Wheeler Peak elevation 13, 063 feet is a wonderful climb and a beautiful peak. Too bad it is so far away from the world. Wheeler Peak was my objective on October 6, 2004, the fifth day of climbing County Highpoints in Nevada. I started with my climbing partner Dean on Desatoya, then to Bunker Hill, Diamond Peak, and Ruby Dome. We spent the night in Elko to get some hot food and a hot shower. Early the next morning I headed to White Pine County and Wheeler Peak. Dean climbed Wheeler last year, so he was sitting this one out.
The drive is typical Nevada Basin and Range terrain until you get to Baker and head into the Great Basin National Park. This is a National Park with the same status of Yellowstone or Crater Lake, but there is one thing you immediately notice that is different. There is no entry fee. That’s right, it’s free. Just drive in and enjoy yourself.
Right after entering the National Park take a right and head up Lehman Creek This paved road gains elevation all the way up to the trailhead at 10,160 feet where there is a large parking area and a well marked trailhead. The views from the road approaching the trailhead are fantastic and add to the excitement and the anticipation of the climb.
I was a little concerned because Wheeler Peak was covered with snow down to about 11,000 feet. It looked beautiful, but I knew I had to climb through the snow. Undaunted I grabbed my pack, laced up my boots, and set my trekking poles in motion up the trail. Almost immediately I had to stop and sign in at a climbers register. Another 100 yards up the trail 2 deer begrudgingly moved off the trail to allow me to pass and then I was really on my way.
In about a mile the trail from the Wheeler Peak Campground joins up with the summit trail. In another tenth of a mile the fork that goes to Stella Lake is passed. The trail then turns north, away from Wheeler Peak and enters a big meadow with beautiful views. The trail switchbacks back into a tree covered area, and then climbs up to the ridge at 10,874.
I was warned that there would be strong winds on the ridge, but there was just a gentle breeze for a while. As I continued south along the ridge towards Wheeler Peak the trail continued to climb and the wind picked up. By the time I got to 11,400 feet it was time to put on a windbreaker and gloves. At about this elevation the trail became covered with the new snow that had fallen. The trail was still easy to follow because of the footprints of previous hikers. I continued to follow the trail upward and the snow became progressively deeper. In places it was 6-8” deep of soft powdery snow. It wasn’t icy at all.
Near the summit the trail is on the east side above the bowl and I was glad it wasn’t icy. If it is icy, you would need some protection in this area, maybe crampons and ice axe would be enough. Slipping off the east face would take you from about 13,000 feet to the glacier at 11,400 feet in a big hurry.
I had no problems and reached the summit 2.6 hours after I started. Beautiful views in all directions. I opened the Mail Box that should have had the summit register inside and it had been removed. Other hikers have left an assortment of papers and business cards inside. I signed one of pieces of paper to leave my mark on this fine mountain.
After lunch I headed down to meet my hiking partner. I left Dean in Elko and he slept in and had a big breakfast before driving down to meet me at the trailhead. About ¾ mile from the trailhead I met Dean hiking up. It was such a beautiful day, he couldn’t just wait at the car.
I will return to hike this fine mountain again. Total time was about 4.75 hours with a 3,100 ft elevation gain in 8 miles round trip.
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