I always struggle with decisions. There are just to many good options for what seems like not enough time. Having won the Cholla Challenge multiple times in the past, I really wanted to go down and race. Test out the house work/ski training plan on the bike fitness. I rode the MTB to work on Friday and felt great, making the decision even harder. But being Easter weekend and with my long lost brother Kyle and his family coming to town for the annual family weenie roast/egg hunt/fight I would have had to drive down Saturday morning by myself, race, and then drive straight home. Not a great way to spend a weekend.
Adding additional layers to the decision conundrum was the "brothers" plan to ski Nebo in the new snow.
I don't always make the right decision, but I did this time.
At 11,928 feet Mt Nebo is the highest peak on the Wasatch Front and is home to possibly the longest sustained ski decent in Utah. With the low elevation starting point on the West side just above Mona you have the potential for a 6000 ft continuous ski run, depending on snow conditions. The recent cold spring storm would only help our chances of a 6k descent.
The brothers, Jared, Sam, and Arron met Andy and I in Mona at 5:30am. It was cloudy but calm and we were concerned about the storm scheduled to push through in the late morning. Who knows maybe Nebo is far enough South to avoid the brunt of it.
We found the dirt road to get under the freeway and headed to the mouth of Pole Canyon. We had to park at about 6100 ft due to snow on the road and started skinning right from the car.
As we climbed up the canyon the snow and wind increased to the point that even though it was now daylight it was not much lighter, and visibility was actually worse. We hit a sub ridge that would take us up to the main Nebo ridge but at about 10,500' the NW winds were pushing the front through and we could barely stand up. We ducked off the ridge to regroup and found some trees to hunker down behind. We were getting cold despite going uphill and I had at least 5 layers on including short sleeve base, long sleeve base, my home made wind stopper vest, winter shell, and down puffy. The guys wearing tights today were really hating it.
So what do you do when you get cold, off course you start a fire! Its always good to practice your survival skills and what better place than while perched on he side of a mountain in a blizzard.
We had a lighter and about 30 regular matches. We also had a little paper but refused to use it. 1st we dug a large shelf into the snow, as much to stay warm as to have some shelter and a place to build a fire. Time is critical in emergency situations, and although we could just ski down to the car at anytime we treated this like a do or die situation. Everyone had there responsibilities in building the bivy site. We all took turns digging to stay warm, Voile shovels really are the best if you actually have to do some real digging. Andy and I were the fire starters, Sam kept his skis on so he could hunt for dry pine needles and gather wood, Jared climbed trees to test the agility of his ski boots, and Arron was officially in charge of Klondike derby jokes.
Somehow we managed to start a raging fire and all warmed up with hopes that the front would pass and things would calm down. Things cleared for a minute and we made our summit bid. Once on the main ridge the winds started nukin again and the visibility soured, but at least we were on the ridge and new all we had to do as follow it to the top.
For the route down we chose the NW Coulior which starts just North of the summit and allowed us to ski the steep upper ramp right into its opening. The top 3rd was wind blasted but once in the protection of the rock walls it was full to the brim with soft snow. All the wind blown snow made us a little leery of such a big line but multiple ski cuts produced nothing and we carefully leap froged down the chute into one of the largest apron's I have ever seen. Once off the apron we enjoyed miles of great tree skiing that dumped us out on the road which skied like a steep powder cat track.
By the time we hit the cars we had enjoyed 5900' of continuous turns and possibly the best pitch in the Wasatch!