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Short approach 4th -5.5 High Sierra scrambles/climbs?


Original Post
Mounir Fizari · · San Diego, CA · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 135

Anyone have recommendations for 4th - 5.5 climbs in the high Sierra with "short" approaches? Planning on getting out there, but I'm recovering from a fractured foot so I'd like to keep the approach short and the climbing/scrambling easy if possible.

 Had my eye on the SE face of Mt Emerson, but I'm not sure what else to check out. 

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,852

I love that kind of climbing, so . . .

Rock Creek / Little Lakes Valley is good for parking high - with short approaches to fun ridge scrambles on non-famous peaks which are at least as much fun as the long-approach scrambles on famous peaks.
* Mt Starr S->N traverse has closest easiest approach. Perhaps preceded by one oif the S-face sub-ridges. But not sure about descent (see notes on MP)
* LIttle Lakes Peak - (for a longer day followed by Mt Morgan SW ridge, that better with car-bike shuttle for descent).
perhaps also consider E side of Ruby Peak, something on Treasure Peak.
Rumors of an interesting ridge scramble above Patricia Bowl (different trailhead).

Mammoth Lakes
* Crystal Crag : several scramble options in a wonderful mountain lakes area.

. (Longer approach I've been hearing about . . .
Mammoth Crest somewhere S of Crystal Crag , , ,
something like traversing the :"Blue" peak and perhaps also the "Black Pyramid" (somewhere near Skye Meadows).
? Use it as an excuse to scout out this Trad multi-pitch route (and others nearby)?

If you're around there late July thru mid-August, send a message to my MP account.

Ken

P.S. My opinion is that Mt Emerson is much over-rated. See comments on MP. Another one I won't do again is Mendenhall Couloir on Mt Laurel. Nice places to visit, but proportion of interesting scrambling/climbing too low, and descents long un-fun.

fossana · · leeds, ut · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 13,231

I do Emerson almost every year as an early season warm-up and have yet to get bored; it has a little bit of everything (chimney, ridge, face climbing) with quality rock.  The Treasure Lakes side of Hurd has a variety of options in that range (choose your own adventure kind of thing).  The W Face of Cloudripper is technically 3rd, but it's possible to take harder lines within the chute.  I also climbed the short ridge just to the left of the chute and it was ~5.6ish.  The approach for NE Ridge of Bear Creek Spire may not qualify as "short" depending on your tolerance.

splitclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 6

 Short approach means different things to different people. Recovering from a fractured foot I would be looking at climbs like Tenaya, unicorn or Crystal crag

Walking off Emerson with a fractured foot would be heinous

Cory Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 947

I will echo splitclimber's comments. Its not so much the approach, but the descents you need to worry about. Sierra descents are often heinous affairs of talus and scree. I recall that the descent from Emerson has thousands of feet of scree. That will be very painful on a weak ankle/foot.

Mounir Fizari · · San Diego, CA · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 135
splitclimber wrote:  Short approach means different things to different people. Recovering from a fractured foot I would be looking at climbs like Tenaya, unicorn or Crystal crag

Walking off Emerson with a fractured foot would be heinous

Being new to the Sierras, short to me means I want to keep the day under ~8 mi RT. It's been a while since I broke it (had ORIF and all that jazz) but I don't want to push it too hard to make sure I don't have to limp to the TH from way out in the backcountry. 


I have been fine so far with boulder hopping and talus/scree, but I guess I haven't tried doing thousands of feet of that stuff yet or combining it with a backcountry approach. Thanks for the suggestions!
Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 65

Being new to the Sierras just don't under-emphasize training your cardio and legs on 3000'+ elevation gains and descents regardless of ease of trail and particularly coming off an injury (ie fitness loss). For me its the downhill portions that really clue me in that my legs need more work.

ie Bear Creek Spire is 13,700', so even if you can drive to near 9000' its gonna be a ~5000' elevation gain and descent to get back to the car and you are gonna do it at high altitude coming from the coasts etc.

Generally leads to an butt humping day without real training before hand.

David S. · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 10

Minor note that the parking lot for Little Lakes Valley/BCS is at ~10,300', not 9,000', and is one of the higher trailheads on the east side (which is why kenr mentioned it). So you cut off quite a bit of that elevation gain-- not that the amount left is trivial!

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,852
fossana wrote: Emerson ... has a little bit of everything (chimney, ridge, face climbing) with quality rock.

Yes SE face of Emerson has a good variety of little bits, but my memory is that it has lots and lots of careful walking up slabs. (Tho perhaps for you it's lots of careful running up slabs, which might be why you like it).

So I think I'll lry your other ideas first.

Ken
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,852
David S. wrote: Parking lot for Little Lakes Valley/BCS is at ~10,300', not 9,000', and is one of the higher trailheads on the east side. So you cut off quite a bit of that elevation gain

Yes and the approach to the S + SW side of Mt Starr is mostly on a normally-well-maintained and notably gently-graded trail (because desined for horses carrying packweight). Best way to avoid impact on impact is to down-climb the upper S ridge from the summit, then return to the hiking/horse trail near Mono Pass. If precede the S ridge with one of the S face sub-ridges, esp the SSW ridge starts pretty close above the trail. The more difficult ridge to its R takes a longer scramble up from the trail.

Little Lakes Peak traverse NNW ridge - NE ridge requires lots more off-trail work with some significant down-scrambling - (no ankle-friendly way off the summit of LLPk), tho LLPk is much much closer to the Parking than Bear Creek Spire. If add SW ridge of Mt Morgan, the more descent off-trail somewhat directly back to Mosquito Flat parking is horrible loose talus. Tho I loved the climbing, I would only do it with a bike stashed down below N by the Lake.

Mosquito Flats parking is (justly) popular with lots of non-climbers, so if you arrive late, expect to add a mile or two of walking (running?) from whatever legal spot you find lower N along the road.
And if you're with a non-climbing partner who likes climbing or fishing (or road-biking), Little Lakes Valley is a great choice for them to do something great while you're out scrambling. My partner Sharon also likes backcountry swimming, and once swam the length of Long Lake at around 10,300 ft elev in LLV.

Ken
fossana · · leeds, ut · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 13,231

If you hit Emerson early enough you can glissade much of the scree descent.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,852

So that's the secret.
Applies to other scrambles w scree descents.
Thanks for educating me.

Ken

old5ten · · Berkeley + Sunny Slopes, CA · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 1,968

it doesn't qualify as 4th/easy 5th, but if you're looking for an endless ridge hike with nice views the northeast ridge of mt tom would fit the bill.

elmar

fossana · · leeds, ut · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 13,231

I did my annual Emerson excursion this past weekend and dropped directly off the summit, following the rock ribs down until they ended, then traversed just skier's left of the main chute.  Normally I end up emptying my approach shoes several times on the descent due to the scree in the main chute, but I didn't have a single rock in my shoe at the bottom.

1jkemp · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

Any snow on approach or descent fossana? I'm planning to do Emerson for the first time this weekend, wondering about crampons/axe but I am guessing there won't be much or any snow. 

fossana · · leeds, ut · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 13,231

No snow on the descent. There was still a snowfield in that upper gully just before you get onto the ridge traverse, but it's avoidable.  Don't bother with an ice axe; I hauled one up for naught.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Northern California
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