I’m still working on writing up my visit Out West this past June. (I keep getting interrupted by having to do other things.) As you may recall, last time my son and I were in Great Basin National Park, and we’d hiked to the Rock Glacier and the Bristlecone Pine Grove on the side of Wheeler Peak.
On June 27 it was time to ascend the peak itself.
Our campground was at an elevation of around 9,900 feet, which is where we started out from.
By this time we’d already hiked about a mile (and climbed about 1,000 feet). You can see Wheeler Peak in the distance.
As you get closer, the vegetation gets really, really sparse.
Let me just say a few words about footwear here.
I could probaby have done this barefoot . . . if I didn’t care about how fast I hiked, and if I hadn’t just spent the past 3 weeks overdoing it a bit.
So instead, as I had done the previous day, I wore my moccasins. Even that turned out to be a bit tender, so I also added a pair of socks. Those are pretty sharp rocks if you place your foot on them wrong.
The downside of that was that my connection to Nature was definitely lessened. On the other foot, though, my feet still had almost complete range of motion. All of the parts were still able to flex in a way to give me a lot more proprioceptive feedback than if they’d been encased in hiking boots.
And speaking of hiking boots, for the comments I kept getting from other hikers, you’d think I was doing the hike barefoot.
So many of them were absolutely convinced (by hiking guides?) that you had to wear good hiking boots with tremendous ankle support to be able to hike along this sort of scree. There was this one guy, before I even hit the scree, who wanted to lecture me. And then he told me what weak ankles he had.
I told him I didn’t have weak ankles because of all the exercise they got from going barefoot. Then he seemed to backtrack a bit, claiming they’d he did have toe-shoes, but it really seemed like he was exaggerating whether he even ever used them.
And then there was this other lady who was terribly concerned. When she made it to the top (I beat her to the top by at least half an hour!) she was quite concerned and wanted to know if I was doing OK. Uh, yes.
This, along with the barefoot hiking, is just something people have a really hard time wrapping their heads around. And in this situation, even moccasins cause cognitive dissonance. (And for some reason, nobody had a problem with my son’s toe-shoes.)
Anyways, back to the climb.
Here’s the topo map of what we did that day.
[Click if you want to see any details.]
The red line is the main route up and back. The blue line shows an extra bit along the top ridge that just my son did while I ate lunch. The orange line is an extra diversion along the glacial lakes that we both did going back to the campground. (On the way up and down the mountain, I didn’t even consider that diversion because all my effort was in the climbing; but when we got to that point it was, oh, OK, sure.)
You can also see the Rock Glacier on that topo map, and you can get a feel for some of the surrounding mountains.
As you can see, the peak of Wheeler Peak is at 13,063 feet. My lungs were surprisingly happy about that. (Maybe all the time at Yellowstone at around 8,000 feet helped condition them; that and camping at around 10,000 feet.)
Wheeler Peak has the interesting distinction of being the tallest mountain in Nevada . . . but not the highest point.
Wrap your head around that.
It turns out that on the western side of the state, in the Sierra Nevadas, is a higher point called Boundary Peak with an elevation of 13, 147 feet. But that is actually just a side peak of a mountain (Montgomery Peak) that is in California.
Here’s the map.
So Wheeler Peak has a lower peak than Boundary Peak, but it is a mountain in its own right, while Boundary Peak isn’t. Thus the conundrum.
Of course, the views on the way up (and on top) were spectacular. Here’s a wind farm we’d driving past on our way to the Park.
Also on the way up we had a nice view of the two glacial lakes you can see on the topo map: Stella Lake (on the left) and Teresa Lake (on the right).
The nearby peak on the left is Bald Mountain, and on the right you can see Buck Mountain, which has the road to the campground along its flank. Just where the road disappears as it gets nearer is where the campground is.
Being that the top just begs from panoramic (stitched) pictures. Here I am at the peak.
[Again, you need to click to get the full-size version.]
This is looking more-or-less west, and you can see the wind farm again in the distance to the right.
You can also see my moccasin/sock combination.
Looking the other direction you can see my son eating his lunch.
The peak to the right is Jeff Davis Peak. On the left you can make out the road to the campground again.
I mentioned that my son went a little farther along the ridge at the top. Here’s his picture looking down at the Rock Glacier.
The glacial lake here is Brown Lake.
I also put together a nice panoramic shot from the picture he took up there.
You can see the three glacial lakes, the Rock Glacier, our approach, Bald Mountain, Buck Mountain, the road to the campground. It’s all there.
Here’s a last view from the peak, looking south towards Baker Peak (and beyond).
Up at this elevation, while all the trees were long gone, there was at least a bit of alpine vegetation.
I’m pretty sure that is an Alpine Avens (a member of the rose family).
After we descended the peak we hiked around the glacial lakes, for a total distance of around 8 miles. Here’s my son alongside Teresa Lake.
I should mention that after we’d gotten down the the trail with less scree I took off the moccasins and just went barefoot again. It was easier and more comfortable.