6/8/2014 Wheeler Peak (13,160 feet), New Mexico

With snowboarding officially (and sadly) finished for the season, we decided to officially switch gears and get our first climb of the season in.  So, on Saturday June 7th, we headed south to the New Mexico ski town of Taos where we would set up basecamp and make a push for Wheeler Peak, the state highpoint.  At 13,160 feet Wheeler Peak is the 8th highest state highpoint.  It resides in the far southern end of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of the rockies, near the town of Taos, NM

It's still winter climbing conditions in a lot of areas here in Colorado, and that is no different at the southern end of the rockies as well.  In preparation we brought snow shoes, traction devices and ice axes - and figured we would take a look at the conditions and go from there.

On the way down we also got a chance to stop and grab a National Park Passport stamp, stopping at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The Great Sand Dunes
The Great Sand Dunes include the largest sand dunes in North America.  Check out more information here.

Check out the sandboarding lines in the center

At the Visitors Center

Ashley super stoked to get a new stamp.

North end of the Great Sand Dunes.

Southern end.

Once we arrived in Taos, we grabbed a killer dinner at Orlandos, picked up a few provisions at Cids Food Market and set up a basecamp at the Taos Hampton Inn.

Sunday morning, we set out for the brief 30 min drive to the Taos Ski Valley to the trailhead for Wheeler Peak.

Deep in the Ski Valley, we headed up to the trailhead for Williams Lake.  The goal was to head the 2 miles to the lake, and then take the Wheeler Peak Summit trail for another few miles to the summit.

Ashley getting her gear on.

The snow was sparce at the trailhead, but looking at the higher elevations it was pretty obvious there was still some left.  We opted to leave the snowshoes at the truck, but pack or microspikes and ice axes (at the least hoping to be able to find a snowfield to glissade down).

Base of Kachina Lift 4

Looking into the valley from Williams Lake before turning up Wheeler Peak Summit Trail

Once we turn up and head to the base of Wheeler, the snow fields started to get more common.  At this time of morning, they were still pretty hard and easy to get over. 

Looking west from the trail.

Ashley powering up the steep slopes.

Once we break treeline, we get our first look at the summit.  You can see some snowfieds with glissade tracks.

Life is rad

So rad

Looking North-ish back over some ski trails.

And south at the gnarly ridge and killer scenary. 

Crossing some steep snowfields



Working our way directly up to the ridge.
Final approach to the saddle between Mount Walter and Wheeler Peak.

Life is good over 13,000 feet.
Once on the ridge, looking North to Mount Walter an unranked 13er.

Heading south on the ridge to the summit.

Summit shot!  

The summit plaque and register.

Looking west at Lake Fork Peak and the ridge.

One more before the way down.

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