Nothing Like Nebo
Due to the success and satisfaction of our hike to Desolation Peak, my nephews became interested in hiking Mount Nebo, an idea I may have placed in their heads. So, on Labor Day, a select group of my family just went for it. Climbing Nebo was predictably tiring, a little scary, and totally amazing!
Mt. Nebo, at an elevation of 11,929, is the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. Sorry Timp fans, your beloved’s 11,750 feet don’t even come close.* Getting to the top of Nebo and back requires 8.5 miles of trekking and about 3,400 feet of elevation change, not too bad for a mount of that magnitude.
My dad, brother-in-law, and a couple nephews began the journey with us early from the Mona Pole Trailhead. The weather was predicted to be cold. Temperatures in the 30s at the top and 20-MPH winds were possible. We brought beanies and as many jackets as we could stuff in our packs; they turned out to be unnecessary. The conditions stayed pleasant and temperatures remained in the 60s for most of our hike. This trail did not come with shade, at least not much, so the cooler temperatures were perfect in combination with that constant sun exposure.
It took us eight hours to make the roundtrip trek to Nebo’s northern false summit, more commonly known as Wolf Pass Peak. Wolf Pass Peak has an elevation of 11,440 feet, almost 500 feet less than the true summit.
Why didn’t we make it to the true summit when it was only half a mile away? Excellent question. Well, two members of our party had to turn around 30 minutes before we reached the apex of Wolf Pass Peak due to a poorly-scheduled music lesson. Hence, my dad was placed in charge of my nephew’s safety, a responsibility that made him nervous thanks to the omnipresent drop-offs. (I don’t remember my dad being edgy about taking his kids out on questionable precipices when I was young.) He wasn’t about to scramble to the true summit while on guardian duty.
Jason and I considered going to the true summit, the North Peak, without my dad and nephew, after all we were only about 45 minutes from the tippy top, but sense eventually got the better of us. Here’s the thing, the terrain between Wolf Pass Peak and the North Peak on Nebo is scary. It’s what mountaineers call “a knife edge.” Why? Because it looks as thin as a blade and feels even more dangerous. On a knife edge, you will find an overabundance of diluted air instead of ground at your feet.
We asked a couple descending groups about their summit experience to ascertain if the trail was as daunting as it looked. The first couple we questioned told us that going to the summit was the most frightening incident of their lives. The next group said it wasn’t as bad as Kings Peak or Timpanogos, both mountains we’ve scaled without issue. These conflicting accounts didn’t help us guess the correct amount of dread we should be feeling.
We decided to try continuing but after about five minutes of carefully treading through rocky twirls where a misstep could mean taking a swift shortcut to the bottom, I realized I was likely to have a height-induced panic attack and that wouldn’t decrease my chances of hurting myself. Hence, we settled for Wolf Pass Peak and made it back undamaged.
It was a fantastic hike with jaw-dropping views that I got to enjoy with my fantastic family. Sometimes the tough things in life are the easiest.
I would recommend this trek to any stout-hearted nature-lover, with a caution to evaluate skills and conditions before jumping on the path from Wolf Pass Peak to the true summit.
* “Close” has been defined here as 178 feet for the purpose of me being right.