Taos County Highpoint Trip Report

Wheeler Peak (13,161 ft)

Date: September 2, 2005
Author: Martin Gonzales

I had a friend from Lubbock joined me for the climb. He is a school teacher and, as a way to motivate his students, he decided to do the climb with me. We got to Taos on Saturday and spent the evening at a local motel and it just so happened that some other hikers were staying there also. We got an early start and were at the trail head at 7:00 am. We took it easy and made numerous stops to take pictures and shoot some video of the beautiful scenery. There were about 30 people on the mountain on Sunday. By the time we cleared the tree line, the clouds started to break up and we got some sunshine but the temperatures were still kind of cool.

Around 1:00 pm we started to meet a few people who were on the way down, who had all ready reached the summit. Most had camped and few had gotten a very early start on the trail. Since we weren't out to break any speed records, by 2:00 pm were just hitting 12,000 feet and we stopped for a lunch break before getting on with the last stretch of the climb! By the time we got to Walter, we caught up with some of the folks who had passed us on the trail earlier. I really do not like false summits! After a short break to chat with the folks coming down from the Wheeler summit, we decided to get moving since some rather ominous clouds were moving in. It was exactly 3:00 pm when I plopped myself down to sign the register. We had the summit to ourselves for about fifteen minutes before a group of four college-age guys came dragging up to the summit. They had come up the Williams Lake route and were totally exhausted, not to mention totally unprepared for the cold (tee shirts and shorts) and the coming rain. We chatted for a few minutes and they quickly signed the registry and we left the summit minutes apart.

As we cleared Walter, a light rain started to fall but I was more worried about the thunder in the distance! We made good time but, as we got to 11,000 feet, some pretty heavy sleet started to fall but at least sleet doesn't make you too wet. I was still thankful for the wind/water proof shell I was wearing. By 5:00 we caught up to some of the folks that we had seen on the trail earlier. It was 7:30 when we got back tot he car at the parking lot, just as a pretty heavy rain started to fall.

The round trip, with numerous stops to take pictures, rest, catch a breath or two, shoot some video, etc, took us 12.5 hours. As I said, we weren't trying to break any records and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and stopping to chat with other hiker/climbers. I think I did pretty good for a flatlander from the Gulf Coast. The only after effects of the climb were some sore shins and an aggravated in-grown toenail but I did not have any problems with the altitude, not that I wasn't stopping every few minutes to catch my breath the last couple of hundred feet.

Wheeler is a beautiful mountain and, as a geologist, I had a wonderful time.