Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2017-07-05

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Artski
Date:Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:13161 ft / 4011 m

Ascent Trip Report

Artski and I had originally talked about doing the ridge to lake loop and had talked about starting at 5am. These things weren't in the cards as we only made it to Springer just after sunset last night and needed our rest before driving over to Taos in the morning. We did make it to Taos, get down to one car, and max out the revs in first to get old Gary up the steep pitches of the gravel road past the base area to the trail head. I couldn't believe how developed the area was after the steepest section. We got to hiking at 8:45am, intending to go for Williams Lake access up and back. We first went through a dip into the creek bed, and followed a road past the Bavarian and a chairlift base up a pitch along side the same creek. We passed two couples who were carrying babies with them. The trail wiggled through the trees and gradually shrank from a road to a trail, then hit the wilderness boundary. There was no sign out box. In not too long we made it to the intersection where you first see the lake. We switchbacked left to get on the summit trail which got us above tree line in 20 minutes. We were passed by one of the dads from the earlier group, running up solo. Someone told us it was maybe an hour to the top. That would mean only two hours up? We must have been going fast, we thought. Next we made it to a pocket behind a morraine that had a snow bank and above it were five wrestling marmots. They fortunately didn't wrestle us, so we continued on to see a heard of big horn sheep above on a 40 some degree slope. Then what we think may have been mountain goats in their summer clothes ran by us, four of them adolescents or kids. Things were just peachy and the sky was blue, but we saw there were a lot of switchbacks to go still. Then a big grey cloud came over the ridge from the east and destroyed the mood. I was thinking of the storm I was in almost exactly a year ago on Cloud Peak and got nervous. Artski was stopping frequently because the elevation was making his heart race. I begged him to keep going, slower was fine, but no stopping. He reluctantly went for it. I even gave him a push at times. Many other people were going up and coming down which made us feel a little better. A man coming down said the clouds didn't look any worse over the ridge. We then reached the ridge and gave a sigh of relief. He was right that the clouds overhead were not active, just grey for now. It was only a quarter mile or less to the top on relatively flat trail. We made it easily, with Artski's heart calmed down by that point. At the top we took pictures and looked around. It was a pretty good looking location, with some snow remaining, a ski area nearby, a 14er to the north (sorry New Mexico), and plains in the distance with ranges beyond.The register was also a type I hadn't seen. It was a water pipe with a chained on cap that looked like it would have been rusted closed, but it was not. There was unfortunately no real current register, just a bunch of filled notebooks. We went back the way we came, definitely going speedier than on the ascent. Also, it took us an hour forty from tree line to ascend, so that man's estimate was bad, but our pace did take a dive more than the terrain normally would. We had only one day of acclimation in the 4K's yesterday before going to 13K. On the way down past the lake spur we found lots of people struggling just to make it to the lake. They were sitting down looking worn out and like they had given up, and not just one group. We encouraged them, then continued back to the car to get on our way. In retrospect I do not regret making the big look. I'm moving to Phoenix and I enjoyed the tree lined lower part of the hike. I'll have plenty of open air, panoramic view hikes in the desert soon to come.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3348 ft / 1020 m
    Extra Gain:210 ft / 64 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.2 mi / 13.1 km
    Route:Williams Lake Trail
    Trailhead:Williams Lake TH  10233 ft / 3119 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 

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