my tent and I crawled in to take a nap.
After awhile, I woke to hear voices. Andy had returned, and two members of a
research team from the University of Washington stopped by to chat with us. We
met many members of their group, all of them interested in my latest attempt at
this peak. And I had questions for them...all kinds of physiological stuff. They seemed
like quite a fine bunch.
Cheryl hiked back to Barcroft to sleep there Saturday night while Andy and I sat,
talked and listened to the wind. It was cool, but not the bitter chill that a typical
very windy White Mtn evening would normally bring. As the moon rose, almost full
even two days past its prime, I felt remarkably good for having come this far. But
the usual worries manifested themselves later on, as I lost what little I had eaten
that night during the early hours of the morning. At day break (much later for me
than most! ), we made the decision to turn around rather than press on, as I was
using far more calories than I was able to take in. At some point it was bound to
catch up to me. Cheryl caught up with Andy and me Sunday morning, and as reluctant
as I was - after all, I felt pretty darn good - we decided it was prudent to pack up
and head back, even this close to the summit. Had we moved forward, we probably
would have spent one more night just below the base of the peak. A crystal ball would
have been helpful at this point, but I just had to go with the gut feeling. I asked
Andy if he wanted to summit, as I would be quite happy to wait, but he was all about
helping make my dreams come true, as was Cheryl. It was still going to be a long pull
off this side of the hill on which we camped, so I got up slowly, and packed as Cheryl
walked all the way back to drop her gear at Barcroft so she could return and pack
out my gear. Andy's 4 - season tent looked like a Hilton on that tundra, and he deftly
packed it up while I tried to shake off the cobwebs. There was no disappointment in
my failure to go on this day - Andy and Cheryl both made it clear they were here to
help ME...that stirred some deep emotional stuff inside me, to be fortunate enough
to meet folks for the very first time and find them so giving, so willing to help me in
any way they could. And that was the message of this trip - what more could one
hiker give to another, to help facilitate a dream?
Getting to the point where we called it off was still a lot farther than I'd gone
before. And I felt better, despite my little squalls of nausea, than I had before. We
even met a friend of Larry Gallagher, the gentleman who accompanied me last year
and wrote the article for Backpacker. Small world!!!
As we made the slow trip back up to the Observatory and down to Barcroft, many
positive thoughts crossed my feeble mind. Physically, I was in awesome shape. Maybe
another day or two at Barcroft would acclimate me better, making the following
days less painful. Andy pointed out that using a chair with front wheels large enough
to barrel over the rocks might be the ticket for my next trip. I started looking into
that yesterday - it sure would remove the hours of lift - and - drop the front wheels
for miles on end. I'm used to it, but why not try to make it easier?
Highlights of this excellent weekend - Carol bags one more 14'er. hikerduane does it
twice! 4WB gets farther than ever before! And meeting Andy and Cheryl...a true
highlight. I'll try not to understate this, but they are two of the kindest, most
caring folks I've ever met. I'd rather have missed out on the summit than to not
have met them. And hopefully, we'll all be together up in the Whites next year...or
next month? Heh heh..."
|Me on the top of White Mountain Peak! @ 14,242 feet
Todd and I drove over to the White Mountains on Thursday afternoon/evening and met
4wheelbob and his friend Andy at Grandview Campground. 4wheelbob was going to try
for White Mountain Peak again and we were there to cheer him on and help him out. We
stayed at Grandview for one night then headed up the White Mountain Peak Road. We
stopped at the Schulmann and Patriarch Groves and then finally found our friend Duane
up at the Barcroft Lab. Cheryl arrived the next morning. Here's the rest of the story
told in pictures and then in Bob's own words...
|In the fall there are still flowers blooming in the White Mountains
Rabbit Brush, above
|This lizard posed for me just long enough so I
could take his (or her?) picture
|It was a beautiful day in the White Mountains
|Bristlecone Pines in the Patriarch Grove
|Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel
|Most people start hiking from the Barcroft Gate
Here you can camp, but there isn't much shelter from the
wind. They have recently built a pit-toilet, though.
|We had permission to go on up to the Barcroft Lab at 12,500'
which would be our base camp of sorts for the weekend and
this is where we would start our hike. From here it's only 5
miles and about 2,000' to the top of White Mountain Peak.
|One of the two pooches that kept us company at
Barcroft, I believe her name is Tupper
|Now, if you ask me, that's the only way to get to the top!
|You have to be crazy to work here
You have to be even crazier to come up here for fun!
|Saturday morning the sun rose, the moon set,
and it was time to go for a hike
|This small observatory is about 1/2 mile above Barcroft. This is as
far as 4wheelbob has gotten before as it's a very steep and rocky
1/2 mile. I packed a gallon of water up to here and left it for Bob
who would later make his way up here with Andy and Cheryl.
|This is Duane ahead of me with our goal in sight.
Duane might well be the only person to hike up White Mountain
Peak twice in two consecutive days. He hiked up it the day before
apparently for lack of something else to do while waiting for us to
show up! Anyway, I'm glad I had someone to hike with.
|Except for the two patches of snow still on top, White
Mountain Peak isn't white. It's tan, black, and red.
|Almost there, heading up the final switchback!
|Whew! We made it to the top about 3:00 pm.
There is a stone building on top, some weather
instruments, and a few stone sculptures.
|Looking east down at the switchbacks we just came up
|Looking down off the west flank of the mountain.
I got a cell signal here so I called my mom :)
|Looking south at a view obscured by smoke coming up
the Owen's Valley from fires down in Southern California
|Heading down we ran into four people heading up. The first
one asked me if I had any pills for altitude sickness. I asked
him if he was okay and he said the last guy in his group wasn't
feeling well. I asked him if he had water and he said yes. I
recommended that they head down but they kept on going up.
Only two people in the group made it to the top but we later
ran into them all again so they made it down okay.
|The last light of day shone on the peak.
The last mile back was hard for me as my stomach began to ache.
I probably a touch of altitude sickness myself.
It was here that we came upon where Andy and Bob were camped.
The next day Cheryl hiked up there to join them and they would see
if they could go further...
|Hawk and coyote we saw on the drive out...
|It looks kind-of lifeless in pictures, but we saw marmots and
lots of birds on the way up, including Mountain Blue Birds!
|Bob hikes amongst the clouds