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Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 1999-07-16

Climber: Charles Sidlinger

Date:Friday, July 16, 1999
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:13161 ft / 4011 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is one of my first experiences where things went completely wrong on a climb. My brother Greg (16 at the time) and I (just about to turn 12) Went on a one day hike up Wheeler Peak. Being as my Grandparents have had a house in Taos since the early 60's, everyone in our family had gone up the majestic Wheeler Peak at some point and now it was time for Greg and I to continue the tradition. All was well on the beautiful hike up, no sign of thunderstorms approaching, however as soon as we summited we were quite shocked to see a massive storm front moving in very rapidly as soon as we got over the ridge and could see the other side.

Quickly changing socks we rushed down the longer but far more forested trail down. While in the treeline the Thunderstorm bore down on top of us. Thick heavy rain, blinding lightning, and Thunder that sounded as if Dynamite was being set off far too close for comfort. As the treeline ended we were forced to hunker down, witnessing lightning bolts strike the open field that lay ahead, making the hairs on our heads stand tall. After the lightning died down we ran across the field still hearing Thunder as close as I've ever hear in my whole life. and gained a treeline on the other side of a ridge where luckily we could see the ski-valley.

We took a bearing and began descending through thick mud and trees, crossing old mining equipment and various other signs of persistent human presence for what was probably 3 hours but felt like an eternity. Eventually, muddy and tired, we stumbled onto a road full of houses. Being as it was not ski season none of them were inhabited except the very last one we checked at the end of the road. The Homeowner very kindly gave us a ride to the ski valley in the back of her SUV (being as we were so inundated with mud) and dropped us back where we started, 4 hours after our anticipated return time.

Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford
    Weather:Thunder/Lightning



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