"The White Mountains are, without doubt, the most obscure and unknown of all
the 14,000 foot ranges in the United States." (from the web)
Actually there are only 4 ranges of mountains in the US (outside of Alaska)
that go above 14K: Rockies, Sierras, Cascades, and the White Mtns. And the
fact that it is unkown was made clear to me when I told people I was going
to ride in the White Mountains, and they thought I was going to New
From Berkeley it was a 9 hour drive over the Sierras, south past Mammoth and
Bishop, and then east on a paved road that climbed up to 7,500' where we set
up base camp for 5 days of riding in the Whites.
Michael More, and his wife Abby Minot, have been riding the Whites for 5
years, but for Owen Mulholland and I it was our first visit. Michael picked
routes for us to ride, all of which he has scouted out over the years he has
been there on riding vacations. There are no guide books to bike riding in
this area, and in fact in the 6 days we spent in the area we didn't come
across any other cyclists, on pavement or dirt, or even saw any mountain
bikes on cars. Yes this was different than riding in the Bay Area.
Even with the high elevations, the Whites are very dry (according to a web
site: "On a summer's day the amount of moisture in the air is about 1/2 a
millimeter, the lowest recorded anywhere in the world"), and the terrain was
similar to a desert. Some singletrack, but mostly riding on sandy roads,
descending down spectacular canyons, bushwacking along creeks, and tough
exposed climbs with great views in all directions.
Some mountain biking highlights included:
1. A 6,000'(!) canyon descent, with a car shuttle at the bottom.
2. Riding through the bristlecone pines, the oldest living things on the
earth (up to 5,000 years old).
3. Exploring abandoned miner's cabins, going in mines, and discovering
4. Following Cottonwood Creek, a lush riparian environment, with a trail so
difficult it took us 3 hours to go 6 miles (downhill!),
5. Climbing up a dirt road to just under 12,000', with views in every
direction, and a tundra environment that look as barren as the moon.
6. Beautiful swimming holes where the air temps were in the mid 90's and the
water cold enough to make you scream (and that is just with your feet
While it is legal to take your bike to the top of White Mtn Peak, 14,250',
(which is only 250' lower than Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower
48 states) we never did go to the summit. The smooth dirt road goes up to
12,500' the highest in California, and then, from what I have been told, the
last 1,700' is very rugged. Maybe next time. Or not.
Note: At this time bikes are legal everywhere in the Whites, but if the
proposed Boxer Wilderness Bill passes, in its present format, this entire
area will be off limits to mountain bikers in the future.
5 days of riding
1 crash (after clearing technical stuff that I wouldn't think about riding,
Abby did a high speed endo on a smooth dirt road, coming up with some road
rash, a couple of facial cuts, and otherwise ok)
mechanicals: 1 flat