White Mountain Peak
By: Wynne Benti
Ed Zdon Sr. (Andy Z's Dad) & I left Bishop around 6am, Saturday morning and arrived at the locked gate, two miles south of Barcroft Lab at approximately 8am. Andy (who already climbed this peak) was unable to join us for this hike since he had to spend the weekend working on his master's thesis in geology. In 1987, I led White Mountain Peak as a three-day February ski traverse, starting at the closed gate at the Vista Overlook, just seven miles in from the Westgard Pass HWY - a gate closure that the assistant and I hadn't counted on being closed. From the closed gate, we skied, with full packs, approximately 12 miles and set up camp. A beautiful, yet strenuous trip, the moon hovered each day above the snow swept ridges. On the second day, the strongest skiers of the group, skied on to Barcroft Lab, while somewhere in between, ski mountaineer Eddie Nunez and I, knocked flat by altitude sickness, kept each other company, puking our guts out while telling jokes and recounting other misadventures. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, the altitude did not have its usual negative effect. I began taking Diamox, three days prior to the trip- day one & two: 125mg. twice a day; day three: 250mg. twice a day; morning of climb: 4mg. Decadron, one double-strength Mylanta, no Diamox. Decadron is an oral cortisone that actually opens the lungs, increasing air intake. WOW! I felt great. One can be in the greatest physical conditioning, but if stricken with altitude sickness in any form, particularly headache or nausea, climbing becomes an intensely miserable experience (not including what it does to one's reputation with other climbers)!
Perhaps a mile and a half past the lab, we ran into Larry Tidball, Scott Jamison and Ellen Miller, which was a wonderful surprise. I hadn't seen Larry on a trip since the infamous, gut-wrenching Cerro Gordo to Mt. Inyo ridge-run; and, the last time I saw Scott was on the fabulous 1987 White Mountain ski traverse. It was our first time meeting Ellen. From that point, we continued the walk to White Mountain together.
Ed "The Animal" Zdon (66 years old, double-bypass two years ago) Larry and Scott took the lead, while Ellen and I strolled behind. Near the summit, I stopped to take some pictures of snow formations which Larry referred to as "Nieve Penitente." En route, I mentioned I had done some reading in various publications about one "Barbee Hoffmann" who seemed to be quite an impressive hiker - and then found out that she and Larry are getting married - well, congratulations!
We had lunch atop this beautiful peak. A mystery mountain biker who walked his bike most of the way up, was the only other person on the summit. The hike down was pleasant - not a cloud in the sky and perfect temperatures. We stopped briefly at Barcroft so Ellen could get a shot of oxygen to help ease a particularly tenacious headache. We finally reached the cars (Ed was waiting for us, already relaxing on his little ensolite pad). Larry, Scott and Ellen went on to Dale Van Dalsem's SPS list finishing party at Whitney Portal.
On the drive home, Sunday, I stopped by the historic Mary Austin home, owned by Tina Stough. Tina, Mary Sue Miller and Jim Murphy were all there, survivors of Dale's fabulous party the previous night. Mary Sue and I wondered if Tina will be the first woman to complete all three lists? Thanks to my father-in-law for escorting me up White Mm. (his second time up White in three weeks) and to Larry, Scott and Ellen for just being along the trail!
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