Monday, June 19, 2017

Snowy Ascent of Wheeler Peak, June 2017

I wanted to climb Wheeler Peak while it still had snow, but I didn't want it to take all day. My solution? Get up at 4 a.m. and start! I was at Stella Lake for a beautiful sunrise, and have to admit that I spent more than a few minutes taking photos.

Then I went around the lake and crossed this snow slope with crampons on. Except they weren't adjusted quite right, so I had some problems, and was slow.

When I got to a melted out patch, I found these interesting flowers. (And still haven't had time to look them up!)

Then it was on to more snow. The top of the couloir doesn't look that far, right?

Getting closer! I kept switchbacking up that gully for what seemed like a very, very long time. It was over 1,000 feet elevation gain.

The lake kept getting smaller and smaller. And I reminded myself that I would have a very fun time going down all this snow.

At the top of the couloir, it was time for rocks. The wind had blown most of the snow away. So I switched from my mountaineering boots to my approach shoes, which made it easy to go up the rest of the way.

I did find more snow at the very top.

But even there I found bare ground. I took a couple selfies to prove I was there.


Then I walked the ridge so I could enjoy the views. Here's looking south towards Baker Peak and Mount Washington.

And coming back, this is the ridge between Wheeler and Baker peaks.

I found the mailbox had been kind of crushed by falling rocks. I forced the door open and left my name in a little notebook.

Then it was time to head down. It was getting windier, and I even got blown down once.

The best part was the 1,000 foot glissade down the couloir. I kept my camera in my pack, though, as I wasn't sure how fast I would go and was holding on tight to my ice axe. It was so much fun going down.

I got down to the lake in good time and in great spirits. The early morning hike up the mountain was just what I needed. And hopefully that has helped acclimatize me for the season! It usually seems that the first mountain climb of the year is the hardest. It's now possible to climb the mountain with hardly any snow on the trail. Before long more flowers will be blooming, making the hike more colorful.

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