Star Light, Star Bright: White Mountain

Originally posted on the WPSMB on 8-4-08

After grabbing a to-go BBQ chicken sandwich from the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining (mmmm… dang, I can’t believe I hadn’t eaten there until now!), I dashed home for a shower, switch of the packs, throw the pillow and pad in the TOF, and hit the ground running for the White Mountains. The Barcroft Research Station was having their open-house, but I had a few bigger things on my mind… \:\)

I had attempted to hike White Mountain in December of 2006 when a friend of mine and I got blown off the mountain . With my recent penchant for night hiking, and a new moon ensuring that I could really see the stars, I started to hatch a plan. I reached the trailhead at 9:30pm, promptly set the seats back, set the alarm for 0100, and fell asleep.

I awoke to pitch blackness, swatting the top of the clock a few times to snooze, but finally rousting myself out of bed. My headlamp illuminated the still locked gate and road in front of me as I hit the trail around 0145. In an hour I had reached the observatory above the labs , and I just kept plugging. Birds bedded down in the road exploded as I almost stomped on them, giving me a chill every time. The air was amazingly quiet and still, and the stars saturated the black sky. Out of my periphery I could make out the looming shadow White Mountain. I stuck to the road, knowing I could traverse a few sections but not wanting to get stuck in the middle of the night.

By 0515 I was on the summit , carefully and quietly tiptoe-ing around as to not wake the two guys sleeping on the concrete step of the lab. I hunkered down in the wind break, donning my heavy down jacket and bivy sack, shivering the in the chill and breeze that had come on during my final climb up the switchers. The hood drawn tight around my face, I dozed and waited for sunrise. At 0545, the stars faded, and the light burst forth over the eastern horizon, the pink haze descending onto the grand Sierra behind me. White Mountain’s shadow pierced the glow in the western sky.

I took some panos (if someone wants something to do with their free time, feel free to play with the pics, as they’re labelled), but in the wind I was freezing so I snuggled down once again, taking a short nap. I awoke at 0630, hungry, and here’s where the plan really took form.

I had brought: my Jetboil pot, new Jetboil frying pan, coffee, champagne (of course!), sausage , and pancake mix! Pigs in a blanket , baby!! Woohoo! Anyone for a champagne breakfast at 14K?? Now, they weren’t nearly as good as Doug’s, but the frying pan worked like a charm, and it was delicious! I popped the bubbly with bravado, laughing out loud as I celebrated my 9th 14er! When I told Earlene my plan the week before, she smiled and said, “You always make everything such an occasion !”

Now fully awake (good coffee!), I talked with the other two guys on the summit and waited around to see who would show up on the summit. I perched on the summit cairn, arms akimbo as I surveyed the winding jeep road and watched the ants come marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah… (OK, it’s only fair I put that song in your head, since it was in mine all day Sunday…) My friend Laura from SoCal, a fellow WTC grad and WestLA Group 2 student (woohoo!), showed up with an trip, and it was great to get caught up with her again. I met Blooty, HikingforHope (girlfriend, you ROCK!) and her husband, DaveG , and Norma all throughout the day. Richard hit the summit around 11 or so, and was shocked to find me still there, and Rafael was right behind him. All told, I spent 7 hours on the summit, staring at the view, talking with people, and pointing out the peaks (we could see from Olancha to Sonora Pass yesterday!).

Richard and I finally ambled down around 1215, angling over to tag Mt. Barcroft before checking out the lab facilities. We met Rafael at the lab, and he kindly gave me a ride back to the TOF (I don’t know if I could have made it without him…  ). After the long drive out, we had dinner at Uncle Bud’s in Big Pine before heading for home.

An awesome day: if you haven’t had the pleasure of hiking up in the Whites, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s another world entirely up there, with magnificent colors of rock, green grasses, belly flowers, and eternal views.

And Earlene’s right: it definitely was an occasion.

A few other moments from the day:

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.



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