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Weather, Off Route, Inadequate Clothing, Hypothermia, Nevada, Great Basin National Park


Nevada, Great Basin National Park

On July 20, 1987, Nelson Keyes, age 58, set out to ascend Wheeler Peak (3982 meters). During the descent, Keyes became disoriented in a severe storm and lost the trail. Other park visitors hiking the Stella and Teresa lakes vicinity reported hearing cries for help from approximately 1430 until 1515. A search was initiated after Keyes’ unoccupied campsite was found at the Wheeler Peak Campground. Search efforts were hampered by the winterlike storm conditions that ensued for the next 48 hours. Keyes succumbed to hypothermia and his body was located on July 22, 1987, approximately 200 meters east of the Wheeler Peak Trail at 3658 meters. (Source: Mike Nicklas, Park Ranger, Great Basin National Park)


An ascent of Wheeler Peak is not technically difficult; however, the peak experiences severe storms accompanied by high winds any month of the year. Wheeler Peak, located in Great Basin National Park (America’s newest), is attractive to visitors desiring an alpine experience. Hikers should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and are urged to register with park rangers. (Source: Mike Nicklas, Park Ranger, Great Basin National Park)

Editor's Note: Though not a climbing accident, this report is presented because it indicates a hazard for climbers to heed in this new park.