This still remains one of the most spectacular winter climbs I've ever done. Paticipants were Richard Patterson, who was 15 years old at the time, Peter Cambell, and myself.
The winter of 1997-1998 was a very heavy snow year. The winter was also warmer than usual, but March was much colder than usual, which wasn't good for consolidating the deep snow. Although March was much colder than usual, the weekend we did the climb was much warmer than normal. This was a curse rather than a blessing as it made the already soft snow even softer.
We parked on the road at 5330 feet. On Mt. Nebo, you start at a low elevation, so there would be about 6600 feet elevation gain. The north slopes even at this altitude were snow covered, but on the south slopes, the snow level was at about 7000 feet. We started up the ridge early in the morning. It was steep, but fairly easy going until snow line. It was warm and windy. Because of the softer than expect snow, we slowed down considerably above the snowline (the ridge is too steep for skis or snowshoes). Usually, the ridges have fairly consolidated snow in March, but it was just too warm for the snow to remain frozen. At 11AM, the snow became too deep to climb as we would sink past our bellys. We had to set up camp that early and wait for the night to freeze the snow. We were at 9,000 feet, and our goal for the day was 10,400 feet. We just sat around the rest of the day and decided to build a fire on the snow. It was too smoky, so we quickly extinguished it.
Peter was awake at 4am in the morning and started for the summit at 430. Richard and I started up the mountain at 5am, but caught up to Peter a few hours later. The climb was just spectacular. The ridge was very impressive above timberline and the rugged alpine scenery all around was surperb. At one point there was a huge cornice to circumvent. The last part of the ridge was the most spectacular section. The snow there was hard, and was mostly blown into ice-hard snow. Unfortunately, Richard didn't have crampons, and the footing was precarious. We all reached the summit in gale-force, but not too cold wind (the warm winds were preceding a strong cold front that would blast the area the next day). The wind blew my glove off and we watched it until it disappeared into the air. Next time I'll bring "idiot strings". We were feeling strong, and wanted to try the knife edge and bag all three summits (north, middle, and south), but we decided to go down to camp before the snow became too soft lower down. We had one of the best glissades ever down to camp. It was very warm for March and we walked down the mountain in shirt-sleeves.
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