SKI ATTEMPT ON WHITE MOUNTAIN PEAK
April 9, 1982
We approached the peak from Leidy Canyon on the east side.
We had tried twice to ski White Mountain Peak (14, 246'). Both times we got as far as Schulmann Grove, on the south side but still some twenty miles from the top.
Our strategy was different this year. We would backpack to the eastern base almost directly below the summit, and climb the 7,000 feet vertical gain to the top.
I met a SMS group of two at the dirt road going this way. They had camped up the road and a sandy section at the road's start gave me a problem. The little 4WD pulled me out, and I continued. I parked my car, then we piled into the 4WD and got a little further.
Carrying backpacks and skis, we were indeed the sight here in the middle of the desert. The weather was becoming overcast and doubtful. There was some sun, and we entered the canyon to continue to follow the poor dirt road. This was a generic Great Basin canyon, with little opportunity for photos. I tried not to strain myself, and the weight on my hips and shoulders had to be distributed by the primitive, early, softpack suspension system.
We saw that the snow was lean, high above us. Figuring we would have to carry skis up thousands of feet to the snowline, then deal with a lot of exposed rocks and shrubs, we plodded on nonetheless. It was a scheduled SMS trip, so we were committed.
After about a thousand feet of gain, we elected to stop, beginning to realize the foolishness of this. Making camp, it was highly depressing. We probably wouldn't get the peak, and most likely, not one ounce of skiing! We made a campfire out of scattered and downed sage branches and pinyon pine wood, and tried to make the best of it.
The night was cold and unpleasant. We talked quite a bit about things. One of the skiers was getting out of shape and more overweight, as I was trending as well. It would happen that we would never ever ski the peak.
The obvious decision was to pack out tomorrow. That was exactly what we did. Back to the car in a few hours, we drove out together. I made a run with my car over the sandy section, and I was onto pavement. We split up, and I had a greyish overcast drive home up U.S. 95 in Nevada.
Some trips are better off canceled. It was my desire to ski this peak that led me to drive the 350 miles each way. There was no way that we could know of the snow conditions. An old Sierra Club Bulletin described a 1930's ski ascent on the peak from the west. They reported scraping a lot of rocks. I have seen the White Mountains with enough snow, even at the lower elevations. But, this varied from year to year, and we must schedule the trip before we know what the snowfall will be.
We count this off to experience, and got a small amount of exercise. I was glad not to strain myself more by trying to go further. Now, we know better!
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