Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2019-08-12

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Date:Monday, August 12, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Elevation:13063 ft / 3981 m

Ascent Trip Report

Driving back to California from Moab, I elected to take the Route 50, instead of the typical I-15 through Las Vegas. Route 50 through Nevada has earned the moniker of "The Loneliest Highway in America". I reached the border of Nevada right around 6:30pm when I was starting to get tired. I looked at what was nearby for me to spend the night and to my surprise, the Great Basin National Park was only 15 minutes away. I camped in my car at the Wheeler Peak Campground - surprisingly full for a Sunday night. It's a beautiful campground with a stunning view of the craggy Wheeler Peak massif. I couldn't come out here and not hike up to the top of that thing!

I woke up about 6am as the sun was coming up - it was very cold. When it's cold like that it takes me a while to get moving. I only got started at 7:30am and started trekking up towards the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail. It was a beautiful clear day. I was in awe of the beauty of this area. I had seen several deer the night before and now I was walking by some wild grouse with beautiful plumage. The hike to the summit is a little strenuous but very simple - it follows a ridge to the top and has amazing views the whole way. The wind picks up along the ridge - it must be normal, because there are several wind shelters along the way to the top. I threw on my windbreaker and it was enough. I passed a couple with about a mile to go to the summit. I arrived up there and I had the whole summit to myself at 9:30am. I spent about 30 minutes on top. Spectacular views.

On the way down I was eyeing the Wheeler Peak Glacier down below - it's the only glacier in Nevada. I decided I wanted a closer look, so I descended down the scree field to the intermediate ridge. I scoped out a descent route to get down to the glacier, but as I traversed to it, there was a massive cliff drop. So I diverted my route to scramble down the loose, steep eastern-facing face. This was class 4 and very slow going. I finally reached the bottom of the valley at about 11:30am. I walked up to the top of the rock glacier where the actual glacier meets up with it. Pretty incredible. I took a moment to rest and meditate and think about Mark Twain's glacier quote from his time in Switzerland: “A man who keeps company with glaciers comes to feel tolerably insignificant by and by.”

I was back at my campsite by 12:30pm. Longer outing than I had planned due to the alternative descent, but wow, what a wonderful area. I would have never known. Loved everything about it.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3600 ft / 1096 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3600 ft / 1096 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10 mi / 16.1 km
    Grade/Class:Class 1 ascent, Clas
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3300 ft / 1005 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3000 ft / 914 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Loss on way in:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8 km
    Route:Wheeler Peak Summit Trail
    Start Trailhead:Wheeler Peak Campground  10063 ft / 3067 m
    Time:2 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3300 ft / 1005 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3000 ft / 914 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Gain on way out:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8 km
    Route:Glacier Trail
    End Trailhead:Wheeler Peak Campground  10063 ft / 3067 m
    Time:3 Hours 

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