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Wheeler Peak (highest point in NM)

Wheeler Peak, at 13161 ft, is the tallest point in New Mexico. And we're going to climb it!

If you're unable to make the first leg of the Extended Week of Hard Stuff in June, please join us as we do Wheeler Peak again in August. This event is subject to cancellation should New Mexico catch on fire (again).

I'm taking the extreme minimalist approach to organizing this. That is, we're leaving the Williams Lake Trailhead at 7 am Saturday—figure your own way to get there and where you want to stay. Suggestions/advice follow. Please use the comments to coordinate.

I plan to car camp at the Twining Campground (free, but first-come first-serve), but you are free to get a suite at the nearby (5 min walk) Taos Ski Valley, hotel in Taos, whatever. I'm planning to leave at 12 pm the Friday before the weekend to get there before dark, making stops at REI and Trader Joe's along the way. If you're coming later than that and would like to camp (e.g. you cannot leave work Friday until 5 pm), let me know, give me your tent/etc, and I'll do my best (no guarantees! I hate camping equipment and camping equipment hates me) to reserve a campsite and setup your tent.


Note: there is no potable water at the campsite. You either need to filter your water from the nearby mountain stream, buy water and bring it. There is not much water on the trail either (only 2 locations, Williams Lake and La Cava Basin, some 8 mi apart, with a few mountains in-between). I recommend buying water from Sam's Club in Albuquerque.

Here's my schedule for Friday afternoon:

  1. Leave 12 PM from Las Cruces—sharp!
  2. Arrive in Albuquerque at 3 PM, go directly to Sam's Club (I-25 exit 228, Montgomery/Jefferson) to get more fuel (it is some 20¢ cheaper/gallon; I will lend my membership card to anyone who'd like the discount). I will pickup water here.
  3. After Sam's, I plan on going to REI down the street. I am not spending more than 30 minutes at REI. I want to make camp before dark.
  4. After REI, depending on time, I may go to Trader Joe's (I-25 exit 232, Paseo del Norte) for snacks.
  5. After Trader Joe's (or after REI), I may go to Chipotle for lunch (down the street from TJ's, heading back to I-25.) My plan is to leave ABQ no later than 5:30 pm.
  6. At Santa Fe, I'm going to take a quick detour to Santa Fe Brewery (I-25 exit 278) to get campground libations and maybe enjoy happy hour. No more than 20 minutes here.
  7. After SF Brewery, onto Taos. I hope to arrive by 7:45 pm, just before sunset (the campground is in a canyon, and it will already be dark).
  8. After setting up camp at Taos Ski Valley, if there is time, we'll go back into town and get dinner. Having time for this is unlikely. Taos Mesa Brewery, off the mountain but also outside of town, is likely.

You do not need to do any of the above with me, but if you intend to do more, or take longer, I cannot wait for you!


Hiking route:

  1. Start at the Williams Lake Trail (#62), carpooling over from Taos Ski Valley/Twining Campground.
  2. Cut over to the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail (#67).
  3. Meet Wheeler Peak Trail (#90), and summit Wheeler Peak.
  4. Depending on how we're feeling, take a look at the other peaks south of Wheeler, such Simpson Peak, Old Mike Peak, Red Dome, and Taos Cone (there's a trail to all of them).
  5. Take Wheeler Peak Trail all the way back to Twining Campground, summiting Mount Walter (2nd highest point in NM).

On numbers: it's 4.4 mi from Williams Lake Trailhead to the Wheeler Peak's summit, with an elevation gain of 2960 ft. Needless to say, it's steep. Also, the elevation is extreme—many people who do this trail suffer from mild to moderate elevation sickness (headaches, nausea, dehydration, etc). It is your own responsibility to take care of yourself.

If weather turns bad, we may need to alter the route and come back a different way (i.e. the way we came up, via the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail).

If you are a guest of the United States (i.e. non-citizen), there is a US Customs & Border Patrol checkpoint demarcating passage to/from what the ACLU calls a "Constitution-Free Zone". If this bothers you, donating to the ACLU and harassing your congress critters; otherwise please bring appropriate documentation of your entry into the US (passports, visas, etc—you know better what you need than we do). Group hikes are not the place to make a stand for your civil liberties.

DISTANCE is 13.5 mi from Williams Lake Trail head to Twining Campground.

ELEVATION GAIN is 2960 ft gained from Williams Lake Trail head to Wheeler Peak summit. We'll lose 3700 ft going from the summit back to Twining Campground.

FEES: None. Of course, if you carpool, please compensate your driver for gas!

DURATION: Finish by mid to late afternoon. I recommend everyone free up the entire day and allow others to take their time.

PET FRIENDLY? Yes. Bring a muzzle (you shouldn't need be told to bring a proper leash), and if you'd like to unleash, ask others before you do so. Make sure your pet can handle the elevation and distance (if you keep your pet at home most of the time—no, it can't).

SKILL LEVEL is *NOT* beginner friendly. Take notice of the extreme elevation (it is 3x that of Las Cruces/El Paso). Otherwise, there is nothing technical involved.

TERRAIN is high-elevation alpine forest. The ascent from Williams Lake is steep, and the way back along Wheeler Peak Trail is on completely exposed ridgeline. No off-terrain—I plan to stay on trails only.

WEATHER may include thunderstorms. Please bring rain gear. Also, it will be chilly in the morning and it's windy and surprisingly cool towards the summit and along the ridgeline. It would not hurt to bring a warm hat and lightweight sweater.

AFTERWARDS I'm staying the Saturday night at Twining Campground/Taos Ski Valley, and Sunday driving to the Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado, which I will do on Monday.

MEET for carpool/caravan at:

  • Las Cruces: 12:00 pm on FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, K-Mart parking lot on North Main/US 70 and Del Rey, near Shell. See map (OpenStreetMap or Google Maps).
  • El Paso: Please meet us in Las Cruces.

MEET for hike at:

DIRECTIONS to Twinings Campground from Albuquerque:

  1. Head north on Interstate 25.
  2. BEFORE you reach Santa Fe, take exit 276 and get onto Veterans Memorial Highway (NM 599). This highway bypasses Santa Fe.
  3. When NM 599 ends a bit north of Santa Fe, take US 84/US 285 north.
  4. In Espanola, New Mexico, do NOT follow US 84/US 285, and take NM  68 north, which will take you into downtown Taos.
  5. Once in downtown Taos, NM 68 will end and turn into US 64. Follow US 64 north out of Taos.
  6. North of Taos, you'll meet an intersection where US 64 turns and goes west, while an NM 150 goes north/northeast up to Taos Ski Valley. Take NM 150.
  7. Follow NM 150 to Taos Ski Valley.
  8. Once you've entered Taos Ski Valley (if you go into town (very small, narrow streets), or go past, you've gone too far!), look for a road going up an incline to the left where you'll see many RVs parked, and look for signage for the Twining Campground.

MORE information:

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  • A former member
    A former member

    I have them.

    August 8, 2013

  • Rosario R.

    No!

    August 7, 2013

  • Samat

    I left my tents stakes at our table—did anyone pick them up?

    August 7, 2013

  • Rosario R.

    Wow! this was a super challenging hike!
    Samat, thanks for organizing this amazing hike. I'm sure I can take the Albert challenge next year.
    Robert, Linda and Kenny you guys know how to prepare the best chili hot dogs in town :)

    1 · August 5, 2013

  • Carol B.

    Eleven people started the hike; ten made it all the way to the top and back down.

    1 · August 4, 2013

  • Arturo R.

    August 2, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I guess I will skip Mt Elbert this year, which frees me and my SUV up for passengers Friday. Anybody want to leave a little earlier than noon? There is a 10K run in Ski Valley Sat morning which may attract more campers Friday, so I'd like to grab a camp spot earlier if possible, plus insure enough daylight to set up and then time to get/fix dinner. I also don't need to stop to do any shopping along the way (me in REI is a danger to time and money LOL). Msg me if you're interested in going a little earlier. Ill be out with the gang this evening so phones may be best for final coordination. <masked>

    August 1, 2013

  • Samat

    For those chilling in Taos Saturday night, there's a music festival at Taos Mesa Brewing: http://holdmyticket.com/event/140896

    July 31, 2013

  • Kenny J.

    So who is camping please comment here. I think we aught to car pool and coordinate. I plan to come back sunday so if we can get a group of us camping till sunday we can get on one or more vehicles.

    1 · July 30, 2013

    • Kenny J.

      So Linda has volunteered to drive her vehicle that can seat up to 8 but with he gear more like 6. If Robert decided to then we will have a second vehicle. These rides will be meeting at Kmart at noon leaving by 1230. If someone else would like to volunteer their vehicle to leave at this time it would give us some added flexibility.

      July 30, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Kenny, your car is fine. I've seen 10 clowns get out of smaller cars than that ;)

      July 31, 2013

  • Arturo R.

    So, I'd like to go, but the carpool leaves at noonish and I can't leave till after 5. Is there anyone planning on leaving later? I would of course pitch in for gas.

    1 · July 30, 2013

  • Rosario R.

    Yes! I will help with gas

    July 30, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I think noon (or even sooner) is a pretty good idea so we have some daylight left to set up camp, go out for dinner, and get a (hopefully) good rest before our early Sat start. Not yet 100% sure if I am still up for Elbert after Wheeler or maybe other plans in N NM, but i guess I'll have to have it settled it Thursday night. If i just go up Fri and return Sun, I would have room in my SUV for maybe 3 more + a little gear, and sharing gas expense could be a strong influence on my planning.

    July 30, 2013

  • Rosario R.

    Kenny,
    Yes, I'm planning to camp and return Sunday
    Let me know what time you are driving on Friday and save me a spot in your car.

    1 · July 30, 2013

  • Carm L.

    I can't make it this time. But God willing I'll be there next time.

    July 30, 2013

  • Rosario R.

    Who is coming back on Sunday? and are you staying at Twinging Campground?

    let me know if you have space for one more person

    This is the average temperature for Wheeler Peak

    Average annual temperatures range between 80 degrees in the summer

    July and August are rainy months with almost daily afternoon showers.


    Twinging Camp water is from the stream;
    Water available from stream; not recommended for drinking.

    Rosario :)

    1 · July 29, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry--bad click; too far from CA

    July 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Will there be any water crossing on the first day's hike?

    July 21, 2013

    • Samat

      There are no water crossings (unless you count stepping over a very minor stream). It is likely we will caught in an afternoon storm and be soaked, however.

      July 22, 2013

  • Carol B.

    I am going to try to make this.

    2 · July 20, 2013

  • Rosario R.

    Who is coming back on Sunday? and are you staying at Twinging Campground? let me know if you have space for one more person

    This is the average temperature for Wheeler Peak

    Average annual temperatures range between 80 degrees in the summer

    July and August are rainy months with almost daily afternoon showers. Twinging Camp water is from the stream;
    Water available from stream; not recommended for drinking. Rosario :)

    July 18, 2013

  • Samat

    So, I'm personally going to be driving to Mount Elbert in Colorado after Wheeler Peak. That event is here: http://www.meetup.com/las-cruces-hiking/events/128764302/ For those who need to drive back the Sunday, is there anything they want to do on the way back, and anyone willing to lead it? Like last year, you guys can try to do La Luz. The Sandia Mountains re-opened today (Jul 16). Please discuss!

    July 16, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Hmmm... i got taos sightseeing on saturday afternoon and santa fe or ABQ shopping and hot spring in T or C on the way back home... got it all in my plan... ^_____^

      July 16, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    On my Bucket list!

    July 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hiking on Saturday only...

    July 6, 2013

  • Ryan C.

    So are you guys (Samat & Yubao) doing Wheeler or NRE on this day?

    July 2, 2013

  • michal

    If I can catch a ride with someone, I'll give the hike a try... that should be a good test for my lungs!

    July 1, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am going to be in Colorado Springs from July 22nd-28th. I would like to make the trip down to wheeler peak sometime that week. My little brother doubts his ability to do this in a day. Anyone else going to be around and maybe interested in meeting up? I prefer not to hike a lone for safety reasons. Plus its nice to have someone to talk to and learn from. Not a whole lot of experience at that elevation.

    June 30, 2013

  • Ryan C.

    My wedding day! So, no.

    June 11, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Congrats!

      June 26, 2013

    • Ryan C.

      Thanks, Tim. This peak is still on my list though (along with 14ers in CO, and other nearby high points). Rock on.

      June 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Tentative yes as long as work doesn't get in the way. I'll probably bring my father along with me.

    June 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Enjoy, take lots of pictures to share.

    June 11, 2013

11 went

  • Samat
    Organizer,
    Event Host
  • Kenny J.
    Co-Organizer
  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
    +1 guest
  • A former member
  • A former member
    +1 guest
  • A former member

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