Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2019-06-29

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Brinson Willis
Date:Saturday, June 29, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:13161 ft / 4011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Brinson Willis and I met for dinner in Taos then drove up to the Taos ski Valley area and it was not dark and hard to figure out where the trailhead was. From the paved parking lot there is an inconspicuous dirt road that slides up and around the parking lot that unlocks all the options for parking. Immediately coming up this very well graded gravel road are good signs for the Bull of the Woods trail. We kept going and you see a sign that says ONLY 4 wheel drive vehicles beyond this point but that must be for winter as we both had cars and although mine was AWD his was not and it was beautifully graded all the way up to the upper parking lot where the William Lake TH is.

We divided up gear prepared for the worst as ranger reports for the past 3 weeks were intense snow still up there, avalanche damage and posholing through 4 foot snow banks. We were not the only ones to come prepared as we saw others with snow shoes, microspikes, etc...but we met a guy you had a drone and had flown it up through the valley earlier in the day and said that the recent 90 degree temps had melted most of it out. We left our ice axes but took snow shoes and microspikes with us any way to be cautious. I will day here now that snow shoes where never necessary at this point but the microspikes were useful in places although the spacing of the slick banks and steep snow crossings were spread out so far apart we choose not to take the time to use them. Truthfully there were places for safety where if one fell crossing a bank without self arrest you would slide a long ways and get hurt. But the snow trails were well developed and I had my LaSportiva 3 season alpine boots on with that rigid steel shank so I was able to go ahead of Brinson and others on the trail and develop some very nice kick steps in the banks where needed and spikes were optional at that point.

We left with many before 6 AM so the snow was firm by end of day it was mushy of course. There was a few places where the trail was buried in snow and others had created shortcuts in some steep snow banks that we decided to climb. One section was steep enough to be called a gentle snow climb as it required me re-cutting steps that others used behind me and later in the day became slopes that people glissaded for fun.

Summitting was wonderful and we hiked much of the ridge for extra credit. On the way down was amsuing. We had this one bank that clearly had glissading tracks in it but everyone looked at the steepness and distance down and moved passed. Brinson and I checked it out and saw it looked safe with a nice grassy recovery at the end and I gave it a go using my poles to self arrest and and the snow was excellent. Seeing that conditions where perfect, I group of young men behind us all dropped in and as I awaited Brinson, I filmed about 10 people sliding down.

The excited group of glissaders came up to us and told us about a party at the lake below. I thought they were kidding but there is a group that goes around yearly and has a party for hikers/climbers in interesting areas of the mountains (usually) in CO but they cook up fancy hotdogs in cheese and roasted peppers make gallons of margaritas and throw a party for outdoor enthusiasts. It is their fun way of meeting others and doing something fun. The food and drink tasted as you would expect coming down from a hard ascent WONDERFUL....I did not to choke down any more vitamin water and granola bars! They are trying to make this into a large annual event and even their cups had printed out all of the locations where they had done this.. It was called Trail Side Margaritas (#trailsidemargaritas) and the cups said that 2014 Mount of the Holy Cross (started out as a joke); 2015 Holy Cross first year of service; 2016 Holy Cross; 2017 Mount Massive; 2018 Humbolt; 2019 Wheeler and next ups is Missouri Mountain; etc... They took our picture together and it was about 32 participants their best yet.

Fun way to end.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3101 ft / 944 m
    Total Elevation Loss:140 ft / 42 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
eventually up to upper 80s
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3031 ft / 923 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2961 ft / 903 m; Extra: 70 ft / 21m
    Loss on way in:70 ft / 21 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Route:Williams Lake Route
    Start Trailhead:Willliams Lake TH  10200 ft / 3108 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:70 ft / 21 m
    Gain on way out:70 ft / 21 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
Ascent Part of Trip: New Mexico

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Wheeler Peak2019-06-29 a3101 ft / 945 m
2Simpson Peak2019-06-29 b56 ft / 17 m
3Old Mike Peak2019-06-29 c233 ft / 71 m
4(Attempt) Mosaic Rock2019-06-29 e274 ft / 84 m
Total Trip Gain: 3664 ft / 1117 m    Total Trip Loss: 984 ft / 301 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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