With a bit of extra time on my hands while returning to Utah after a week in California, I came across the West Ridge of White Mountain and spontaneously decided to give it a go. 9,000ft of ascent over 7 miles, all off trail -- what could possibly go wrong! I discovered that this route exists on a Saturday morning. By lunchtime, I had convinced my friend Libby Sauter that she should join me for an overnight adventure. By dark, we had finished the multi-hour drive to the base of the route - and by 1am we were ready to go.
Looking at Sean O'Rourke's trip report from 2018 we expected an unrelenting but mellow ascent along a non-technical ridge line. He put down a 7 hour FKT (4 up, 3 down) and our "conservative" estimate was that we should be able to complete the 14 mile route in 10-12 hours, without too much trouble... off the couch. Ah the hubris.
I won't get into much detail here. Save it to say that...
- The line is a lot better and more beautiful than it sounds.
- While most of the route is non-technical there is an extended and lovely knife-edge section, as well as an unexpected downclimb (Sean's "headwall") right before the true summit.
- The up requires legs and lungs but is straightforward. The down has multiple sections that are truly atrocious.
White Mountain served us a healthy slice of humble pie, but we both agreed that it was a worthwhile endeavor. Libby and I ended up taking almost precisely twice as long as Sean (14:05 all in, with 8 up and 6 down), and were both reminded that training in fact does make a difference. After all, my much harder Aconcagua FKT (9,000ft of climbing over the course of 6 miles, going from 14,000 to 23,000ft ASL) only took me ~45 minutes longer than this ascent. Gah! Now I'm motivated to come back to White Mountain and put a respectable time down. In the meantime, ladies: go get it. If you're fit and don't mind off-trail travel you should be able to take at least a couple hours off the time we established. Plus I'd say it is one of the best training days to be had out there. Go White Mountain!