White Mountains (California)
A north-south fault block range about 60 mi. (100 km) long, an elevated plateau about 20 mi. (30km) wide at the south end where Westgard Pass separates it from the lower Inyo Mountains. The range narrows to a 'prow' above 13,000' (4,000m) at Montgomery and Boundary Peaks, then drops and ends at Montgomery Pass.
This is the highest mountain range totally within the Great Basin of the western United States. The Sierra Nevada range along this basin's western border has two slightly higher summits, making White Mountain Peak California's third highest.
The White Mountains are separated from the Sierra Nevada by Owens Valley. On the east side the the California-Nevada state line nearly parallels the range and crosses the crest near its north end so that Boundary Peak is Nevada's highest summit while all other high summits are in California.
Flora and fauna
Flora Semi-desert with sagebrush up to a lower timberline at 6,500' (2,000m), then Single-leaf Pinyon Pines and Utah Juniper to about 9,000' (2,700m), Mountain Mahogany brush for the next 650' (200m), then Limber Pine and Bristlecone Pine to an alpine timberline at 11,500' (3,500m). Sagebrush and grass to 12,500' (3,800m), scattered alpine plants to 14,000' (4,300m). Birch and Aspen, including some dwarf Aspen along subalpine streams. Small residual stands of Ponderosa Pine, Jeffrey Pine, Lodgepole Pine and Sierra Juniper.
Fauna Mule Deer wherever there is herbaceous browse, Bighorn Sheep on steeper slopes, feral horses, Marmots, Pika. No native fish in mountain streams, but introduced Brook, Brown and Rainbow Trout have established reproducing populations. Rare Paiute Cutthroat Trout were introduced to Cottonwood and Cabin Creeks, and have established limited populations, which are protected from angling.
Cold winters with storms from Pacific Ocean, rainshadow effect of Sierra Nevada lessens with elevation so snow cover increases. Subject to late spring storms called Tonopah Lows bringing snow through June. Dry and warm in July, with occasional thunderstorms in August and September caused by warm, moist airmasses from the Gulf of California. Clear, mild weather alternates with occasional high elevatioin cold and snow through October, increasingly wintry in November.
Venomous rattlesnakes rare but possible up to about 10,000' (3,000m). Feral horses and domestic cattle should not be approached or harassed. Bears and mountain lions rare but possible to upper limits of subalpine zone.
Gentle slopes give way to narrow ridges suggesting ropes and protection immediately north of White Mountain Peak and in vicinity of Montgomery Peak at north end of the range. Hikers in the alpine zone should always be prepared for cold and snow.
Most canyons have permanent streams, but water can be scarce along the crest by late July, except in the saddle midway between White Mountain Peak and Pelissier Flats that is drained by Cabin and Birch Creeks. There may also be semi-permanent snowfields above 12,500' (3,700m), but this should be confirmed visually from Fish Lake Valley east of the range before relying on them for water.