Mount Emerson North Face

Bishop, California

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John Muir named Mt. Emerson during a trip into Humphreys Basin in 1873 in honor of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a philosopher and essayist who visited Muir in Yosemite Valley in 1871. The summit of the peak has been misplaced on some maps; it is the eastern peak. The white granite of the peak contrasts strongly with the colorful red of the nearby Piute Crags. Splitting the 1,000-foot high north face of Mt. Emerson is a narrow snow and ice couloir that is over 40 degrees in places. This bold line, first climbed by Norman Clyde, was accomplished in the style of the day. “An ice axe was seldom or never seen,” he said. “Any ice cutting was usually done with some sort of wood axe. As to footgear, there was a tendency to wear at least moderately high boots. Often they were provided with Hungarian nails or hobnails, although somewhat later I changed to Tricouni nails. These were better on snow and ice, but not too satisfactory on smooth hard rock.” The next peak north on the crest, Peak 13,112, harbors two gullies that are worth checking out in good conditions. The right-hand gully is the steeper of the two and is known as the Checkered Demon. Local climbers Doug Robinson and John Fischer made the first ascent in a fall snowstorm. Robinson and Fischer had met as youths in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in the mid-1960s and moved to the Sierra about the same time. Both became guides for the Palisades School of Mountaineering and shared many climbs before eventually going their separate ways. This climb has a fair amount of rockfall and is best done in cold weather to minimize the objective hazard.

Mount Emerson: North Face Professional Review and Guide

"John Muir named Mt. Emerson during a trip into Humphreys Basin in 1873 in honor of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a philosopher and essayist who visited Muir in Yosemite Valley in 1871. The summit of the peak has been misplaced on some maps; it is the eastern peak. The white granite of the peak contrasts strongly with the colorful red of the nearby Piute Crags. Splitting the 1,000-foot high north face of Mt. Emerson is a narrow snow and ice couloir that is over 40 degrees in places. This bold line, first climbed by Norman Clyde, was accomplished in the style of the day. “An ice axe was seldom or never seen,” he said. “Any ice cutting was usually done with some sort of wood axe. As to footgear, there was a tendency to wear at least moderately high boots. Often they were provided with Hungarian nails or hobnails, although somewhat later I changed to Tricouni nails. These were better on snow and ice, but not too satisfactory on smooth hard rock.” The next peak north on the crest, Peak 13,112, harbors two gullies that are worth checking out in good conditions. The right-hand gully is the steeper of the two and is known as the Checkered Demon. Local climbers Doug Robinson and John Fischer made the first ascent in a fall snowstorm. Robinson and Fischer had met as youths in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in the mid-1960s and moved to the Sierra about the same time. Both became guides for the Palisades School of Mountaineering and shared many climbs before eventually going their separate ways. This climb has a fair amount of rockfall and is best done in cold weather to minimize the objective hazard."

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Bishop
Class: Class 4
Local Contacts: John Muir Wilderness
Local Maps: USGS Mt. Tom
Driving Directions: Directions to Mount Emerson: North Face

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May 2018