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September 22nd – Mt. Nebo (South Summit)

May 29, 2010

Earlier in the year, in the late spring, I had stopped by Mt. Nebo.  Located a good hour’s drive south of Salt Lake City, Nebo is nevertheless very visible from the Salt Lake Valley, as its precipitous 5,488 feet of prominence makes it suddenly leap out of the mid-Utah plain. I had been repelled earlier in the year by steep snow banks, but vowed to return!

Unfortunatley, while researching the peak, I missed one very significant fact:  the southern peak, which I was about to climb, was actually 41 feet shorter than the true summit (the north peak).  I wasn’t the only one to make this mistake; until a survey in the 1970s, the southern peak was thought to be the highest.

I set out a bit before dark, ready for a serious, calf-straining climb.  I’m vexed because my rental car says it’s 28 degrees outside, which I believe, and wait until the sun can be seen on the peak above before shivering out.  The trail doesn’t disappoint, as it’s just as steep as I remember it from earlier in the year, but that’s good, too – it means I climb fast out of the basin and start getting great views within an hour of leaving the trailhead, and the fall colors were already becoming glorious. 

I find the spot where I was repelled in about an hour; unfortunately, I realize pretty quickly that I hadn’t climbed nearly as far as I thought I had.  Even though I’m almost at treeline, there’s still easily 2000 vertical feet of hiking to go!  Here’s the spot where I was turned back in the spring – you can see the angle of the slope with the trees, and I definitely made the right choice in turning back.

The view up from here shows the south summit above me, and the north summit, to the right of center, the true summit.

The trail does a combination of long switchbacks interspersed with direct approaches – here you can see some of the trail as it snakes up to the near front shoulder

Finally attaining the ridge, with about 800 vertical feet to go.  The first peak ahead is the south summit; the middle peak is a false summit between the north and south peaks; and the far one is the true, north summit.  That’s a fairly steep scree field to the right:

The trail is loose talus and scree, but at least is impossible to miss!

The view from the lee side of the false summit, looking at the south summit – the trail stays on the west side of the south ridge, skirting some small cliffs before becoming a direct, lung-burning ascent to the south summit:

From the south summit, looking north, I was perplexed because just eyeballing it, it looked like the north summit WAS higher (which it was).  Ah well, still an awesome view – in the background you can see the southern parts of the Wasatch Front, with Utah Lake in between.

The view directly to the south; the city on the right side, Nephi, is about 5,000 vertical feet below.

So, not the true summit, but with about one vertical feet up and six or so horizontal miles, still felt like a good day!

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