Wheeler and Quandary
Sometime in the middle of last week I received an email from an old friend from high school. He said he would be coming to Colorado for his brother's wedding near Alma and asked if I would like to meet up with him sometime. We made arrangements for Saturday, and I figured I might as well just stay up there and go hiking in the area on Sunday. I had yet to hike Clinton and Traver, but wanted to do something with a little more spice (I had, after all, recently acquired a pair of mighty 'calzones de los muertos'). I did a bit of research and decided that tacking Wheeler onto the Clipper combo should make a decent outing.
After the wedding on Saturday I stopped for a bite to eat in Alma and then drove up to the small parking area above Montgomery Reservoir. Apparently exhausted from my attempts at being social, I was fast asleep by 7:30. The alarm went off at 4am. I got dressed, shoved some food in my mouth, and was on the bobblehead trail by 4:15. My first objective was to reach Wheeler Lake before sunrise to take a few pictures. The road provided easy passage all the way to the lake, and I was grateful for this. After free soloing some class 5 willows in the Indian Peaks the previous weekend, I was in no mood for a bushwhack. I made it to the lake about a half hour before sunrise.
Sunrise at Wheeler Lake
I eventually made my way toward the old car and took a few more photos. Now it was time to switch back into hiking mode. I decided to summit Traver first, and then follow the ridge to a finish with the more exciting summit of Wheeler.
Mt. Lincoln from Wheeler Lake
Heading toward Traver
On the way up Traver's East Ridge, I noticed this mysterious marker atop a pile of rocks. Was this an old survey marker, or possibly the final resting place of Mr. McNamee?
Marker on Traver's East Ridge
Democrat's North Ridge and Buckskin
Mt. Arkansas from Traver
Once you reach the summit of Traver, it's an easy ridge walk all the way to a point just before the saddle below Wheeler's south ridge. I set a goal to reach this saddle by 10, and kept a constant eye on the weather.
Ridge from Traver to Clinton
Bartlett and Junk on McNamee
I didn't spend much time on the summits of McNamee and Clinton. I was more concerned with meeting my time deadline for the saddle. From Clinton, the ridge continues as an easy walk until just before it drops down to the saddle. And now for something completely different. The ridge suddenly becomes much more complex, and the fun begins. The clouds were steadily forming to the west, so I decided it would be wise to be off of Wheeler's summit by 11.
South Ridge to Wheeler
I followed a cairned route that skirts just below the ridge on the west side, and made my way up to the summit. I took some photos, signed the register, and started on my way back.
North Star from Wheeler
Drift, Fletcher and Atlantic from Wheeler
A look back at Clinton
Lincoln and (cough, cough) Cameron above Wheeler Lake
The rain began shortly after I started my descent from the saddle. Things became a bit slippery on the steep grassy slopes, but I was glad to be on safer ground. Traversing the loose, wet rocks below Wheeler's south ridge would have been a nightmare. I'm glad I stuck to my time goals.
Waterfall above Wheeler Lake
I only came across one other hiker the entire day. The bobbleheads were a different story...