Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2015-08-30

Climber: Dave Dunham

Others in Party:Ed Horse
Date:Sunday, August 30, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:13161 ft / 4011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Eric and I headed out to M for a long weekend to do some Peakbagging. We've both been slowly chipping away at the 50 state high point list. The goal on this trip would be to run to the highest point in NM, the summit of Wheeler Peak at 13,161'. There were a few options to reach the top and we chose the longer Williams Lake to Bull of the Woods (BOTW) loop. By doing this counterclockwise we'd be doing much of the climb in the first 6 miles and then drop over 8 more miles (with a couple of bumps). Along the ay we'd hoped to visit Mt Walter, Frazer Mountain, and BOTW mountain. This would be Eric's 35th high point and my 44th.

Friday morning at 3am we hit the road for a 3 mile run at Eric's then drove to Burlington VT. We arrived in ABQ at noon and by 1:00 we were on a bike path along the Rio Grande putting in a bit of altitude training. It was 90 degrees and the travel, the sun and the 5,000' of altitude were all felt. After another 2 hours of driving we arrived in Taos and went out for another 5 mile run this time at 7,000'. It seemed like a good way to ease into the upcoming trek.

We were off at 5am on Saturday and arrived in Taos Ski Village at a bit before 5. It was 41 degrees at the BOTW trailhead parking lot and just barely light enough to run without headlamps. We set off at an easy pace at 6:10 am. The first 2 miles were on dirt roads climbing from 9,439 to 10,208' (+769'). We arrived at the Williams lake trail parking lot in 25:13. Then it was game on as we headed onto the single track.

The footing was pretty good and we were clicking off steady 1/2 miles (my Garmin was set to take splits every 1/2). We spotted a few deer on this part and passed a couple of hikers who had started at the WLTH. We reached trail 67 in 31:38, which wasn't too bad for the 1.6 miles that climbed 935'. We knew the big climbing was soon to start.

Trail 67 was really nice. The climbing was tough in spots on the higher parts and when you crossed the scree. We ran most of it and power-walked the few rougher patches. We passed a couple about 2/3rds of the way up and both commented on how great a day it was. The sun was rising and the views were great. We reached the coll between Walter and Wheeler in 51:08. That section of trail was 2.1 miles and climbed 1,908'!

The view was stunning and conditions were ideal, maybe 50 degrees in the sun and totally calm. We zipped to the top of Wheeler in another 6:06 for the .3 with 110' of climb. Our total time from BOTW trailhead to the summit was 1:54:06 over 6.05 miles with 3,722' of climb. We took our only real break of the day spending 10:09 on top taking pictures. I had a gel and a sip of Mountain Dew and Eric slugged the rest of the dew and we were off again.

It took us 6:10 to drop back to the coll but that included a couple of minutes chatting with the couple (from Bavaria) who were heading up and planned on descending back down Williams. A short 2:36 later and we were on the sub-peak of Mt Walter. It was only a 10th of a mile and climbed 80'.

Then we got going on some of the nicest running of the day. The drop down to La Cal Basin was on some great single-track trail with good footing and great views. We kept a close look at the map as there were a few side trails and very few markings, enough to stay on track without trouble. That dropped got us down 1,400' over 2.1 miles. The climb out of La Cal Basin to Frazer looked a lot tougher than it was although it was a shock to the system at first to be heading back up after all the running down. We hit Frazer in 54:43 (from Walter), covering the 3 miles which included a 420' climb. There was no path to the top but it was an open grassy top that was relatively easy to run on.

We met a couple of guys from Texas on our way to BOTW and chatted for a minute. It took us 24:33 to get to the mining site on top. From Frazer that was 1.2 miles with 550' of drop and a quarter mile of climbing that gained 145'.

After that we had a nice stretch of dirt road that plummeted back down toward the ski village. The dirt road didn't last nearly long enough and we hit some rockiest patches of trail we'd seen (the fact that we were also approaching 4 hours on our feet may have also been a factor). My arthritic ankle was protesting (loudly) but otherwise all systems were "go". We started to see more hikers as it was about 10 am and then suddenly we could see the parking lot. We covered the final 3.3 miles from BOTW down in 43:25 with a drop of 2,200'. That brought the total to 14.1 miles in 4:15:14 with 4,200' of climb and descent. Our minimum elevation was 9452 and max was 13,161. Average pace was 18:07 per mile. Our actual moving time was 3:49:18 which worked out to 16:10 per mile when moving. It is easy to see how the down time accumulates every time you stop to chat or take a picture.

We slammed down a couple of Mountain Dews as I drove us the three hours back to ABQ. We picked up some food for dinner (neither of us ate before or during the run except form my one gel) and I returned the rental car before getting in another 3 mile run to loosen up a bit. Then came the highlight of the day, a double-baconator and an order of baconator fries. I can't think of a better way to refuel after nearly 5 hours of running.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4257 ft / 1297 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4224 ft / 1287 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.1 mi / 22.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4257 ft / 1297 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:Williams lake
    Start Trailhead:BOTW TH  8904 ft / 2713 m
    Time:1 Hours 54 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4224 ft / 1287 m
    Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    End Trailhead:BOTW  8937 ft / 2723 m
    Time:2 Hours 21 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Dave Dunham
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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.

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