|Basic Winter Guide||Climbing Wheeler Peak||Cross Country Ski||Technical Climbing|
Visitors planning to spend time in the backcountry are urged to register at the front desk of the Visitor Center. The backcountry registration system is voluntary but it is recommended that visitors register for their safety.
Lower Lehman Campground remains open for the winter season. The RV dump station closes for the winter. Water is available only at the Visitor Center (about 3 1/2 miles from the campground).
Avalanches are common at the high elevations in the Snake Range during the winter and spring months. Many ski trails cross avalanche paths and run outs. Skiers should be alert for avalanche hazards, carry proper equipment, and check with park rangers about current avalanche conditions. Winter mountaineers are urged to register at the Visitor Center.
Hypothermia is always a potential danger. It is a condition in which a person's entire body temperature is lowered. It can be avoided by wearing proper clothing and being prepared for sudden changes in the weather.
Altitude sickness is a condition brought on by ascending to high elevations too rapidly. Difficulty in breathing, nausea, headache, and lethargy are symptoms of a person experiencing altitude illness. This condition is caused by a lack of oxygen at higher elevations. A victim with altitude sickness could be in serious danger and the proper remedy is to descend to lower elevations immediately. Persons with heart conditions should avoid strenuous activity at higher elevations.
Tours of Lehman Caves are given daily throughout the winter, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Days. Outdoor activities depend on recent weather conditions. Hiking is usually possible on lower, south-facing slopes. The quarter mile Mountain View Nature Trail is the only developed trail in this zone. Snowfall is usually greater during January, February and March. These are good months to cross country ski or snowshoe in the park. It is possible to climb Wheeler Peak in winter with the proper experience.
A wide range of weather conditions may be experienced during your visit to Great Basin National Park. Winter days can range from mild (50's) to cold (high in 30's). Nightly low temperatures are often in the between 10 and 30 degrees, sometimes dropping as low as -10 degrees. Weather conditions can change rapidly, so come prepared for all possible weather.
Wind is not usually a problem for hikers or skiers in wooded valleys, but the winds at ridgelines above 10,000 feet are very often 30-40 miles per hour.
Winter Road Closures
The roads to the Park Headquarters and Visitor Center at Great Basin National Park are plowed during the winter months. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is plowed to the parking lot at the Upper Lehman Creek Campground. There is no snow removal beyond this point. The upper portion of the road closes depending on snowfall, usually November through early May.
For a winter ascent of Wheeler Peak, we recommend that you purchase the United States Geological Survey 7.5 minute 'Wheeler Peak, Nevada' and 'Windy Peak, Nevada' quadrangle maps. They are available from the United States Geological Survey, the Great Basin Association by mail order 775-234-7270, or at the park Visitor Center.
Winter access to Wheeler Peak is starts at Upper Lehman Creek Campground. Most parties take two days to make the ascent. The first day they hike up to Lehman Creek Trail and camp at the Wheeler Peak Campground. The second day is spent climbing the summit and returning back down the Lehman Creek Trail. p> There are two routes to Wheeler Peak Campground from Upper Lehman. The most direct is the 4.5 mile Lehman Creek Trail. The alternative is a 10 mile trek along the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Elevation gain is approximately 2,200 feet.
The standard route to the summit from the Wheeler Peak Campground generally follows the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail to the vicinity of Stella Lake, and then branches to the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail. This route ascends westward from Wheeler Peak Campground to a saddle, and from there up the broad north ridge of the mountain. Distance to the summit is approximately 5 miles and the elevation gain is about 3,300 feet.
Typically, the lower elevations are relatively snow free. However, in Wheeler Peak Campground and along the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, 3 to 6 feet of snow can accumulate. Above the treeline, the north ridge is wind swepth and fairly clear. While the lower and upper portions of the ascent are hikable during most years, the middle portion requires either skis or snowshoes.
The standard route up Wheeler Peak is not technically difficult. However, skiing can be dangerous in places. It is easy to get off route and into steep terrain with numerous cliffs, especially when descending in poor visibility. The weather can be severe, even on clear days. Count on cold temperatures, high winds and wind chill factors. Sudden storms are not uncommon. Winter climbers should carry proper equipment and be aware of avalanche danger.
Please stop at the Visitor Center before your climb to check on avalanche conditions and obtain a current weather forecast. It is highly recommend that you complete a voluntary backcountry registration form before your trip
The area in and around Great Basin National Park sees a very limited amount of technical rock climbing. The hazardous nature of the rock is the main contributor to this as well as the remoteness of the sites. All routes in the Wheeler Peak area are objectively hazardous with deadly rockfall at all times of year.
When climbing in Great Basin National Park, please remember that the park was established to preserve its outstanding resources and significant geological and scenic values. All biological, cultural and mineral resources, including rocks, should be protected and preserved in their natural state. To help complete this task we ask you to heed the following regulations:
Also remember to obtain a cave permit before you climb or rapell into any cave within the park. Permit information may be obtained by calling the park at 775-234-7331.
Registration for technical climbing activities is voluntary at Great Basin National Park. However, climbers are strongly encouraged to register especially those attempting any of the alpine routes. Registration forms provide crucial information for rescue personnel. Leaders may register for climbs at the visitor center. Information on known routes is also available at the Visitor Center.
Please climb clean! If using chalk select a color which blends in with the rock (most of the rock in this area is a greyish limestone) and any webbing or cord being used as a rapell anchor should also blend into the surroundings (leave the hot pink at home). Remember the use of fixed protection is prohibited.
Rescue resources are very limited and frequently unavailable or hours away in and around Great Basin National Park. Parties should always be capable of self-rescue. If someone is injured or seriously overdue, contact a park ranger or a campground host. If a ranger cannot be found, pay phones are available at the Visitor Center and in Baker. Dial 911 to get help.
Skiing can open new doors of discovery to a winter wilderness. Solitude, stillness and spectacular scenery greet skiers in Great Basin National Park. Novice skiers can find gentle slopes for touring or experienced ski mountaineers can challenge their skills on steep and deep backcountry runs. Snow conditions range from wet or hard packed snow to fresh dry powder. while skiing, look around to familiarize yourself with the surroundings for the return trip. Follow your progress on a map of the area. Know your abilities and limitations. Check at the Visitor Center for information about trail conditions
For your safety:
Hypothermia is a life threatening emergency that can occur in any season. The body cannot keep itself warm, due to exhaustion and exposure to cold, wet, windy weather. Symptoms are uncontrolled shivering, poor muscle control, incoherent speech, lethargy. apparent exhaustion and careless attitude. Help the victim immediately. To treat, put on dry clothing, drink warm liquids, warm victim by body contact with another person, protect from wind, rain, and cold.
Winter Check list
|Baker Creek Road||Easy to Intermediate||Depending on snow conditions, skiers can tour along the Baker Creek Road to the trailhead. Round trip: six miles; Skiers can continue beyond the trailhead along Baker Creek. Route finding is often difficult. Round trip: ten miles or more.|
|Lehman Creek||Intermediate to Advanced||From the parking lot at Upper Lehman Creek Campground, skiers can follow the Lehman Creek trail west to the Wheeler Peak Campground. The trail is sometimes difficult to follow and the descent can be fast and treacherous with low overhanging branches. Round trip: eight miles|
|Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive||Easy to Intermediate||Begin skiing at the parking lot at Upper Lehman Creek Campground. Follow the unplowed road to the Wheeler Peak Campground. The road-is often windblown and in spots free of snow and may require some walking. The descent can be fast and icy. Round trip: twenty miles (to Wheeler Peak Campground)|
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