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Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2012-09-22

Climber: Phil Robinson

Others in Party:My Friend Jim Miller
Date:Saturday, September 22, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:13161 ft / 4011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bright and early Friday morning, September 21, 2012 my friend Jim Miller and I headed north to hike the highest peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak, plus 4 other peaks. We left my house at 5:45 AM, drove to the town of Red River then south on highway 578 to a parking area on the East Fork of the Red River. It took us 4 hours of driving. It was a cool clear fresh crisp morning when we started hiking. We started at 10:00 AM at an elevation of 9630 feet. We left on trail 56 which later turned into trail 91. I hiked Wheeler Peak with my son Garret 6 years ago on the same month. This was before I became an ultralight luxury camper. On that hike I was carrying about 50 pounds. This hike, including all the group gear and two pounds one ounce of prime rib eye steak, I was carrying 35 pounds. (The steak weighed more than my pack.) Our plan was to camp at Lost Lake then hike 5 peaks the next day. On the way up someone told us about a good camping area at Horseshoe Lake so we changed plans and decided to stay there. It was a beautiful forested hike, at times crossing and hiking near a pretty little stream. I have hiked so many peaks this year, 26 before this trip, that I didn’t even feel the hike. It felt effortless. We arrived at Horseshoe Lake and were thrilled by the expansive high country beauty. It took us 6.6 miles and we made the hike in 5 hours & 35 minutes. The lake was my 100th mile of peakbagging since the end of May. We were staying just a little above the timberline in the U area of the lake at the highest elevation I have ever camped, 11975 feet. The warm sun and the splendor of the area was aha inspiring as we set up the tents. Thank goodness for a very light but strong saw that Jim gave me a couple of years back. We were able to find some dead branches to cut for a fire. After the fire was started I let it burn down to coals then put my 2 ounce chicken wire grill over the coals. I brought high quality restaurant grade prime rib eye, then added a slight marinade. I dropped them on the grill right over the coals. They do this at some fine restaurants. It has the great effect of having the meat cooked in various degrees of doneness, from rare to medium well. I ate the steak and thought it was the best I have ever eaten in my life, maybe the setting? Jim said it was the best he has eaten in his life. Gooooood! We restarted the fire and enjoyed the warmth then headed to our tents. It was a clear night and the sky was rich with white stars.

We got up the next morning at 6:30. The temperature only got down to 38 degrees. I was expecting it to be colder. We decided to eat breakfast later on the trail. I used my little liquid fuel stove to heat coffee then we headed out at 7:50 AM. Again, it was a cool crisp clear morning. We hiked up the ridge south of Horseshoe Lake. My main goal for the trip was to hike Lew Wallace Peak and the minor peak, 12,293. I had done the other 3 before. I took a copy of Google maps which show that if you stay to the west of the ridge you can hike them both and not be on the Taos Indian Reservation. It was great to be hiking on a trail. So much of my hiking this year has been where there was no trail. We arrived at the ridge. The views were spectacular! We hiked to the south climbing Simpson Peak which has an elevation of 12,976. We hiked still further to the south being careful to stay west of the ridge. Don’t mess with the Taos Indian Reservation! My son and I were shot at doing peaks that were on the edge of forest service land in 2007. See my trip report for Red Dome. We arrived at Lew Wallace Peak, elevation 12,449, after hiking 3.7 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes. There was a U.S. forest service marker on the peak. Being careful to stay west of the ridge I went to the next minor peak, Peak 12,293. Jim decided not to do this little peak, so to speed up my time I jogged down hill. It was only 4 tenths of a mile and I made it there and then re-hiked Lew Wallace in 37 minutes. This was the first time I felt a little effort on the hike. There also was a US forest service marker on this peak. The peaks to the south are fully on Taos Indian Reservation land and one should not proceed from here! We hiked back to the north to the ridge then east to Old Mike Peak, elevation 13,113. This was my first stop. It took us 5 hours and 10 minutes from the start and it was 6.5 miles. We took a 45 minute lunch break, enjoyed the views, then headed on the ridge to Wheeler Peak, the highest in NM with an elevation of 13, 161. We arrived there after an hour hike, taking lots of pictures, 7.7 miles and about 7 hours from the start. We watched Wheeler Peak throughout the day and saw many people on it’s top. Wheeler Peak is the interstate highway of NM mountains. We hiked north a short 4 tenths of a mile to Mt. Walter, elevation 13,133, then followed the ridge directly to the east of the peak. This is a great way to hike down to Horseshoe Lake. When we finally arrived at camp we had hiked 9.2 miles and arrived 8 hours and 45 minutes after we left. We enjoyed some rest around camp. Before dinner Jim read from the Bible two Psalms that seem like they were written for peakbaggers, first Psalm 148 then 147. I had a dehydrated teriyaki dinner and a great dehydrated chocolate dessert. We went to bed early with wind coming off the mountain. Later the wind died down. It was a beautiful star filled sky and after the waxing first quarter moon went down it was spectacular. It is a whole different world than stars in the city.

We got up at 7:30 AM had coffee and a dehydrated skillet breakfast. while packing up we saw a few snow flurries coming off the mountain. We were told that it snowed the week before and you could see a few places where the snow still lingered on the mountain. We left at 10:00 AM and saw a beautiful doe as we hiked down. It was a picturesque hike yet because of the 20 plus miles I had already hiked I felt a little tired. We arrived back at the car 4 hours and 5 minutes after leaving the lake. We knocked an hour and half off the hike up. The 3 day hike was 22. 3 miles with an elevation gain of 5343 feet.

This set of peaks are the last peaks that I am hiking for 2012. I have hiked more peaks this year, end of May until the end of September, than any other year of my life. I hiked 32 peaks, 26 of them new peaks. It took me 116 miles to hike these peaks with an elevation gain higher than a hike from sea level to above Mt. Everest, 29,652 feet elevation gain for the 4 months. I reached the 100 peak mark this year, counting repeats and went on to do a lifelong total of 111 peaks, 87 of them new. The cold weather and snow in the high country of New Mexico makes for a short season. Some of the very high country of New Mexico is considered Arctic tundra and the snow never melts.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:297 ft / 90 m
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:297 ft / 90 m
    Extra Loss:56 ft / 17 m
    Distance:1.2 mi / 1.9 km
    Route:Old Mike Peak
    Trailhead:12920 ft / 3938 m
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Wheeler & Lew W & 3

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1Simpson Peak2012-09-22 a
2Lew Wallace Peak2012-09-22 b
3Peak 122932012-09-22 c
4Lew Wallace Peak2012-09-22 d
5Old Mike Peak2012-09-22 e
6Wheeler Peak2012-09-22 f
7Mount Walter2012-09-22 g
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Phil Robinson
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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