Ascent to Wheeler Peak-Northwest Slope on 1992-08-29

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, August 29, 1992
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Wheeler Peak - Northwest Slope
    Elevation:11200 ft / 3413 m
    Remaining Elevation:1863 ft / 568 m (64% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

I stopped in Ely only at the Motel 6 outside this largish town to make a reservation for tonight, thinking that I'd return after my hike up Wheeler. I then drove the hour from Ely to Baker, NV, where I had lunch in the miniscule town's only restaurant, also a bar. From there I drove into nearby Great Basin National Park, and then up the very steep, winding Wheeler Peak Road to the trailhead, nice and high at 10,161 feet. I started up the trail towards the peak at noon, a late start, but it seemed like an easy hike.

It was, winding pleasantly through nice open forest and meadow that provided nice views of the spectacular sheer face of Wheeler Peak's menacing summit, but it started raining, and I heard lots of thunder booming from the direction of the peak. At one point it even snowed briefly (yes, snow in Nevada in August). I asked people coming down (this was a popular, crowded hike in a National Park) about conditions, and I was told that up above the trees it was pretty bad--some people had their hair stand on end from electrical activity. I plugged on anyway, soon arriving at a main col on the crest of the Snake Range, just north of Wheeler Peak. Shortly above that the trees, sparse at the col, thinned out completely. With light rain, ominously dark clouds above, and thunder and lightning all strongly in evidence, I could only turn back. Lightning, I knew, is the number one killer in the mountains.

For the rest of the afternoon I wandered around on the trail network below Wheeler Peak, hiking past lakes and a ways up into the great cirque below the summit's incredible cliff, which even held a remnant glacier I didn't quite make it to. I thought that if it cleared that I might go for the summit, but I knew that was unlikely, even though the sun came out for brief periods before ugly clouds returned. After all, storm-free afternoons in western mountains were, I knew from long experience, very rare.

Disappointed, I returned to my car and drove back down the very steep road back to the visitor center. Here I browsed a bit, bought a trail guidebook, and then drove down the road back into Baker, NV, where I thought I might get a motel room, which would allow me to attempt Wheeler Peak early tomorrow morning, when things were usually clearer.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1039 ft / 316 m
    Trailhead:10161 ft / 3097 m
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds

This page has been served 1781 times since 2005-01-15.

Copyright © 1987-2019 by All Rights Reserved. Questions/Comments/Corrections? See the Contact Page Terms of Service