Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2018-09-27
|Date:||Thursday, September 27, 2018|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Location:||USA-New Mexico|
| Elevation:||13161 ft / 4011 m|
Ascent Trip ReportI had originally intended to climb Wheeler on Tuesday, but scheduling got wonky with a horseback ride and I pushed it to Wednesday. However, a rare stormy evening caused me to push the climb to Thursday, which was a good call. I set the alarm for 4am and was in Taos Ski Valley by 4:45. I wasn't sure whether I was going to go up Williams Lake and down Bull of the Woods or the other way around. I chose to go up Williams, which was a mistake. As I drove up the gravel road to the trailhead, I realized I would have to hike back up this later in the day. Since it was dark, I didn't realize I was adding about 800 vertical feet right at the end of my day. I would curse my foolishness later.
I was the only car in the Williams Lake Trailhead lot. I turned on my headlamp and started hiking (5am). There was a full moon, so I was able to conserve batteries by turning off the lamp when I was out of the woods. There is a lot of construction around the Bavarian Inn, so keep looking for the signs. Once in the forest, the trail is easy. The lake was lovely in the moonlight and as I started up the flank of Wheeler, there was just enough dawn light to keep the headlamp off. The first section of the trail out of the lake area is a bit steep and a grind. Once above that, steady switchbacks to the summit.
Remarkably, I had Wheeler to myself. It was quite cold in the wind, so I didn't stay long. As it was only 8:40am, I considered hiking to Simpson, then across to Kachina then down the ski slopes to the car. Instead I chose to head toward Bull of the Woods mountain. In the back of my head I thought I might be able to cut off straight to the trailhead lower down on the mountain.
As I crossed to Walter Mountain, I passed another hiker, the first of the day. Between Walter and Frazer, I passed two more. Just a perfect day in the wilderness.
About this time, I was becoming quite aware that I had spent several hours hiking directly away from my car. I even made an arraignment with one of the hikers I met. Since he was coming up Bull of the Woods and going down Williams, if he passed me he would drive me up to the trailhead. It was not to be.
I intended to climb Bull of the Woods mountain, but as I got close, there was a sign posting it as private, property of Northside...permit required. It also appeared to be a mining area. Since it was now 11am on a Thursday, I thought they might be working so I decided to forgo that summit. Later research shows that I should have gone for it.
Dropping from Bull of the Woods is pretty steep, so hard on the knees. I broke out the hiking poles to ease the pain a bit. I finally got to the trailhead around 1pm. My trusty GPS said I had nearly 2 miles and 870 vertical feet back to my car. All on a gravel road that was constantly being driven by contractor vehicles, kicking up a ton of dust. Not fun.
If you are going to do the loop, start low at the Bull of the Woods trailhead. That hike from Bull to Wheeler is terrific.
|Summary Total Data|
| Total Elevation Gain:||4161 ft / 1267 m|
| Total Elevation Loss:||4161 ft / 1268 m|
| Round-Trip Distance:||13.4 mi / 21.6 km|
| Route Conditions:||Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country|
| Gain on way in:||2961 ft / 902 m|
| Distance:||4.2 mi / 6.8 km|
| Route:||Williams Lake|
| Start Trailhead:||Williams Lake Trailhead 10200 ft / 3108 m|
| Time:||3 Hours 40 Minutes|
| Loss on way out:||4161 ft / 1268 m|
| Loss Breakdown:||Net: 2961 ft / 903 m; Extra: 1200 ft / 365m|
| Gain on way out:||1200 ft / 365 m|
| Distance:||9.2 mi / 14.8 km|
| Route:||Bull of Woods Trail|
| End Trailhead:||Williams Lake Trailhead 10200 ft / 3108 m|
| Time:||5 Hours |
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