Ascent of Mount Emerson (Southeast Face, II, 5.4), with Simon Wacziarg, July 16, 2020.


July 16, 2020. We spent a comfortable night at the North Lake campground, in the farthest campsite (#2) located right next to the trail junction between the Lamarck Lakes trail and the Piute Pass trail. This was ideally set up for the approach. The alarm went off at 5:00 and we had a nice breakfast with our friends Ry and Suzanne. They were going to accompany us to the base of the climb and decide how to spend their day. We departed camp at 6:12, hiking up toward Piute Pass. As the sun was starting to hit the trail, I stopped to wear sunglasses, only to notice that they were broken. I ran back to camp to retrieve my other pair, and quickly caught up with the other three. Simon and I proceeded at a faster pace, reaching the base of the 5.4 chimney (the start of the climb) at 7:45.

We roped up, and I set out to lead the water-polished, steep chimney. This was spicy in approach shoes, because the rock is quite slick, but all went fine. Above this pitch we simulclimbed a few rope lengths of 4th class, which led to a 3rd class gully (at one point we went too far right on class 3 rock and had to downclimb back to the correct gully). We took a break for a quick snack, unroped, and proceeded further up the gully. The rock there was mostly solid, with the occasional steeper bit requiring a few class 3 moves. We reached an obvious rib which we crossed into another gully to the left (by then it was 11:00, so don't underestimate how long the lower portion of the route will take). The second gully led right to the base of a steepening ridge, at an obvious small notch in the skyline. We roped up again for the ridge climb that followed, involving a mix of class 3 and class 4 rock. This ridge climb is the highlight of the route, with exposed knife-edge climbing and fantastic views: the Palisades to the Southeast, the Evolution Range to South, the Glacier Divide to the West. Things got gradually easier as we approached the summit of Mount Emerson. A soloist called Sean passed us on the way there. It was 13:25 when I reached the summit, shortly after Sean and shortly ahead of Simon. We enjoyed the outstanding views, took photos of each other on the summit, packed up our climbing gear, had a nice lunch of prosciutto and brie sandwiches, signed the summit register, and started to worry about the gathering clouds to the Northwest.

We departed the summit at 14:00, as the weather was worsening. We proceeded further along the summit ridge, to the Northwest (some steep class 3 climbing) until it was apparent that we could drop down into one of the easier descent chutes below. The descent consisted of initially steep rock (some more class 3), then sandy slopes, and finally some very tedious scree and talus. As we reached the lower portion, it started to drizzle, and we could hear thunder along the ridgeline above – we had left the summit just in time. Simon even saw lightning strike along the ridge. We were back at the trail at 15:44, and took a nice break near a tarn. Mosquitos bothered us a little bit, but the wind and rain kept them at bay. After that it was quick work down the Piute Pass trail back to camp. We were back at 17:18. Suzanne and Ry were already there after a day of rock climbing near Loch Leven. We packed up camp and went back home to Mammoth. (A 11:06 hour day, 7.1 miles, 3,900 feet of elevation gain).


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