Saturday, July 07, 2007

Climbing Wheeler Peak

Yesterday I climbed Wheeler Peak, the 2nd highest peak in Nevada. For the record: it's a class 2 hike. So today I'm tired, but not sore. The first photo here is one I took along the 3.5 mile trail. This section of the trail is relatively level and crosses through stands of aspen trees and then into the pine and bristlecone pines before getting above tree line over 11,000 ft.

Wheeler Peak is 13,065 ft tall and is the primary attraction for the remote Great Basin National Park. It took me 9 hours to drive from Pasadena to the park. To help you orient, here's a map showing where Wheeler Peak is located. Notice the green region marking the park. I camped at Wheeler Peak Campground. It's a terrific campground and I highly recommend it. It's located just a smidge below 10,000 ft elevation, so I could get a bit acclimated before my hike on the next day. It's got a stream running through it, as well as a nice meadow in the middle. Since there are no bears, the deer in the area seemed very habituated to people, as they didn't move away from me when I wandered the nearby woods to find firewood. I really enjoyed this campground. The temperatures were perfect: 70F at 7 pm.

The next photo shows the trailhead before I started. It was 6:30 am and there were only a few cars there. During my descent, I visited with a Park Ranger who was hiking up. He told me that the trailhead parking lot was full already. That wasn't too surprising because I had already seen loads of people hiking up the trail as I was descending.

The next photo is taken from Stella Lake, which is about 1 mile from the trail head. Unfortunately, the wind prevented me from catching a nice reflection on the lake's surface. Above 12,000 ft I had my normal shortness of breath, and so I had to use my proven method: look ahead about 15 ft for the next flatest section, hike to there, stop long enough for 3 breaths, then repeat.

The next 3 pics were taken from the summit. I wasn't alone up there, and more hikers kept arriving. It took me 3 hours and 20 minutes to reach the summit, and 2.5 hours to descend.

If you're interested in this hike, then I recommend reading the description by Christopher Brennen, who happens to be a Caltech professor. I brought his map, but found it wasn't needed. You can also consult the Wheeler Peak post on summitpost.org.

I strongly recommend the Wheeler Peak Campground. It's a terrific place to read, visit with friends, enjoy nature, or just recharge. Although it's a long drive (from anywhere), it's worth the trip and you should plan on at least 2 nights. If you've got the energy, then hike up the hill. The park flyer recommends starting early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. I would strongly suggest you heed that advice. Between 4 and 6 pm the upper hill was shrouded in dark clouds and lots of thunder. Happily, no rain fell on the campground. Several people had setup inflated air mattresses on the edge of the meadow to sleep out under the stars. Cool.

If you'd like to have higher resolution image files, just ask. I've posted smaller versions to save space and to be kind to visitors.

1 comment:

Matt Brown said...

Readers who enjoy this article might appreciate Nevada Magazine's ascent up Boundary Peak, Nevada's highest point:

http://nevadamagazine.com/index.php/issues/read/challenge_boundary_peak/

The outside of a mountain truly is good for the inside of a man.