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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hike to Mount Nebo (Middle Peak)

Some people sleep in on their Sundays.  

Maybe lounging around in bed until you decide to wake up and cook up some breakfast.  Or maybe sleeping in late enough to catch the tail end of a boozey brunch.  If you are one of those people, I kind of envy you.  I am not calling you out, I just wish I was able to do that a little more often.  However, I lack the necessary skill called "Relaxation".  So when the Outdoor Meetup Group plans an early Sunday morning hike to climb the highest peak in the Wasatch, you sign right up.  Even after last weeks long Sunday hike, and even after the days before mountain biking, horseback riding, and house warming party adventures.  Even when you know you have tickets to a 8pm concert on a Sunday night. 

Oh, and when I say early on a Sunday morning, I mean 5:45 am alarm kind of early.  We were planning on meeting at 8am at the trailhead and I was picking up Amanda down in Pleasant Grove along the way.   I did this hike with about 6-8 friends from a meetup group, a few of our dogs, and had an absolute blast attempting to summit Nebo with a group of  awesome Nebo "first timers". 

Trailhead:  6:15 am on a Sunday morning we hit the road.  It was about 1:45 from downtown Salt Lake City to the trailhead.  Just under 2 hours one way to get to Mona Pole Road off of the Nebo Loop Road for this hike.  Maybe the farthest "local" hike yet but I promise it is worth the drive. 

 Take the Payson Exit (250 off I-15 S) and follow the signs for Nebo Loop Road.  Look for the Monument Trailhead parking area to the right off the Nebo Loop Road about 25 miles from the exit.  It will take you a lot longer than you think once you hit the Nebo Loop Road.  If you are impatient and anxious like me, you will start to convince yourself you passed the trailhead and yell at your phone when a lack of cell reception does not help you.

 Start looking for the trailhead after you pass the elevation sign marking that you are at 9,345'.  If you haven't hit 9,345', you aren't there yet.  Yes, you start the hike that high and it really takes that long into Nebo Loop Road. Shortly after passing that marker, you will see a large paved parking lot called Monument Trailhead with a bathroom.  You can start the hike here, but there is a closer option.  Drive down to the closer trailhead which is down Mona Pole Road.  At the same turn as the Monument Trailhead parking lot, you will see the dirt road Mona Pole Road.  Follow this dirt road a short ways to a large dirt parking lot where you will see the sign pictured below "Mona Pole Road" and the trailhead. 

Distance and Elevation:  I clocked this hike at about 9 miles round trip with elevation gain of 3,153' from the trailhead at Mona Pole Road to the peak of Middle Peak of Nebo.  We were unable to make it to the true (highest) peak South Nebo due to the snow and ice on the peak.  Add on another mile or so if you are making it all the way to the true Mount Nebo Peak.  We ended at the Middle Peak right before South Nebo.  
Either way, you start in the 9,000's and end in the 11,000's.
Its a workout. 

Dogs and Kids:  Yes to the dogs, no to the kids.  This trail climbs a lot of elevation, with some very steep sections and varied terrain.  Dogs are allowed on the trail but make sure to bring them water as you will not find any water along the way.  I also recommend putting an orange vest on your dog (especially this time of year) as we passed a lot of deer, turkey, and hunters on the drive and on the trail.  

Now lets talk about this trail.  

Wait, lets back it up one step further and talk about this area.  The Nebo Loop Road was absolutely stunning.  The drive to the trailhead was long (and slow, on this windy curving road full of critters), but was so beautiful.  A last bit of fall clung on to the trees, and we constantly had to stop and let the deer and turkeys cross the road.  

When you finally reach the trailhead, the dirt parking lot off Mona Pole Road, you are greeted with snowy peaks.  And the best part?  These are false peaks, Nebo is still behind that peak.  (Que the sighs, and wonder as why you decided to wake up this early and climb a peak that is so high you cant see it behind this other super tall peak).

We packed our hiking bags, bundled up (yes, it was in the 30's with some serious wind at the summit) and headed up the trail.  On this note:  Thatcher tried to blame me for not telling him to wear shorts.  (I really assumed this was a given and was too busy getting ready for this hike to try to dress him too).  

I had to remind him he was a 31 year old grown man.  He also knew we were hiking early, and to the highest peak in the Wasatch.  This is a lesson I have learned after many trips to the chilly Uintas.  Despite whatever temperature it is in the city, it is going to be much colder in the mountains.  Especially at 11,000'.  Especially in the end of October.  Especially at 8am.  Sorry Thatch.  I did remind him of the soccer socks in the car and I think he may have finally learned his lesson. 

I really loved catching one last glimpse of fall colors.  The yellows of the aspens were holding on a little longer to fall.  Thank you Utah.  The yellow aspens set against all of the mountains, valleys and peaks made for some beautiful pictures. Swoon swoon swoon.  

After reading reviews and talking to friends, I rented a pair of hiking poles for this hike.  The hiking poles were especially useful in the steep uphill and downhill on the trail.  The hiking poles were also really helpful when trudging through the snow and muddy areas.  If only I remembered my micro spikes.....

At this point in the trial, we really started to climb fast, and were met with the snow.  Of course, I forgot my micro spikes but thankfully didnt seem to have a problem through the snow on this part of the trail.  I also hike with my spikey solomans which really help give me grip on the trails.  

The views along this hike were breathtaking from the start to the end.  From the drive up the road all the way to the peak.  This is the kind of trail where you enjoy the beauty from the start to the finish.  It is not just a destination hike. The scenery keeps changing from snowy peaks to farmland below.  Until finally you start to see the peaks. 

We made our way along the ridge, with intentions of making it to that farthest peak, Mt Nebo.  Nebo is the tallest peak in the wasatch range with its 11,928′ summit.  Mount Timpanogos , my favorite Utah Hike is the second tallest peak in the Wasatch at 11,752 ft.  Timp is also a much longer hike at 15 miles round trip.  While Timp is still my favorite, Nebo was a close second.  

This picture kind of shows you some of the steep climbs we had to face to make it to Middle Nebo.  Olive is making her way up the trail with her pack, trying to sniff out any deer in the area.  We stopped for a quick picture before making the ascent up to this false peak.  Nebo is hiding behind it! 

As for me, I love my Soloman trail running shoes (they are extra grippy for slippery trails).  They are also really sturdy and I love love love hiking in these shoes.  For my bad, I bring my Osprey Mira on the longer trips.  It comes with a bladder, several great pockets, and even has a built in rain cover for the bag.  Best part? Made and designed to fit a womans body :) Find it here or at the end of the post. 

The dogs had such a blast on this trail.  Rupert and Jax were amazing trail dogs and had a blast wrestling on even the highest of peaks.  Olive spent the majority of the time one her leash as she was acting quite psychotic with all the deer in the area.  I decided I rather be safe than sorry.  A coon hound mix lost in the woods 2 hours away with no cell reception would make for a pretty miserable Sunday.  On or off leash, Olive has a blast hiking and playing with the other dogs. 

On long hikes, I am always thankful for Olives awesome Ruffwear Pack.  Ruffwear is an amazing brand and I buy their leashes, collars and harnesses.  If you want a reliable pack for your dog, you can find it here or at the bottom of the post.

Alas, we had made it to Middle Nebo. All that was left was to follow that insanely thin snowy icey  ridge line with steep pitches off each side where you plummet to your death.  We had lunch here to gain some energy and reflect on if we should make the final ascent to the true summit.  

As you can see by tiny pink Mya in this picture, it is a steep climb on a thin ridge with snow and ice.  Unfortunately I forgot my spikes so I was already feeling quite uncomfortable about making this ascent in the snow.  While deciding at the middle peak, I talked to fellow hikers in our group about a decision to climb or stay.  We were about 50/50, especially those of us without spikes.  The deal breaker for me was when one of the hikers in our group decided he was putting safety first as he had lost two friends on a different hiking trail with this sort of steep and unsteady terrain.

The second deal breaker was from a guy I met here at Middle Nebo while deciding.  He arrived shortly after our group and had decided not to ascend with the snow and ice.  He had hiked Nebo before, and was on a mission to "bag" all the peaks above 11,000' in Utah.  To date, he had climbed 27 of the I think he mentioned 31 peaks over 11,000' in Utah.  If he isnt going..... Hell I am not going.

And the third deal breaker was from a group of elite trail runners  (who had run the entire way to Middle Nebo?!) and who started for the summit and soon turned back due to the conditions.  Three strikes and I am out.  I decided safety first was going to be my motto today.  And Middle Nebo (adjacent to Mount Nebo) was just as beautiful, had insanely gorgeous views, and still towered at 11,450'.  

I am a true true believer in the fact that you have to respect these mountains.  Respect their beauty, and their ability to turn any hike into a really bad day.  Respect that I am already at 11,450; and I am happy healthy and so lucky to hike a mountain like this.  Hiking to that summit was just a matter of pride, and I don't need bragging rights.  Making the smart safe decision is something I will brag about. 

A couple of our members tried to make the ascent and turned back as well, while one group member Chris made the ascent to the top. Looking back I am glad in my decision to not summit.  Definitely a hike to come back and do in the summer, when snow and ice doesn't turn a challenging peak into a dangerous one. 

After snapping our shots on the Middle Nebo Peak, we turned around for the long journey home.  What makes this hike unique, is that it really isn't a straight up  to the peak and straight down to the car kind of hike.  There are "rolling hills" along the whole way.  What this means, is that you will get some good uphill work even on your way back.  Which I have to say is almost a welcomed relief from all that  slipper downhill. 

Hiking to Middle Nebo was a gorgeous hike.  It has absolutely made its way into my top 5 Utah list.  It pushed me to overcome some fears of heights, while clambering up to some of the peaks.  It also gave me a chance to make new friends, and chat with some great people along the way.  We talked about rescue dogs, and life back East (yep, one hiker was from Avon, Connecticut and another from Rhode Island).  I also caught up with my hiking buddy Amanda who hiked Red Pine Lake with me and several dog hikes.  Hiking with great company and insanely cute dogs really makes the experience that much better.  

Most importantly, I learned an important lesson in making safe and smart decisions.  And remembering to always respect each mountain I climb.  Nebo, you were beautiful and I will be back to make it all the way to the top! 

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1 comment :

  1. Great pics! Looked pretty snowy. Probably a good thing you turned around. Alicia


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