From Barcroft Lab, the climb is 6 miles each way, with over 2000' of
climbing. In order to get used to the altitude, we arrived at the campground
at 8,500' on Friday night, and had a relaxing day Saturday hiking and riding
at up to a little over 11,000'. We went on a great hike through a forest of
Bristlecone Pine trees, the oldest living things on earth (some over 4000
Sunday morning, we were up at 5:30am and made it to the lab a little before
8. By chance, the weather on this special day was the best of the whole
season. Maybe the weather gods like unicyclists? After a tour of the lab and
some preparation, we started up the trail. The first few miles are mostly
rideable, but the last section to the summit is steeper and much rockier so
we could only ride short parts. There were many people climbing, mostly
hikers, some bikers, and even one guy with an oxygen tank in his pack (I
could keep up with him while he was pushing his bike, but after he ditched
it near the top, it was impossible to keep up). We were spread out but all
reached the summit and spent quite a while enjoying the amazing view of 2
vertical miles of air down to the Owens Valley. We ate lunch on the aluminum
roof of the summit lab which was nice and warm from the sun. Amazingly, it
was comfortable in shorts up there!
A famous outdoor photographer and climber, Galen Rowell, ran(!) up past us
on the climb, and before we were up, ran past us on the way down. We were
really surprised when he showed up again on the summit, but we spent some
time with him, and he shot a couple of rolls of film of us (mostly Kris). He
was shooting Kris as we started down, and the two of them ended up in a
race: Kris riding down the switchbacks of the road as fast as possible, with
Galen running on a direct route, initially getting way ahead. But Kris
caught and passed him on the flatter sections below. Finally very close to
the cars, Galen cut more switchbacks to win by about 40 feet. Their time was
51 minutes which is really impressive considering the altitude and very
The rest of us went slower, but had a lot of fun. At one point, Beau yelled
to me, "This is better than Mr. Toads!" By the end, he was pretty tired and
I had to carry his unicycle up the last little hill. We hung around with
some of the researchers at the lab for a little while then drove down to
camp - about an hour in the heavily loaded van with 7 people - quite a bit
less for Bruce in his 4WD. We had another nice dinner and watched the full
moon rise, then went to bed feeling great. Beau and Bronson both were really
feeling the altitude right after the climb, but dropping down 4000' cured
The next morning we visited Galen Rowell's new gallery in Bishop, an
incredible space. We spent over an hour hearing his stories about photos,
getting autographed books, etc. If you ever go to Bishop (or Emeryville near
San Francisco) check out his gallery. After that, we stopped at one of the
many hotsprings in the Owens Valley, isolated on an unmarked dirt road, with
a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains, and the
incoming storm. Driving through Yosemite, we were treated to a lightening
and thunder show, complete with blasting hail. But it let up for us to play
around bouldering, and spend the late afternoon down in Yosemite Valley. We
hiked up to the base of El Capitan and hung out until after 7pm so as to
miss the bad Labor Day weekend traffic.
We got up early Tueday morning because Kris had time before flying home to
go ride a new trail in the Santa Cruz mountains, "Better Than Northshore".
He amazed us by riding every section - including some optional bits I'm sure
have never been ridden before! Now we know it's all possible I guess. I'm
working on getting some video clips of this and other recent activities onto
Some links you might be interested in:
35 of my photos of the White Mountain Peak trip:
The "Better Than NorthShore" album has 4 new pictures added too.
White Mtn Pk info, w/summit log:
Galen Rowell's website: http://www.mountainlight.com/
Barcroft Laboratory: http://www.wmrs.edu/
Topo map showing our climb:
Beau Hoover, age 9, his first peak over 12,000'
Bronson Silva, his first time over 10,000'
Bruce Bundy, blasted up and down the peak
Geoff Faraghan, ditto
Kris Holm, his 3rd unicycle ascent over 14,000'
Nathan Hoover, ditto
Marie-Helene from Grenoble, very strong and fast
Megumi, her first peak over 13,000'
Shannon McLaughlin from Vancouver, her first time over 8,000'
STAY ON TOP!
> We went on a great hike through a forest of
> Bristlecone Pine trees, the oldest living things on earth
> (some over 4000 years old).
I recently read an article about 'famous California trees' which included
one of the Bristlecones called Methuselah. Though they showed a picture of
the tree, they said its exact location is not given out for protection of
the tree. It would have been fun to try to spot it from memory. Methuselah
is very gnarled and doesn't look very tall.
> He was shooting Kris as we started down, and the two
> of them ended up in a race: Kris riding down the
> switchbacks of the road as fast as possible, with
> Galen running on a direct route,
Guess that's why there aren't many pictures of the ride down... :-)
> initially getting way ahead. But Kris
> caught and passed him on the flatter sections below.
> Finally very close to the cars, Galen cut more
> switchbacks to win by about 40 feet. Their time was
> 51 minutes which is really impressive considering the
> altitude and very rocky terrain.
Wow. Extreme athletes trying to out-extreme each other!
> a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada and the White
> Mountains, and the incoming storm. Driving through
> Yosemite, we were treated to a lightening
> and thunder show, complete with blasting hail. But
> it let up for us to play around bouldering, and
> spend the late afternoon down in Yosemite Valley.
Glad the weather cooperated. I was worried when I saw the forecasts.
Thanks for the great story and posting the photos so quick! Now I will
always wish I'd gone....
Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
"The difference between a winner and a loser is character."