Ascent of Wheeler Peak on 2012-08-15

Climber: Richard Oestreicher

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Wheeler Peak
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:13161 ft / 4011 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is my sixth ascent up Wheeler Peak from the Williams Lake trailhead--five successful and one turnaround near the top because of lightning--and my fastest--2:38. I took 3 hours even in June. A little bit of that improvement was because of trail maintenance--there were some downed trees across the trail in mid-June that have now been removed. But mostly, I expect it was improved stamina from a very active summer of hiking--75,000 feet of elevation gain since the beginning of May. I actually took it a little slower from the parking area to the trail junction for the Wheeler peak trail than I had in June.The difference is that I didn't have to stop for frequent breaks at the higher elevations as I usually do. I took one ten minute snack break and that was it. Slow and steady wins in peakbagging.

This is always a popular hike but it was more crowded today than I've ever seen it before. I counted nearly fifty people that I passed going up (some coming down, some slower than I am). And when I arrived at the top I found two dozen more encamped over lunch and maps. Don't go to Wheeler Peak for wilderness solitude.

I struck up conversations with many folks as I ate lunch. Most were tourists and when they found out I was from the area and had climbed most of the mountains around Taos, they quizzed me about routes and trails. Many folks seemed impressed that a geezer could make it up the mountain so fast. I'm a short, skinny, balding, pig-tailed white beard, and I look my 65 years and probably a bit odd.

One friendly fellow from the Angel Fire area, hiking with two teenage children--probably in his forties-- who introduced himself, seemed especially impressed with my climbing exploits, and as we parted he told me he "wants to be you when I grow up."

From Wheeler I headed over to Simpson Peak. Despite several trips up here, Walter was the only one of the several unranked high peaks near Wheeler I had done so far. It's only about 0.7 mi. each way and about 300 feet elevation gain from Wheeler and back to the spot where the descent towards Williams Lake begins--all but the last few feet on trail. I had intended to do Old Mike as well, but by the time I summited Simpson I was starting to feel fatigued and turned around instead. (find data for the Simpson ascent in a separate trip report)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2968 ft / 903 m
    Total Elevation Loss:37 ft / 10 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2939 ft / 895 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2931 ft / 893 m; Extra: 8 ft / 2m
    Loss on way in:8 ft / 2 m
    Distance:4.1 mi / 6.6 km
    Route:Williams Lake-Wheeler Peak Trails
    Start Trailhead:Williams Lake trailhead  10230 ft / 3118 m
    Time:2 Hours 38 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:29 ft / 8 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 23160 ft / 7058 m; Extra: 29 ft / 8m
    Gain on way out:29 ft / 8 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Time:1 Hours 42 Minutes

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