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· Epic Builder
26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many dream it…few make the commitment…even less complete it to the end. Unthinkably high, massively big, and some may say stupidly boring, this is one twisted ride.

Nothing is ordinary about a ride where you can legally MTB to the highest point on the west coast and then drop over 10,000' to the finish. White Mtn Peak is the 3rd tallest peak in the California, across the Owens Valley from Mt. Whitney (1st) and Mt. Williamson (2nd).

Just driving to the trailhead takes commitment. Although the peak is some 20 miles northeast of Bishop, the 57 mile circuitous drive first heads 14 miles south to Big Pine. Climbing 15 miles east on CA-168 to Westgard Pass, it's another 12 miles on White Mountain Rd to the Ancient Bristlecone Visitor's Center before it turns to gravel and then another 16 miles to the trailhead's locked gate at 11,680'.

But twice a year on the first Sunday in August and the Sunday of Labor Day, the gate to Barcroft Research Station is opened, cutting off an additional 2 miles and 760' of climbing.

But even with this small advantage, starting the wheels turning at 12,440' first required some altitude acclimation that started with 2 days of xc riding and 3 nights at higher altitudes around the Sierras.

The magnitude of the 5.5 mile undertaking doesn't hit until reaching the first crest.

Due to it's relatively easy access, many would be hikers of Mt. Whitney use White Mtn as a warm-up and acclimation.

Trees are notably absent in most of the White Montains, but at least you have unobstructed views.

Climbing the hill reveals the last 1,200' push to the summit.

Surprisingly most of the trail is climbable up to 13,900' after which becomes a bit too loose and steep.

Just over 2 hours of climbing, the White Mtn bad boys lay claim to the top.

Official survey marker at 14,242'

For Gil & myself, getting to the top was the start of our ride.

Looking south below the top.

Topping out on the last climb before dropping back to Barcroft Station.

While the other 3 guys bail on the remainder of the ride, Gil and I continue our epic descent.

But of course it's not all pure descent.

It's pretty desolate at times but there's a certain beauty in it.

But then trees appear,

And so does the last major climb.

Typical for an ancient Bristlecone Pine, parts of the tree will die off while others continue to live.

We elect to take the direct route to Bishop via Silver Canyon,

Some 6,000' below.

Better have some good brakes as this plunge can easily smoke a set of organic pads.

Reaching the outskirts of Bishop, Laws is a former narrow gauge railroad stop that has been preserved as a museum.

Then it was just a matter of pedaling another couple of miles into Bishop. Although we didn't set any records, we enjoyed the view from the top, lunch at Barcroft station, and another leisurely break before dropping in Silver Canyon. In all it was still a 9 hour day on the bike. While this might not be your typical super-D course, it truly is an all-mountain ride throwing everything at you from loose chunk, numerous blazing fast descents, and a couple of xc climbs. Once you get to the top, plan on 11,500' of descent with less than 1,600' of climbing. Not bad considering it's a 32 mile descent and an experience that you'll never forget.

White Mountain Peak - Laws
Mileage: Trailhead gate 39.9 mi, Barcroft Station 37.9 mi
Ascent: Trailhead gate 4,439', Barcroft Station 3,738'
Descent: Trailhead gate 11,871', Barcroft Station 11,871'
Starting elevation: Trailhead gate 11,680', Barcroft Station 12,440'
Peak elevation: 14,242'
Ending elevation: 4,115'


· Registered
1,894 Posts
Beautiful Ride

Thanks for posting that!

Haven't been there for a few years, and this makes me want to go back.

I've ridden up to the summit twice. But it was my third trip with Mark Davidson and Michael Moore and Lisa Luzzi on an IMBA inspired recon trip to investigate the riding potential of eastern areas proposed for wilderness designation that totally blew my mind. There was some great riding down to the east side. It was indistinct and rugged. That trip was outstanding, and I've got to thank these people again. Thanks for reviving that memory.

Black Canyon is an attractive alternative descent to Silver Canyon on the west side. It is more technical at the top, has some interesting landmarks along the way (including a spring near the top) and traffic is typically zero (since the trail is no longer usable for 4wds to connect towards the top, above the spring, due to massive erosion).

· Registered
1,096 Posts
If you descended Silver Canyon Road...

all the way from the top, you missed one of the best single-track descents in the state.
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