At 14,252 feet in elevation, White Mountain Peak in the White Mountains is the third highest summit in California. A long, rough, unpaved road (requiring four-wheel drive and high clearance) leads up from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest visitor center several thousand feet to the University of California’s Barcroft Research Station at 12,470 feet. Normally a locked gate two miles down the road from Barcroft is as far as automobiles are allowed, and that gate marks the trailhead. However, on the annual “open gate day,” vehicles are permitted as far as the research station. When starting from Barcroft, and taking into account dips in the trail, the route to the summit and back extends approximately 11 miles with more than 2600 feet of climbing.
This year my ace support crew and I decided to take advantage of the open gate on 4 August. Because this was a hiking expedition, all my bicycles remained at home in Santa Rosa, sad and lonely…but we ran into a few hardy bicyclists on the high-altitude trail….