Trip Report
Mount Emerson, and the Beauty of the Range of Light
Monday July 2, 2018 4:55pm
Last-minute plan for a Sierra weekend... left Los Angeles area after 9pm on Friday night, slept at Alabama Hills. Breakfast and shopping and more food and indecision in Bishop, realizing we are not in shape to survive most of the "inspiring" options I have offered, and well the stuff we are physically able to do is not that "inspiring" for me. What a dilemma! Consistent exercise could help address this- but that's for the future. Right now, it's 11am on Saturday and we are checking a stack of guidebooks while sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Bishop.

Supertopo guidebook to the rescue... Mount Emerson! We didn't find anything else in the other guidebooks (Good/Great/Awesome, Bishop, Mammoth, Fidler/Moynier) that is semi-big, to justify the long drive, that we are presently in shape to do in a day. So thanks Chris for keeping a guide that works for newbies and those who lost their way from the mountain lifestyle. We are sufficiently inspired, buy the Supertopo High Sierra book, snap a photo of the route overview and the approach/descent description, and we are heading up East Line Street toward higher beauty. I wish I took more photos of the flowers in bloom along the approach trail... other than that, we got a start at about 12:30pm from the trailhead and I'll let the pics do the rest of the talking.

At some point we encountered another party that earned bonus points by wandering way left of the route and almost reaching the summit before dead-ending and back-tracking. So we ascended together, along with another fast party who overtook us. Seems like a lot of traffic, but it is a big place and it didn't detract from the experience.

The lichen blew my mind:

As did the polemonium (sky pilot):

Bouqet in the sky:

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This descent doesn't look too long, but we didn't reach where the scree hits the forest until after 11pm! (edit: one clue is that the trees look much smaller here than is typically seen from high on the walls of a Yosemite Valley climb). Steep granite slabs and slippery sand and intermixed with rocks. Total focus to avoid falling on ass at just about every moment. Maybe when I was 20-something I would run down in a controlled avalanche and exalt in big air jumps, but at 40-something I was more concerned about not breaking or spraining something. If it was deeper scree/talus this would have been more feasible, but this was an awkward mix of mostly too thin sand on top of hard slabs and lots of rocks of other sizes. After it got dark, we also had to make sure we didn't go with the flow over one of the many drop-off edges.

Phew! Made it back to the trail!

Lovely moon over Loch Leven:

We experienced time expansion on the rest of the walk out... between burgeoning blisters and bodies protesting to change, we didn't make it back to the van until 2:30am. Wifey's priorities were a quick wet-wipes bath, clothes change, and crash to unconsciousness, while I opted for a bowl of cereal and slept in my skanky clothes. We both tore our asses a new one on this route!

I won't show you wifey's, but here's mine:

p.s. Thumbnail pic
Summit ridge of Mount Emerson
Summit ridge of Mount Emerson
Credit: NutAgain!

  Trip Report Views: 2,069
About the Author
NutAgain! is a trad climber from South Pasadena, CA.

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Boulder climber
  Jul 2, 2018 - 05:09pm PT
The photos did plenty of talking, great sequences! I love the views from that summit.


Social climber
  Jul 2, 2018 - 06:03pm PT
Nice, but you needed more duct tape!

Just livin' the dream
  Jul 2, 2018 - 07:04pm PT
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jul 2, 2018 - 07:21pm PT
Nice photos. Time to look for deals on shoes and shorts?
Love your TR's, TFPU

Trad climber
Orem, Utah
  Jul 2, 2018 - 08:25pm PT
Wow! I'm jealous. Looks like fun and gorgeous scenery. Use the rope much?

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 2, 2018 - 11:57pm PT
We brought an 8mm 60m rope rated for use as doubles. I planned to fold it in half to provide the safety of doubles for half the weight... but I forgot at the moment of tying in and just used it as a single. We were roped up immediately off the ground. I put in first piece about 20-30 feet up, and a total of about 5 pieces over several? (3? 4? 5?) rope lengths. I kept moving with the rope for a while after there were no pieces of pro between us, because it was low enough angle that I knew I wouldn't get yanked even if she fell. There was one spot that I wanted to put in something but I didn't quickly find a good placement. I tried for a minute, backed off to go a different way, came back to the first way (all within a few feet area), meanwhile the second yelled up to ask me if everything was OK. I said yeah, and just did the relatively easy move without the protection piece. It would not have been a good spot to fall. It was more a case of getting myself psyched from breaking the flow, than from real difficulty though. Overall, probably bad judgment in that one spot.

Soon thereafter, the follower asked me to unrope because of the relatively easier ground.

One spot in the middle of the route, soon after we met up with another couple who were back on track after getting off-route, involved the use of the rope. I was in front and gone up a fairly easy 5.6ish chimney with only moderate exposure on the right side of the gully, then exited and traversed out left on easy 5th but very exposed ground. I was wearing climbing shoes (Mythos) while the rest were wearing their approach shoes. I had probed in conversation with the couple, that they used the rap during N Ridge of Conness instead of down-soloing the 5.6 chimney move or two. That made me feel less comfortable about their soloing experience. So I threw down the rope after I got to a stable spot above that traverse. I would have done it if it were just my wife and I. The guy soloed up past me before I could get the rope out, his fiance used the rope, as did my wife (edit: wifey just read this and said she did not use the rope there... now I remember she just stayed behind to make sure it didn't catch anything while I pulled it up). Then the rope was packed up, and never used again.

The summit ridgeline has some beautiful exposure, to a literal knife-edge ridge at places. Some would prefer a rope along this stretch, but it would definitely slow things down more. And the ridge is sharp enough to cut skinny ropes so doubles or thicker diameter would be warranted if you did want to rope up the summit ridge.

My rope advice would be to bring it and use it when you feel like you want it, unless you are at the top of your game, and know your comfort level with making short stretches of technical moves with exposure very recently. For reference, my wife and I soloed N Ridge of Conness together (with ropes on our backs in case we felt sketched), and we soloed the majority of Matthes Crest except for the ropelength to the summit. But that was 10 years ago when we were both in better shape and more tuned into climbing. In that same era, I had also soloed Royal Arches and Tenaya Peak, and the first few pitches of NEB Higher Cathedral Rock, and various other climbs with way long run-outs.

Beware route descriptions that say stuff like "most people solo this." Use your own judgement of your own current capabilities. Living with humility is much better than dying with pride.


Boulder climber
  Jul 2, 2018 - 09:24pm PT

Big Wall climber
  Jul 3, 2018 - 07:24am PT
Da Brim!

Trad climber
  Jul 3, 2018 - 09:03am PT

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 3, 2018 - 09:14am PT
Fantastic write up Nut!

I've been climbing for 30 years now and I still roped up for much of the climb. If I recall correctly we roped up for the first 4-6 "pitches"...then we stowed it for the middle of the mountain, then pitched out 4-5 more fully roped up pitches along the summit ridge.

We too got down at night.

Lovely mountain. Thanks for sharing.

Credit: micronut

Credit: micronut

Credit: micronut
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 3, 2018 - 02:47pm PT
Some fine looking shorts there,
Should sell for top dollar at the mall!
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Jul 3, 2018 - 05:37pm PT
Another couple of mountains like that and it might be time for some new shorts.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jul 4, 2018 - 03:52am PT
Fun reading about your adventure!

Blue Ridge Mts, Shenandoah River
  Jul 4, 2018 - 05:12am PT
Well done. Enjoyed reading your TR.

Social climber
Southern Arizona
  Jul 4, 2018 - 09:21am PT
Love the lichen! The image looked like an abstract modern painting by somebody important. (Oh, wait . . . .)


Sport climber
  Jul 4, 2018 - 09:51am PT

Cool report, great photography...

You'll need a thick-skinned lederhose next time:


Jingus Newroutaineer
  Jul 4, 2018 - 10:04am PT
Got you some good tidings thar!

Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jul 4, 2018 - 10:15am PT
Beautiful, thanks!!!

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Jul 5, 2018 - 12:44pm PT
Duck tape shoes and da half brim!

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jul 5, 2018 - 03:00pm PT
You know what they say...the couple that sends together--stays together. TFPU!
selfish man

Gym climber
Austin, TX
  Jul 5, 2018 - 05:47pm PT
Fantastic TR and pictures, thanks!

We did it just a couple of weeks earlier... Thought the start was awkward and definitely warranted a rope. And ST guidebook calling it "grade II" is a bit too optimistic, even when unroped. But then again, we were poorly adjusted lowlanders.

The final ridge was amazing!
Ney Grant

Trad climber
Pollock Pines
  Jul 9, 2018 - 03:58pm PT
Beautiful! Nice TR.

Roped? My wife and I soloed this with our two dogs last year.

Oh wait, Emerson? Wrong mountain. We roped for the bottom and no dogs.

Carry on.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jul 9, 2018 - 06:35pm PT
Polemonium are beauty

Project Y
  Jul 25, 2018 - 02:46pm PT
Great TR! Loved the photos. What camera were you using?

This route has really picked up in traffic since I did it 6 years ago. I was the only person on the summit that day, although I did hear at least 1 party descending at that point.
norm larson

wilson, wyoming
  Jul 25, 2018 - 04:27pm PT
Thanks for that. Beautiful.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 25, 2018 - 07:22pm PT
I just used an iPhone! They make it dead-simple to get wide-angle shots with auto-stitching (pano mode), and they handle low light reasonably well, but they absolutely suck at anything requiring a zoom. That last one is the main reason I'd probably buy a point and shoot again if I get more time for climbing.

One bit of "special sauce" I use... I upload to Google Photos and they have some simple editing tools. For nicely framed shots, I do some or all of the following:
 add color saturation
 make the shadows less dark without over-exposing the lighter spots
 use "pop" to make the edges more crisp... too much and it gives a retro grainy look, but just a little somehow makes stuff "pop" more, sort of 3D-like. It's especially effective with granite/lichen featured stuff in the foreground, or tree branches, etc. It also helps when the shutter speed needs to be open too long because of low lighting, and stuff has a little softness/blurriness on the boundaries.

I have zero formal photography training and real photographers might cringe at this stuff and start a diatribe about shooting in RAW mode and using some specialized product from Adobe. If that sounds a bit angsty or passive aggressive, I'm probably just jealous I don't do that stuff. But for screen-sized displays, I've figured out these bits and the simplicity of on-line google photo editing through trial and error.

Also, I decided to do some summit register preservation in case these pages disintegrate. All we are is Dust in the Wind eventually, but here is for fighting to delay that transformation a bit.

Mt Emerson
Mt Emerson
Credit: NutAgain!

Mt Emerson
Mt Emerson
Credit: NutAgain!

Mt Emerson and the women's movement in the 1970s.
Mt Emerson and the women's movement in the 1970s.
Credit: NutAgain!

Mt Emerson, and rest in peace Secor
Mt Emerson, and rest in peace Secor
Credit: NutAgain!

I have a handful more of those, many more in the well protected summit register, but I didn't want to get too far behind wifey, who was on a mission to get as far down the talus as we could before the light was gone.

Boulder climber
  Jul 25, 2018 - 07:45pm PT
Credit: Contractor
Simul climbed with a party of three last summer and thoroughly enjoyed the views.

Oakland, CA
  Jul 25, 2018 - 10:34pm PT
Beautiful, Scott - miss you guys, hope everything is great, glad to see you out in the mountains.

Grippa's got it right.

Same 5.10s you got married in?


Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 26, 2018 - 12:19pm PT
^^ Good call Bryce! Same shoes indeed :)

Just a couple weeks now from 5 year official wedding anniversary, a few days shy of 10 years together during that trip. Such a far cry from my state when I first met you! Time flies, wounds heal, hope arises, love abounds.
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