Labor Day from 14K: White Mountain Peak

Keepin' it klassy, with chardonnay and chips in the afternoon sun, at the trailhead.
Keepin’ it klassy, with chardonnay and chips in the afternoon sun, at the trailhead.

On Labor Day weekend we did an overnight trip up to the White Mountain Peak trailhead, high on the crest of the White Mountains that—along with the Inyo Mountains—form the eastern side of the Owens Valley near Bishop.

A paved road travels the crest several miles to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center, run by the US Forest Service. This is a great place to learn more about the bristlecone pine, most of which grow only here, in this mountain range. Beyond the Visitor Center, it’s another 18 unpaved, but very scenic, road to its gated end above treeline at 12,000′, near the University of California’s White Mountains Research Center Barcroft Station. The station and surrounding area are sites for high altitude ecological research of all types.

White Mountain Peak is just 7 miles from the trailhead, along an old gravel road that serves as a trail. However, the country is so open that one can choose one’s own route across the tundra to get to the peak. The opportunities for exploring are endless! Here are some scenes from that day.

Much of the road beyond the Visitor Center crosses treeless alpine tundra and through patches of the light colored dolomite limestone favored by the bristlecones.
Much of the road beyond the Visitor Center crosses treeless alpine tundra and through patches of the light colored dolomite limestone favored by the bristlecones.
View of the high plateau we crossed on the way to the summit. The old road is visible.
View of the high plateau we crossed on the way to the summit. The old road is visible.
Bagels and coffee at the summit, looking north along the crest toward Montgomery and Boundary Peaks, at the California-Nevada border.
Bagels and coffee at the summit, looking north along the crest toward Montgomery and Boundary Peaks, at the California-Nevada border.
View from the summit southwest toward the Owens Valley floor, Volcanic Tablelands, and Bishop (far left), with the Sierra Nevada beyond.
View from the summit southwest toward the Owens Valley floor, Volcanic Tablelands, and Bishop (far left), with the Sierra Nevada beyond.
Looking east into Fish Lake Valley, Nevada. State Route 95 travels along the valley floor.
Looking east into Fish Lake Valley, Nevada. State Route 95 travels along the valley floor.

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