Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2011-09-19

Climber: Andy Blake

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, September 19, 2011
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

Starting at the Williams Lake Trailhead is the way to go if an 8 mile R/T is all you have time for; as opposed to the 16 mile R/T via Bull of the Woods. At the end of the Taos Ski Valley parking Lot on the far left, take Twining Road on up for quite a ways and follow the signs to the Bavarian Lodge. The usual parking lot for Williams Lake trailhead is closed so signs directed up further toward the Bavarian Lodge. You can park in a big lot with the lodge at the other end. To the left of the lodge in the distance is a ski area/chair lifts. Walk under this at the bottom and you'll see the Phoenix Grill to the left. Keep walking and up the road a tad you will see a small "Williams Lake" sign or two high up on a tree.

The trail starts out here on a very wide rocky road and then enters a young spruce field. The aroma is quite pleasant with young evergreens everywhere. On the morning of September 19th, it was very cool, in the upper 30s, perfect for an early morning hike. After a short bit, you will enter an old growth fir forest. Trail has a slight incline here but is moderate.

After a litte over an hour, the trail opens up on the right a little and you will see a vertical debarked wood log/post on the right side of trail sticking up out of the ground. With thin hand carved letters, it indicates that Williams Lake is straight ahead and that Wheeler Peak is to your left. There is a strong uphill switchback to your left that leads to Wheeler but take the time to venture straight ahead first for another 5-10 minutes to see Williams Lake down below. When viewing Williams Lake, Wheeler Peak is way above you to the left.

Then, turn around and go back to the sign post and take the steep uphill trail through the old growth forest leading to Wheeler Peak. You'll spent about 30-45 minutes walking rather steeply through the forest before you come out and then realize you are fast approaching above the timberline. There are massive views of the side of the mountain here and it is a long series of switchbacks to the ridge. You'll cross over a few small boulder fields but one can still easily see/find the trail. Be listening/looking for the marmots who love these rocky areas. After about two hours, you will come to the ridge and will be faced with turning left or right. There are no signs here so you need to know where Wheeler Peak summit is! Turn right and keep straight and you will soon come atop Wheeler Peak. Don't make the mistake of taking a left spur trail shortly after turning right on the ridge as this will lead you into onto Indian Land (you'll see the NO TRESSPASSING signs).

I was lucky when I summited as it was a fantastic clear day and it was getting near the noon hour. The wind was pretty calm making it for an enjoyable stay at the top. Fantastic views with mountains visible 360 degrees. Be sure to look over the ledge on the back side and see Williams Lake down below. It puts into perspective how far you climbed. Going back down is a lot easier and you'll really cruise. Met a lot of nice folks coming down but there were very few ascending that morning. It was a very peaceful and enjoyable trip. For some strange reason, though, I saw no wildlife on this day.
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Clear, sunny and pretty calm
Ascent Statistics
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Start Trailhead:Williams Lake Trailhead   
    Time:3 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    End Trailhead:Williams Point Trailhead  
    Time:2 Hours 10 Minutes

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