I enjoyed an early morning cruise across frozen snow to Williams Lake and then hiked up the chute just west of the snowline that covered the new Forest Service trail. We had a great view of snow-covered peaks throughout the range. I couldn't believe how ravenous the marmots, chipmunks, and pikas were up there. Can we blame Texans for this?
I'm looking to do a solo hike up Wheeler Peak on June 16th, any comments/suggestions about the trail or conditions? Would Bull of The Woods be a better option, or is Williams Lake route OK, even with the current snow conditions? Mark Landis
Loved this hike. It was a popular route on a Saturday and it looked almost like a train going up the switchbacks. Lots of bighorn sheep. This was the third of 4 in a row, OK, Arizona, NM, and Colorado. Elbert left to do on the 21st.
conditions on the mountain were perfect for crampons, although I was definitely wishing I had brought snowshoes for the lower portion of the trail up to the lake as there were sections where i was breaking through. trail is extremely well marked and so there were no issues there. once on the flank it is basically a straight shot to the top. Was feeling a bit out of shape, took me 4 hours to the summit, 1.5 back to the car. plenty of opportunities for glissading... approx 3000' and 7 miles.
We had a great time hiking up via bull of the woods. A few comments and cautions for those considering a winter hike. Yes, it's definitely doable. You need snowshoes, but leave the crampons at home. You definitely need solid route finding skills and a good topo map.
There are quite a few trails in the area, and sticking to the right one was a challenge because most of the signposts were buried in 4 ft of snow. If you get to the meadow, just know you went a little too far! We camped in the trees about a mile after crossing the groomed ski trail, in the last heavily forested section of trail before attaining the ridge. If winter camping, don't try to make it all the way to La Cal Basin. Several sites recommend it for camping, but it's pretty exposed. We liked the protection from the wind the trees offered.
Even though we were mostly following tracks from 2 hikers who summitted the day before, the wind had completely obliterated all traces for long stretches. Once we hit the ridgeline we were frequently traveling over tundra because all the snow had blown away. No avalanche danger, and it seems unlikely any cornices would build up enough along the trail to be a danger. When we got to La Cal, we took the west ridge (off trail). That would be quite the scramble in summer but was easy in the snow. The return trip was straight forward enough, or should have been, but we didn't check the map enough and did briefly get confused about where the trail was supposed to be. Visibility started to deteriorate with an afternoon flurry, but we figured out our mistake soon enough and made it down without a hitch.
Great hike dodging thunderstorms most of the day.
My first state highpoint as well. Sadly, I was 31.
Started from the ski area. Nice day, a bit windy on top. Added the short side trip to Walter.
Two hours and forty five minutes to the summit from the trailhead. Only another thirty minutes to Old Mike. The last hour of the trip back I hiked with Virgil Popescu from California (Romania previously) who was a blast to talk and trade info with.
Snow in several places, but hiking shoes and gaiters were sufficient. I feel bad that two of our group had to turn back before Frazer Mountain. Saw bighorn sheep on Frazer and on the ridge east of La Cal Basin. Summited just as the weather was getting pretty bad. I'm guessing we were the last ones to summit that day, leaving the summit at 2:00 pm. Down Williams Lake Trail, got to treeline about the time the lightning, rain, sleet, graupel started. Enjoyed a beer at the Bavarian, a soak in the hot tub at Alpine Village Suites, a great meal at Sabroso, just west of Arroyo Seco, and a peaceful sleep next to the Rio Hondo at Cuchilla campground.
Camped at the Bull of the Woods/Twining trailhead. Up the Bull of the Woods/Wheeler Peak Summit Trail and down the Williams Lake Trail. Weather turned sort of questionable as we were approaching Mt. Walter but held off and ended up being a decent day. Used snowshoes starting at about mile 6 on the Bull of the Woods trail but met a guy that came up in trail runners from the Williams Lake trail. Just figured there would be too much postholing w/o the snowshoes! State Highpoint #14.
Williams Lake trail to the new Wheeler Peak Summit trail, which was covered in snow and difficult to follow on the way up. Some post-holing but not too bad; used crampons although some rocky sections. Tagged Walter as well on the ridge and then descended the switchbacks that were visible and went down the same way to the Lake trail. NO wind at all, temps in the 30's but absolutely beautiful and warm with the sun! Big horn sheep near the summit. Highpoint #21.
From Williams Lake
Standard route solo.
Made it to the top early in the morning, experienced a beautiful sunrise at Williams Lake before summiting!
My wife and I kept running into some dude that, even in the Alpine environment, kept da trees going.
Pretty sure he never made it down.
Was fun, encountered 60 plus mph winds on summit.
Bull of the Woods and Williams Lake routes
My son and I climbed by the new Williams Lake trail last Sunday- very good hiking but still a difficult climb that I as a 63 year old irregular hiker should have trained more for, but I made it. Highlight aside from making the summit was getting within 50 yards of a herd of 10 bighorn sheep--amazing. Weather was spectacular. I would recommend this to anyone in reasonable condition- nice views and good hiking challenge plus even someone like me can make it up and back in 6-7 hours.
Part of a great road trip to capture high points.