| A foggy day on Wheeler Peak, New Mexico State Highpoint
Wheeler Peak (13,161') – New Mexico State Highpoint
Mount Walter (13,133')
Frazer Mountain (12,163')
Partner(s): Susan Paul
Distance: Approx. 14 miles
Elevation Gain: Approx. 4600'
This weekend we decided to put the unranked 14ers on hold, and as Eatinhardtack would say, "give the crappy Colorado weather the middle finger," and go enjoy the crappy New Mexico weather instead.
Getting to Wheeler Peak took longer than I expected - about 7 hours including a lunch stop. We took I25 to Hwy 64, went west on Hwy 64 to Hwy 50 about 5 miles west of Taos, north on Hwy 150 for 15 miles and drove through the Armadillo parking lot to the Coyote parking lot and the well-marked trailhead. We set up camp, cooked dinner and crashed early, for a 3AM wake-up and 4AM departure.
Wheeler Peak from the trailhead.
We camped at a site close to this roaring stream, hoping it would cancel out the noise of a rambunctious Christian group from Lubbock Texas, camped nearby – and maybe even my snoring!
The next morning we headed up the steps near the outhouse where the Forest Service has a very large sign saying "Bull-of-the-Woods Wheeler Peak Trail." The trail was easy to follow as it climbs alongside the creek, and although there are a few junctions, staying on the main trail or basically going straight and opposite of the horse trail junctions will get you to the right place. We crossed the creek in the dark, and rather than trust the slippery wet logs, just trusted our Gore-tex hightops and ran through the water. We stayed dry enough.
Looks like we are on the right trail.
After 1.80 miles we reached a pass and headed south-southeast towards Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain.
Sunrise in New Mexico.
A foggy morning at the Red Canyon Overlook.
Up to this point we were enjoying the nice dry trail, but as the trail contoured around the northwest side of Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain we came upon some major snowdrifts.
You brought the snowshoes, right?
The snow got a little deep as we worked our way around Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain.
Now the real fun begins!!
At the treed section just south of Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain and Point 11,762 the trail pretty much disappeared so we just plowed through, and after 30 minutes we made it to the other side, climbed up and around a bump and reconnected with the trail.
Finally out of the evil trees!! After climbing this bump we reconnected with the trail.
Back on the trail provided smooth sailing again.
The Wilderness Boundary.
All 4 seasons here – winter, summer, fall, and fog.
From here it was snow free to La Cal Basin, where we crossed one large snow field and a couple smaller ones before being snow free the rest of the way to the summit.
The snow around La Cal Basin where we traversed from the right side.
Looking at the snow-free southeast side of La Cal Basin were we reconnected with the trail leading to the ridge.
The first minor summit we hiked over was Mount Walter, an unranked 13er.
On the summit of Mount Walter.
After multiple false summits we finally arrived on Wheeler Peak's true summit easily recognized by the plaque on the summit. Our views were incredible… -ibly crappy.
On the summit of Wheeler, my 8th State Highpoint – many more to go!!
The summit plaque.
We stayed very briefly due to the high winds, driving grappel and blinding snow - so after a few summit photos we started heading down.
Heading back down as the weather worsens.
On the way down we made a short side trip up Frazer Mountain, an unranked 12er.
Summit of Frazer Mountain.
Here we ran into a nice couple. Of sheep.
Looks like we aren't the only idiots up here
Hey Mr. Bighorn! Are you a state high pointer too?
Now that is some deep snow!!
On the way back we avoided the stream crossing by using a much better log bridge just 100 feet or so north, that we hadn't noticed in the dark that morning. We almost made it back to camp before the rain hit – almost. We actually got drenched, and broke camp in a torrent.
I was felling kind of bummed about all our gear and clothes getting soaked, especially since we had planned on camping again a little further north that night, and getting some more peaks, but my spirits were soon lifted when, driving back through Taos, I got flipped off twice by other drivers, within half an hour. That really made my day complete! With that, Susan and I gave Taos the finger and drove off into the sunset.
What a wonderful trip and even though we didn't get any of the vista views I was hoping for we made the summit, plus a couple little extra credits peaks, and had a pretty good time.
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