Bighorn sheep strike a majestic pose above me on my descent.
23 JUNE 2021 W5N/SS-001
I was 33 years old when my new girlfriend brought me to New Mexico for the first time to show me around her haunts. We both climbed Wheeler Peak on July 3rd, 1989. Now I’ve been Cassie KG6MZR’s husband for 28 years and we have returned to the Land of Enchantment. Back in 1989 the Williams Lake route hadn’t been built yet and we did Bull of the Woods, Walter, Frazier, Wheeler, Simpson and Old Mike in a marathon of peak bagging via the old, long trail.
This time the new Lake Williams route took me a little over 4 hours to reach the summit. This route is a little longer than indicated on various maps. My track recorded about 4.5 miles with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. I left the car at 4:45 AM as it was just getting light three days after the summer solstice. The trail cruises along until just after the Williams Lake turnoff and then it begins to climb in earnest. I saw a couple of marmots and pikas on the way up. One pika was very close to me industriously chewing off stems of the alpine grass to make her nest.
There was good cell coverage from Verizon most of the way up and on the summit thanks to the Taos Ski Valley I’m guessing.
I got set up fairly quickly and had a lot of fun making 30 contacts in about an hour. I barely pulled in Chris F4WBN in France for my longest contact. My big regret was hearing Dan NA6MG about 52 but not getting the contact. The QSB was fierce and made working the pile-up difficult. Being a newbie to this kind of thing didn’t help my management. I heard some summit-to-summit and European stations that I let slip away in the fading.
I had my first chaser from Mexico, XE1MYO. Thank you Mayolo!
It was really good to hear a lot of faithful chasers in there. I hung out longer than planned trying to work everybody. A booming thank you to all chasers!
This trail is a heavily traveled route. I saw many nice people and the summit had quite a crowd. For the most part people were quite curious about SOTA and I handed out this website on little torn-off pieces of my logbook. I should follow SOTA Goat and Elmer Scott WA9STI’s lead and have SOTA cards made up to hand out.
It took me over three hours to descend and by the time I got back to the car, I was pretty tired — more tired than I was 33 years ago after climbing 5 summits and hiking much further.
Not only is Wheeler Peak the high point of New Mexico, it was the high point of this trip to New Mexico. I managed three summits: Cerro Grande, Pajarito Mountain and Wheeler Peak. I look forward to our next trip to the Land of Enchantment!