There are old double tracks going up Mount Wheeler on the northeast and southwest corners but no tracks on the southeast side so any exploration of this area means hiking up, crossing a grazing fence, then winding up open forest slopes up to the top. We started on the Pruden Pass Road and followed a double track in the Lac du Bois Protected Area, then we took a northwest bearing, leaving the grasslands and started the climb in the open pine and fir forest of Mount Wheeler.
There is no summit point on Mount Wheeler. The highest area of the mountain is a series of rolling, forested hills. To get a good view, we have to hike over to the tops of bluffs on the south and west sides.
While exploring the top of the mountain, we found a series of volcanic cliffs, all facing south. We hiked down the slopes next to the cliffs.
The south-facing slopes of Mount Wheeler are rockier than the southeast side so the hike downhill was slower. There were no trails whatsoever in this 4 square kilometer area, but we saw some birds, some animal scats, new spring growth, rock features, old snags, wildlife trees, two freshly filled ponds, and plant life characteristic of 3 ecosystems – the upper grasslands, ponderosa pine savannah, and montane forest.
Hiking off-trail in this kind of area is slower than usual. We covered 8 km, but it took about 3.5 hours. We started in fine weather, but finished with grey skies coming in. We hike Mount Wheeler every year, varying the season each time. We will be back in the fall to explore the rugged cliffs on the west side of Mount Wheeler.