Mount Tom, North Ridge Attempt in Spring

Mount Tom and its long North Ridge

The Sierra's Mount Tom isn't a 14er, but it should be. At 13,652 feet, and hovering over the western edge of the Owens Valley near Bishop, California, Mount Tom is a monstrous mountain. Its 5-mile long north ridge, which requires some 8,000+ feet of elevation gain, was not climbed in the winter until 1997...and it was apparently a grueling endeavor.
On the way up to our camp

In spring 2005, Rick Kent, Paul Allegretti and I set out to give the ridge a stab under heavy snow conditions. After hoisting our heavy packs on our backs and starting up near the northeastern toe of the ridge, we carried a couple thousand feet until we found a flat spot to set camp. Already finding the snow on the approach loose and tedious, with went to sleep not entirely confident.
CP heading up obnoxiously inconsistent snow

The next morning, we woke before dawn, donned our crampons, and started up the ridge. Ten feet out of camp, I began to posthole in pockets of wet snow. Replacing crampons with snowshoes, I soon encountered ice. Again donning my crampons, more postholing.

After hours of frustratingly little gain, the sun was shining and we were still some 2,500 feet below the summit. I'd lost all enthusiasm. Rick and Paul were only marginally more motivated to continue. And so we called it...

...It's perhaps worth noting that Rick, still unsuccessful in climbing Mount Tom's north ridge in winter conditions (as I am), returned in winter 2008 to try again. Again, he failed. Not an easy route.

*Photos courtesy of Rick Kent