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White Moutain Peak via Silver Canyon Solo failed attempt on open gate day
White Mountain Peak via Silver Canyon, Mountain Bike
White Mountain Peak from Bishop via Silver Canyon Rd, 14,246'

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You are here: Home : Mountain Biking Last Updated on 08/07/2005    
Diff: Rating 10/10
Scenic: Rating 9/10
Tech: Rating 5/10
White Mountain Peak from Bishop
         via Silver Canyon Rd, 14,246'
Location: White Mountains, White-Inyo Range, Central California
Region: White Mountain Peak
Total Distance: 34.5 Mi
Elevation Gain: 8,500 Ft
Season: June-Sept
Type: Out & Back
Start Elev: 4,500 Ft
Peak Elev: 10,870 Ft
Total Time: 5.67 hr
Time In: 3.67 hr
Time Out: 2 hr

Peak List Peak List
Peak Name Elevation
White Mountain Peak 14,246 Ft

Ride added by
on 08/07/2005
Driving Directions
From southern California, take Hwy 395 North to Bishop. Make a right onto Hwy 6 toward Tonopah, NV right by the Vons center. Take this a few miles, follow the signs to the Laws Railroad museum. Make a right onto Silver Canyon Rd. At Laws Rd (unmarked) silver canyon becomes a nice dirt road. Drive it to the first stream crossing. There is a little area to park just off the right of the road and there is a little road right there too that leads to a larger circular area to park. There are signs about putting camp fires out completely. There are no signs stating no overnight camping.
Ride up Silver Canyon Road. There are seven stream crossings that occur farily quick and one more that is a little further up for a total of 8. The first 3 crossings are spread out, 4,5,6 and 7 occur pretty close to each other. Bring some lube for the chain. I didn't need lube but the water was above the hubs when I was crossing in one or two of the crossings. At the top of the ridge, make a left following the direction on the sign for White Mountain Peak or Barcroft Station. Take this road all the way to the peak.
August 7th, 2005

I pulled into Bishop at about 5:30 pm and stopped at Vons for some food. The Vons is open 24 hour, the Kmart is open until 9pm. Then I was off to find a place to camp. I drove up Silver Canyon Road and was glad to not find any signs saying no camping. I pulled off to the right at the first stream crossing and threw my sleeping bag in the truck bed.

Just after dark some heavy rain hit and I was back in the cab waiting out the storm. About an hour of rain and things cleared up so I went back in the truck bed, no more rain the rest of the night with a good view of Mars.

I had my alarm set for 3:30am but when 3:30 came I pushed it back to 4:30 to avoid starting in the dark. The stream crossings didn't seem like they'd be too fun in the dark.

Starting off, I had two 28 oz bottles on the bike which weighed in at 33 pounds including the water. On my back I had about 25 pounds including a 100 oz Camelbak, 2 32 ounce bottle of Gatorade and one 34 ounce bottle of endurance gatorade. So, I started off with about 254 ounces total to drink or just under 2 gallons. I had some pasta for breakfast that I had cooked the day before.

I was on the bike at 5:45am just as it was light enough to see. The first stream crossing, right next to the truck, I walked around. The ride starts out as a perfect climb on a farily smooth hardpack road, with a stream to cool off in every now and again. Can't ask for much more than this. The first 4.8 miles or so of climbing are an enjoyable warmup. Most of this section I was riding in 22-32, 22-26 and 22-23 at about 4-8 mph. My rear derailleur was giving me problems which I tested out and thought I had fixed the day before.

After the 2nd stream crossing, the chain was not happy in these gears. I was playing with the adjuster on the shifter for probably a mile before I could get the tension on the cable right, it was not acting very good. With each stream crossing I was glad I stuck that bottle of lube in my bag but was surprised that I didn't need it all day (Prolink Gold). I had given the chain a fresh cleaning and two coats of lube the day before. Not only the stream crossings, but it was out in an hour of rain the night before and I hit some rain on the drive up to Bishop.

By the third stream crossing I was soaking myself to keep cool. I was almost to the 8th and final stream crossing when I was passed by a red Jeep going up. Shortly after that crossing I had a view of the first switchback.

At this point the riding slowed to a crawl about 2mph and before I knew it I was off the bike walking to the first switchback. It didn't look that much steeper than before but I guess it was. At the first switchback I was riding again but riding was on and off for the next 2 miles.

During the later part of these two miles was the first time I had the sun shining on me the whole day. I was glad I was as high as I was before I had to deal with the sun. These two miles were miles 5 and 6. Mile 7 there was more riding than walking, but mile 8 to the top seemed to drag on and on with mostly walking as I wanted to conserve as much energy and salt as possible for the rest of the ride. I kept thinking I must be on the last big swithback but then sure enough it would switchback again.

Finally I was at the top of the ridge and it was now about 10:20am. My ride/walk time at this point was 3 hours and seven minutes. 5:45am plus 3 hours and 7 minutes is 9am. I know I stopped a bunch on the way up but I don't know how that turned into an hour and 20 minutes of not moving. At any rate, by the time I was on the ridge, I had guessed it was about 11am, so I was glad when I looked at the clock and it was only 10:20am.

When I reached the ridge, I was at just over 10,500 feet. I had just climbed 6000 feet in just over 9 miles. This really is an amazing climb, 6000 feet up with not a bit of downhill or even flat sections on the way up. The slog up the last switchback was horribly slow, I was now walking about 90% of the time, although it was rideable on any normal ride, I did not want to push it on this ride. By the top of the ridge I felt like I was done. As I was riding up the switchbacks, I must have been passed by about a dozen jeeps and maybe 3-4 dozen guys (and gals) on large enduro type motorbikes with big panniers throughout the morning. They kick up a lot of dust when they pass. During the ride up I ate a few powerbars, some nuts, a peanut butter sandwich, a few granola bars, a NaCl pill and KCl pill.

At the top of the ridge, there is a short bit of downhill where the bike moves on it's own at over 20 mph down to the signs at an intersection. I made the left turn and now was a nice part of the ride with mellow climbs, and some downhill sections. I was using my middle and big rings again.

The road is rough (washboards) on most of the downhill sections and was shaking me numb. I was riding a hardtail with 80 mm travel fork. I'd recommend a full suspension cross country bike with front and rear lockout for the climb. This was the kind of beating on my bike that makes me wonder how it survived without cracking or falling apart. One of my aluminum bottle cages cracked at the weld and I was now carrying that bottle on my back.

I now had a better view of some clouds that were over the Barcroft to White Mountain Peak area. They looked pretty stormy. At the top of a short climb which turned out to be the high point in the ride for me, there is about 800 feet of washboard descent. This is where my bottle cage broke.

At a small parking spot near the top, I stopped to fill up my Camelbak which had run dry a little while before. Up to this point I had drank probably 120 ounces, right about a gallon. I also had something to eat here as I could not keep the hunger away. Had a bag of peanuts, a GU packet and a granola bar. That GU packet kicked in and I was back to about 90% on the climbs.

The descents on this road were miserable so I had to slow down on them, my bike felt like it was fully rigid, maybe that fork needs some work. I continued on the road about 1 mile past the signed turnoff to Crooked Creek Lab at a saddle before another, what looked to be a long, descent. The topo map indicates this descent is only about 150 feet but it looked more like about 600 feet from where I was.

I was sitting on the side of the road eating a powerbar when this guy stop to ask if everything was alright. I asked him if the gate was open at the trailhead as today was supposed to be open gate day to the Barcroft lab. They open the gate one day a year, usually the first weekend in August and the public can drive up to the Barcroft lab and either hike White Mountain Peak or hang out at Barcroft for some seminars and what not. I thought this would have been a good day to do this ride solo because there would be a lot of people out there and I could probably get water if need be. In retrospect, it was probably the worst day to do the ride because of all the dust from all the people. The guy told me that there was a hail storm at Barcroft, and as of now, most people were coming back, not heading up.

From where I was, the clouds looked bad up there with lightning and as I now found out, lots of hail.

At this point I was wishing I had brought some real food up with me, something like a big turkey sandwich would have been great. The bars just weren't cutting it anymore. Where my head was when I decided not to bring more than a peanut butter sandwich, I don't know.

Shortly after, I decided to turn around knowing that with the amount of water I had left, I wouldn't be going beyond the gate anyway and would not even reach Barcroft to have a chance of filling up and still be in condition to get to the peak.

I turned around at about 12:15pm.

On the main climb back out, at about 10,500 feet, the hail storm caught up with me and I was being pelted hard by heavy pea-sized hail. I stopped to put my camera in a plastic bag and finished up a Powerbar for the rest of the climb.

By the time I put the camera in the bag and had a quick half a Powerbar, the road was nearly white with hail. There were some people in vehicles driving like mad idiots to get out of there, at least they weren't kicking up dust anymore.

I felt real good on the climbs out, still about 90% and strong, full of energy, especially in the hail. The pain from the hail was a good motivator to keep moving, as the clouds indicated there was a lot more where it was coming from. Just the short stop from the climbing to put the camera in a bag and eat half of the powerbar got me cold, so stopping to wait for the hail to pass was not an option.

The hail eased a bit after I descended from the high point at 10,870 feet. For the rest of the ride back to Silver Canyon, I was trying to outrun the storm, just as I would get ahead of it, it would catch me and start pounding me with stinging hail. Between the hail and the washboard road this was turning into a painful ride. This went on all the way to Silver Canyon Rd.

At the top of Silver Canyon which I reached at about 1:15pm, the big storm started. Heavy downpour with hail kicked in with lightning crashing left and right and I was getting cold as there was no climbing left. Just after this one big lightning strike and loud thunder, the hail and rain kicked in super heavy.

On any nice day this would be one heck of a descent, but on this day it was an awesome descent.

With rain and hail pouring and lightning all around I took the descent slow and it ate up my brake pads quicker than any ride ever has. There's no rest from the brakes on the switchbacks as the grade rarely slackens.

At the bottom of the switchbacks, the rain was one of the heaviest I have ever seen and certainly the heaviest I've ever ridden in. With lightning still going off right overhead and a road that is now two streams with a little rocky singletrack patch of soil in the center, I was flying and freezing.

My feet were numb from the descent and the cold and my fingers barely worked from the cold and incessant braking. My teeth were chattering and my head and legs were shaking from the cold. Knowing it was probably over 100 degrees back at my truck I wanted to get there as fast as possible.

After the road tamed and I had outrun the bad part of the storm, the hands came off the brakes and I was flying down an awesome descent. The stream crossings were a welcome sight, indicating I was going to be warm soon, the weird part was spashing through them helped to warm be up, not cool me down and this was the middle of summer, August 7th, 2005. I hit the crossings quick and made some big splashes. Not paying attention to where I was riding in them, I took one of them at probably the deepest spot and water was up to my knees.

I was still very cold. My arms started shaking uncontrollably for a short time along with with my legs and head, I don't know how I was able to still hold on doing about 30 mph.

I passed this girl riding up at about the 3rd crossing from the bottom. I advised her against going much further. Looking back up the canyon from where I had just come, the clouds were dark with lightning everywhere.

Finally, I started to feel the warm sun and passed my truck after the last stream crossing. I only realized it when I saw the sign about putting out camp fires and turned around, got off the bike and walked back to my truck with my legs, arms, and head still shaking from the cold in about 100 degree weather. It was now about 2pm. It was a weird sensation. Never has the hot Bishop sun felt so good.

When I got back I changed clothes then went to Vons to pick up some cold water as now it was about a half hour later and I was warmed up. I got the water, got something to eat at Burger King.

I was sitting outside at Burger King and looked up and saw this snowy peak. I said what the hell is that? It was White Mountain which the day before had no snow visible from Hwy 395 and was now covered in white from the hail/snow? storm.

As it turns out, it was 35.7 degrees F at 1pm on the summit research station with a wind chill of 29 degrees F. The peak was covered in white probably about down to 12,000 feet.

Damn what a ride.

August 8th... looked at the bike today, chain doesn't have any lube left on it... totally dry. Don't know how I didn't hear it on the ride, my bike wasn't wet the whole time. Drank 180 ounces on the ride and another 1.5 liters back at the truck. Didn't eat enough, only had 2 powerbars, a gu packet, 2 granola bars, a bag of nuts, a peanut butter sandwich, salt pill, potassium pill.

August 9th: Received report from WMRS today, "Silver Canyon Road washed out at the bottom and is closed until they plow the rocks & dirt."
Notes about this ride report
The ride up and down Silver Canyon Rd is in the book "Mountain Biking the Eastern Sierra's Best 100 Trails", you can follow the link near the top left of this page. I recommed this book for Sierra and White mountain riding, it is pretty good.

I'd estimate a person would need about 13 liters of water to ride up Silver Canyon to the summit of White Mountain peak. This trip started out as a recon trip for a summit attempt on August 20th via the same route. Being open gate day, I thought I'd try to do the trip solo and shoot for the peak. As it turns out, I didn't make the original recon trip goal of the gate or Barcroft station. The gate would have been very doable without the storm. But for Barcroft, I'd probably need more water than the 254 ounces I started with.

Computer Readings:
I had to get a new computer. My Cateye Enduro 8 had it's last ride at a race at Rim Nordic in the rain, the display got all screwed up. That thing didn't even last a year I don't think. I replaced it with a Sigma Sport BC 1600 which held up without problems in all this rain and hail.

Distance: 34.5
Ride/Walk Time: 5:39:28
Average Speed (total): 6.51 MPH
Average Speed (at turn around point): 4.5 MPH
Max Speed: 33.3 MPH
Odometer: 8567 miles
Distance on new computer: 155.03 miles
Old computer broke at 8412 miles.
This means the old computer lasted for 3306 miles until one ride in the rain, at $19.95, the price I paid for it on sale, thats 165.7 miles per dollar, not a bad deal when you look at it that way. The part that sucked is I had just tore the cable in two the day before the rain ride when a stick got pulled into the front wheel on a ride here in the desert. I repaired the wire and had it working again that night only to have the computer stop working the next day.
Start time: 5:45am
End time: 2:00pm (approx)
Top of Silver Canyon Climb: 10:20 PM
Ride/walk time at top of Silver Canyon Climb: 3 hours 7 minutes
Time at turnaound at 17.2 miles from start: 12:15pm
Time at top of Silver Canyon descent: 1:15pm
The 9.5 mile Silver Canyon 6000 foot descent took me about 45 minutes with hypothermia on a hartail 80 mm travel fork in a rain/hail/lightning storm and I am a slow descender.

Must do this ride again. This is a super challenging ride. Would be much better with a support vehicle to avoid carrying the heavy pack up Silver Canyon. Thus for a summit attemt, I would recommend at a minimum 4 gallons per rider and two full meals in addition to the usual bars/gels etc. and a variety of clothes available in the support vehicle for changing weather conditions. To carry enough to do this ride self-supported without water drops and complete it in a day would be extremely difficult in good weather and ultimately, probably not very fun.

(Note to self: First pictures are 3.85 miles from start. Next is on the upper switchbacks.)

The blue route on the map is my ride. The red route is the whole ride to the peak. The shorter profile is my ride, the other profile is the whole ride to the peak. Drag and drop the map onto your desktop and open it again to see the whole thing.

Ranger Station:
White Mountain Ranger Station
798 North Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
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