Wheeler Toiyabe LVMC Hike

pics by Harlan W. S. & Chris M.
June 27, 2009


Driving directions are below.

No, this isn’t that Wheeler.

This is one of the most obscure summits in the Spring Mountains; I was last there 5 years ago. We originally left the option of climbing Willow as well, but it was a warm day… with another complication described below in the Narrative.



This approach near Pahrump requires

a 20 mile drive on gravel roads.  If you

have a very capable 4WD, you can

take the shorter road from the N.


24k topo with GPS trace


Wheeler Pass hasn’t a lick of shade,

and is often very windy. However, there

are many good shaded campsites

0.5 to 4 miles south.





View to Willow on the E side of pass.


Near the first lump are angular

quartzite blocks.


Palmer penstemon.





Utah penstemon.


Bill travels past purple sage.

Willow peak center background,

with Mummy at L and Charleston at R.


Chris calls Frank to tell him about

the campsites.





View back over the approach ridge (R)

Willow (L), Pass in middle.







Heading home on ridge; Wheeler to N in back.



Chris gingerly climbs down






We had left open the possibility of climbing both Willow and Wheeler (in fact, I had climbed Willow in gale-force winds the previous weekend; I wanted to check the road and route, as I hadn’t been there in 6 years).  Alas, it was a warmer than I had planned, with no reliable breeze and hardly a cloud to cut out the brutal sun.  And there was another complication.


Five days before, I had started taking a prostate drug.  It was supposed to be obvious within 3 days if I could tolerate the drug, so I thought I was clear.  I have a storied history of taking prostate drugs before epic adventures, always after doctor assurances that I will be fine, always with bad outcomes.


Unfortunately, I don’t fit the typical profile of men taking prostate drugs.  For one thing, my blood pressure is low-moderate; for another I do stuff that is not within the range most doctors consider for “rigorous exercise”.


This drug lowers blood pressure, and the 17.1% incidence of “dizziness and vertigo” was 100% for me. I almost passed out several times on descent; I kept alert by flexing muscles and metaphorically pinching myself.  And when I once more hit the flat and dropped my guard, I passed out for a fraction of a second and fell on my pack.


Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me 4 times (my batting average with prostate medications), shame, shame, shame on me!


Another feature of this hike, which has become more common, was that people dropped out at the last moment.  We ended up with just 3, which was actually probably good, as it was brutal in the sun, and had the added medical issues.


Driving Directions from Mountain Springs

First, note that Mountain Springs is about 10 miles west (on state road 160) from the intersection of sr 160 and sr 159. This intersection is where the “Blue Diamond Highway” cuts NW by the town of Blue Diamond and eventually Red Rock Scenic Loop. (“Blue Diamond Highway” is confusing terminology, since this “highway” really consists of parts of sr 159 and sr 160.)  At the high point of Mountain Springs, start looking for the fire station; reset the odometer to zero at the fire station.


From fire station in Mountain Springs, (NOT the FS sign), travel west for 28.2 miles (toward Pahrump) on sr 160, to a right turn on the gravel Wheeler Pass Road.  This road has a green sign on the right (N) side of sr 160, and a yellow “right turn” diamond-shaped sign on the same post.  Reset your odometer as you make this right turn.


(Just before the Wheeler turn, there is a sign for Gamebird Road—don’t take that turn, but start to anticipate when you see that sign.)


Go NNE on the Wheeler Pass Road.  At 4.4 miles, the road will turn abruptly left, descend into a wash, and then travel up the other side, once again switch-backing to the NE.  (There is a rougher shortcut in this wash; don’t take it!). 


At 10.5 miles, turn left on a slightly worse road; this intersection is completely unsigned.  You will travel up a wash, past some impressive conglomerate rock formations, then past some crumbling, fenced-in charcoal kilns (on left).


At ~16.3 miles, you will come to a signed intersection; the road at left goes to Wheeler Well.  Keep right, on the road for Wheeler Pass.


In the next 4 miles, the road gets worse; however, with careful driving, you should never bottom out, if your car has at least modest clearance; I’ve been up here twice with my Subaru Outback (7.3” clearance), and had no problems.  The last mile is heavily switch-backed as the road climbs to the pass. 


When you reach the pass at ~20.5 miles, park on the left by the sign.  You are at 7700’ elevation; both hikes start from this point.  You can do one or both hikes, and can leave extra water in/by the car for the 2nd hike.


Willow Peak (9968’), on the east side of the pass, is mainly bare, with sparse bristlecones near the summit.  On the middle slopes, the baldness results from fires many years ago; but on the lower slopes, the fierce wind and dryness keep tall trees from becoming established.  The route can be done entirely class 2.  There is some talus.


Wheeler (9168’), on the west side of the pass, is the more remote peak; the peak is balded mainly by nature of the wind and dryness of the climate here on the west end of the Spring Mountains.  Though much lower than its namesake in Great Basin, this Wheeler is probably harder to climb.  The middle portions of the route have some brush and modest up-and-down terrain.