Forum Index > Trip Reports > Great Basin NP - Wheeler, Jeff Davis, Snake Creek Divide - 5/16-17/20
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Jake Robinson
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PostMon May 18, 2020 6:40 pm 
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I've always wanted to visit Great Basin NP. Its green, alpine environment sits in stark contrast to the surrounding desert. Wheeler Peak (13067') is the highpoint of the park and last weekend seemed like a good time to give it a shot.

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive was closed at the Mather Overlook (9200'). Instead of parking there and walking 5 miles of pavement each way to the summer TH, we decided to start at the Upper Lehman Creek CG (more gain, less miles, and no road walking). Selena and I met Alden just outside the campground gate and were hiking by 6:30 AM on Saturday.

The first few miles on the Lehman Creek Trail was snow-free and pleasant as we gained elevation to the Wheeler Peak CG. Here we encountered patchy snow, but we were able to avoid most of the snow patches up to Stella Lake.

First views from the Lehman Creek Trail: Jeff Davis and Wheeler
First views from the Lehman Creek Trail: Jeff Davis and Wheeler
Jeff Davis and Wheeler
Jeff Davis and Wheeler
Stella Lake
Stella Lake

From Stella Lake we decided to shortcut the standard summer trail and boot straight up the NW couloir. We ascended choss to the couloir and then great, firm snow (used crampons) for over a thousand feet up the couloir to the trail on Wheeler's NW ridge. Once on the ridge we followed the trail up talus and snow to the summit. This is the first time I've been above 13k and barely noticed the altitude, probably helps to have been living at 6k for the last few months.

Talus above Stella Lake
Talus above Stella Lake
Entering the couloir
Entering the couloir
Climbing the couloir. Partially frozen Stella lake visible lower left. Mount Moriah beyond.
Climbing the couloir. Partially frozen Stella lake visible lower left. Mount Moriah beyond.
Selena at the ridge
Selena at the ridge
Climbing the ridge
Climbing the ridge
Looking back down the ridge
Looking back down the ridge
Summit views looking south to Baker Peak's north face
Summit views looking south to Baker Peak's north face
Summit ridge
Summit ridge

From Wheeler, we followed the ridge about a mile to Jeff Davis. Pretty chossy, lots of loose talus. It was very windy on the summit of Jeff Davis.

Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis
Descending Wheeler talus
Descending Wheeler talus
Afternoon storm clouds building. Fortunately, nothing materialized.
Afternoon storm clouds building. Fortunately, nothing materialized.
Typical terrain on the traverse
Typical terrain on the traverse
Climbing up to Jeff Davis
Climbing up to Jeff Davis
Selena with Baker
Selena with Baker
Summit view north
Summit view north

Originally I'd planned to descend Jeff Davis' NW couloir, but the top looked steep and chossy. Instead we descended NNE for a bit until we hit snow. The rock on Jeff Davis is very, very loose and we were happy to reach snow only 100' or so below the summit. We downclimbed the snow for 100' and then enjoyed an awesome 1500' glissade until we ran out of snow in the talus basin below.

Descending garbage rock on Jeff Davis
Descending garbage rock on Jeff Davis
Downclimbing
Downclimbing
Action shot, with our glissade path above
Action shot, with our glissade path above

Once we hit rock, we traversed west towards a trail that was marked on our map. It was somewhat tedious with all the postholing and talus-hopping. Midway though, we stumbled upon an amazing grove of old Bristlecone Pine trees. We had no idea this grove existed and it was a pleasant surprise, perhaps the highlight of the day, and a great way to break up the tedium of the talus.
The slope we came down
The slope we came down
Amazing Bristlecone Pine grove
Amazing Bristlecone Pine grove
Wheeler Peak's northeast face
Wheeler Peak's northeast face

Eventually we hit the trail and started hiking back towards the Wheeler Peak CG. Pretty quickly we hit snow here, so rather than wade through the snow on the trail, we decided to make a beeline for the CG. We plowed through about 300' of unconsolidated mush until we hit bare, flat ground, and the CG shortly thereafter. From there to the cars was an hour of pleasant on-trail hiking. What a great day, we were all taken aback by the beauty of this place.

Later that evening, Alden headed home and Selena and I drove up to the Mather Overlook to check out the views.
Jeff Davis and Wheeler from the Mather Overlook.
Jeff Davis and Wheeler from the Mather Overlook.

The next day, Selena and I hiked up to Snake Creek Divide and an unnamed highpoint near the divide (point 10495'). Nice views, but very windy. Point 10495' was a minor Aspen-schwack.
Wheeler and Jeff Davis
Wheeler and Jeff Davis
hiking up point 10495'
hiking up point 10495'

Great Basin NP exceeded all of our expectations. It's a long way from anywhere, but well worth a visit if you have the time.

Wheeler and Jeff Davis GPS Track. 14 miles, 6000' gain, though it would be much shorter when the road is open to the end.
Wheeler and Jeff Davis GPS Track. 14 miles, 6000' gain, though it would be much shorter when the road is open to the end.
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raising3hikers
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PostMon May 18, 2020 6:52 pm 
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Yeah, I was hoping you posted a TR for this trip. It's high on my out of state trips list

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Eric Eames
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cascadetraverser
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PostMon May 18, 2020 7:14 pm 
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Who would of thought such a nice place existed in Nevada given what else exists in that state....
Really nice place to visit this time of the year, very nice TR! Thanks for posting.
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Eric Hansen
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PostMon May 18, 2020 7:30 pm 
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Thanks Jake! I've been there a half dozen times and will gladly return. Also been on Moriah several times, once a Memorial Day ski trip (in a big snow year). Wheeler may be taller but Moriah is the real power peak in the Snake Range. Also very worthwhile is the Deep Creek Range (Snake Range's northern extension in far western Utah).

Memorial Day is often optimal to be there. Snow on the crest becoming manageable for ridge runs but still supplying drinking water that can be problematic on the ridge later.

One neat trip at Great Basin. Ascend the S. Fork of Baker Cr. trail southward. From the junction with the Snake Creek Trail head off trail due south past Dead Lake. Continue due south (off trail) and ascend Mt. Washington's east ridge. Follow the ridge top west towards the crest. Just before the crest is a bristlecone grove that is an art gallery. Great place to sleep.

Follow the crest north towards Wheeler over pleasant terrain with occasional minor talus. Some not so nice couch sized talus on Baker Peak's west side to be traversed. Then it is pleasant scrambling on Wheeler's south ridge to the summit. Descending the standard Wheeler Peak trail (or alternative route) to the Lehman Creek Trail will bring you down to the Lehman Creek Campground at 8,000'. A shuttle is needed between there and the Baker Creek Trailhead where the trip starts.
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Jake Robinson
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PostMon May 18, 2020 7:43 pm 
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Thanks guys!

Eric H: Thanks for the reply! That sounds like a fantastic trip. I wish we had more than a day and half to spend there. Moriah or a Baker/Johnson Lake loop were discussed as an option for Sunday, but we just didn't have enough time to make it work. I visited the Deep Creek Range last month on a snowshoe trip up Ibapah Peak, that is another amazing place. The Great Basin is growing on me and I feel very fortunate to have visited some of the highlights, I certainly hope to return someday for an extended trip.
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RichP
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PostMon May 18, 2020 8:16 pm 
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Oh yeah. Hoping to take a trip down there soon.
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timberghost
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PostTue May 19, 2020 5:33 am 
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rbuzby
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PostTue May 19, 2020 10:06 am 
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Nice trip!

That pine grove has the remnants of the one of the oldest trees ever found.  A researcher cut it down (with permission) before realizing how old it was.  Ooops.

When I was hiking in the area I talked to a Park Ranger who told me she couldn't tell me where the stump was (I didn't ask), because they don't want people going to look at it and damaging it.  I thought that was ironic.  Closing the barn door too late, kind of thing.

A few years ago someone found an old rifle leaning up against a tree in that park. It was from the 1870's, I think.  It's in the park museum now.

Be sure to check out Lehman caves when visiting this park. The tour is worth it.  Spectacular formations in there.

Hiking up Wheeler is awesome.  Thin air.  And so windy.
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geyer
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PostTue May 19, 2020 6:06 pm 
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I had a similar experience in GBNP - it exceeded my expectations by a lot! It was also cool running into that rock glacier and bristlecone pine grove. I had originally planned to go up on a direct route from some mine on the west side but it felt kind of sketchy so I drove around to the east side and I'm glad I did.

So you've hit the sawtooths, rubies, snake, great basin, wasatch... what's next? Uintas? Beartooths? Winds?
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Sallie4jo
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PostWed May 20, 2020 12:50 pm 
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And a third to say..it's a great and history interesting place...the stars at night are amazing and the when i visited it was quite rustic..which i loved..few people..no amenities..wonderland.

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I choose to live in a landscape of hope.
                           Terry Tempest Williams
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Bluebird
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PostThu May 21, 2020 5:47 am 
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flat stanley enjoys the wheeler summit
flat stanley enjoys the wheeler summit

great trip, i sincerely loved the area 😍❤️🥰 i wish we had more time there but responsibilities called!
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Eric Hansen
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PostThu May 21, 2020 9:07 pm 
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Jake, wanted to mention one valuable resource, a guidebook: "Hiking the Great Basin" by John Hart.
He has fabulous, tantalizing descriptions (and great routes!) of the landscapes of western Utah, Nevada and Eastern California. I've followed his recommendations many times and never regretted it. If he raves about a place I want to see it.
Only caution is the original version is a little dated in some descriptions, and I haven't seen the revised updated version.

If you are returning to the Wheeler Peak area you may want to save a day for Notch Peak (you may have spotted it to the east of Wheeler). Humongous, Yosemite size cliffs, but a walkup from the east side. It's in the Snake Range's rain shadow, Utah's west desert, and dry.
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Distel32
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PostSat May 23, 2020 9:48 pm 
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Awesome; follow EricH's advice for the Bristlecone grove on Snake Divide and doing the ridge traverse.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Great Basin NP - Wheeler, Jeff Davis, Snake Creek Divide - 5/16-17/20
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