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Wheeler Peak, New Mexico


Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 12.1 miles

Did the long route up Wheeler Peak. Highest peak in New Mexico.

I got an early start at 0622 and began up the Bull-of-the-Woods trail next to a raging river coming out of the mountains.  Very heavily traveled by horses!!  Once up to the top of the saddle, the trail turned south towards Mt Frazer, La Cal Basin, Mt Walter, and ridges that lead up to Wheeler Peak. Just up at the top a bronco past me full of people.  They got out and were impressed to find out I started at 0600 to get to where they were dropped off.  One of the dudes was a retired Navy guy that now works at Sandia Labs here in ABQ.  They followed me from this point and we entered woods and had to make our way thru a good bit of snow.  There were tracks, but not completely on the trail.  Once we broke out, we were above the treeline and headed towards another snowfield that would take us up to Mt Frazer. Very nice once on top.  Took bunch of pics and tried to catch some big horn sheep that were getting a littled stirred from our presence.  La Cal Basin was in plain view now that was completely full of snow for the most part.  In fact, some of the people that were in front of us were circumventing around the snow to make it to the other side of the “bowl” to reach trail on other side.  The group that was behind me planned to not loose all the altitude and stay traveling on the ridge.  I would have done this, but my body was telling me to find some trees, for nature calls at the most inconvieniant times; at least that has been my experience.  So, lost a lot of altitude and ran into pure snow.  Decided to traverse when I hit the highest treeline in the bowl.  Snow was covering entire trail, so I just decided to make my own across the snow and try not to loose altitude to pick up the trail on the other side.  Must have traveled across a mile of snow till I reached the other side.  Once there, I was pretty beat from all the snow.  This was a slow slow crawl up the field-like terrain that was somewhat moderately sloped.  A lot of switchbacks from here on out to the top.  I think the weight of my backpack and altitude was starting to take a toll on me.  Seemed like I was having to force my legs in order to move.  Breathing was definitely different.  I cant say that it was a full up Everest gig with O2, but definitely required more muscle and effort to get air down.  Once on top of the next ridge, I could see what I thought was Wheeler, but mistaken.  Funny, because I remember on the web this happened to another guy.  Thought he was there, but nope.  Got very cold up here, in fact had to put on my long sleeve shirt and windbreaker.  Got tons of pics from here.  traveled down the ridge slowly and atop of Mt Walter, spotted a big group on way up from the otherside next to Horseshoe Lake.  Finally made it up to summit of Wheeler Peak, passing the group from earlier in the morning.  Mildly windy and definitely more clouds from before.  I gave Lea Lea a call and told her to meet me around in an hour and a half from what I guesstamated.  The time was now 1200.  So just under 6 hours to get to the top.  I can attribute a lot of time stopping from taking video and pictures along the way.  Also, the 40 lb pack didn’t help my endurance either.  I was mainly doing this to train for some future hikes I have planned.  Ate a Cliff Bar on top and watched a chipmunk come out from under a rock to find whatever scraps he could.  I was up there by  myself and decided to do some self “hero shots” to document the moment.  After this, I did my standard panoramic photo and this time I went around 2x showing more azimuth.  We’ll see how it turns out.  I could see a thunderstorm brewing that I had been watching earlier and thought it might be a factor, but ended up skirting just to the west of the mountain ridges next to Taos.  All right now, time to start down, I think I started about 1220 or so, I decided to come down the 50 degree shale loose rock stuff.  Not too bad, about half way down of a mile or so, my thighs were burnin huge.  I had to call Lea Lea again to push back the rendezvous time.  Told her 1500 would be perfect.  Passed about 5 people huffin it up to make it to the top.  I think the next time I do Wheeler when Kali is old enough is this way w/ just a water bag. Once into the woods, snow was pretty thick.  Broke out of woods and there was the beautiful Williams Lake.  You cold definitely tell from the top this was all glaciers.  In some the pic I plan on attaching, you can see the moraines of rocks that were a result of the glacier.  You could see as it receeded back over the years.. pretty cool.  I expected a lake up here would be blue looking.  This one was quite dark.  Will have to research why this is.  After a bunch of pics and video, started the trek back down.  Once into the woods, the snow was everywhere again.  There was orange flagging marking the trail for it was hard to tell where it really was w/ footprints going everywhere.  I did pop out again into a rock field that was also evidence of the end of a bulldozing glacier from many many years ago.  Right back into the thick pine forest I went and snow everywhere.  I hit a couple of pockets in the snow and slid up to my knees couple times.  Guess I should have brought my gaiters on the trip.  I guess I will know next time.  I could tell when I got towards the bottom as the little trickles of water from the melting snow began to converge into a 4 foot rapid that picked up the decibels as well.  Once I got down to civilization, I ran into the Bavarian.  Girl I passed coming down mentioned having a beer there when I made it.  Unable today, for there was a wedding about to start.  What an idea to get married in the mountains.  Any way, tried to make contact w/ Lea Lea.  It was now 1508 and I knew they were in the vicinity.  Got Kali on the Rino and told them to come on up the dirt road to pick me up.  Lea Lea said she didn’t want to drive up the steep road and would just wait till I got to the bottom.  I am thinking, “great, another 2 miles to burn up my thighs and shins!!”  passed a million cars on the way up to the wedding.  Very nice houses up here and maybe we can buy one once we get our 1st million from “Spanky’s Gourmet Mustard”.  Made it to the girls as they ran out of the car to greet me.  I have never felt so drained in my life.  Feet were throbbing, legs burning, tired/sleepy, and ready for a feast!!  I ate 2 cliff bars and 1 power bar the entire time.  Wow what a great adventure.  Cant wait to come back and do again when Kali is old enough.

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