Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade II
FA: G Ledyard Stebbins, Robert Stebbins (August 1955)
Page Views: 20,753 total · 194/month
Shared By: fossana on Jun 7, 2010
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

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Short approach for a fun alpine route on solid rock with varied climbing. Short 5.4 crux.

Note that the chimney may be wet in early season or if there is significant rainfall during otherwise drier months. The route is water polished, so be prepared.

Climb the 5.4 crack. If the chimney is too wet there you can climb the face to the right of a second chimney, which is just to the right of the normal route. The chimney is blocked with a large chockstone at which point you can easily cross and move left onto an easy, but exposed ramp system that connects with the original route. Continue up class 3-4 slabs eventually leading back into the original crack for a pitch of class 4. Head up a broad chute for 500 ft, then cross left across a rib into another chute. Aim for a notch in the ridge then proceed along the amazing ridgeline to the summit, passing several gendarmes to keep the grade at class 4.

Amy on the crux pitch (P1)

Matt on the wet season waterfall bypass after crossing over the chockstone

Amy on one of the early class 4 sections

easy scrambling before the gully

Just below the point at which you'll cross left over the rib into another chute.

ridge traverse section

final push to the summit


Emerson is distinct from the reddish, fractured (chossy) Piute Crags to its right. From the trailhead in the N Lake campground take the junction toward Piute Pass. Just before Loch Leven the trail will weave up some granite ramps. Cross country NW to reach the start. Aim for the left-most of two prominent cracks that split the lower face.

The start is marked by the purple arrow.

S slope (class 3) to Loch Leven, then back down the trail to the N Lake campground.  If scree is not your thing, either go early season when you can glissade the snowfield, or follow the rock ribs down from the summit (or close to the summit), then cut to the left of the main chute where there are more larger rocks.

S slope descent (many options)


alpine rack, 50-60m rope (optional)
no fixed anything


Weston L
  Easy 5th
  Easy 5th
A very fun and quick outing! Absolutely stellar, go do it. Mar 7, 2012
Los Alamos, NM
Aerili   Los Alamos, NM
I think all in all, you do about 1000' of chute hiking combined. It doesn't seem to matter where you cross over, either--just pick an easy spot.

The start and finish more than make up for the less-than-stellar middle section, although I mixed in 4th and 5th class moves in the chutes to make things more interesting.

On the descent, stay as far to skier's left as possible since the ground is most stable there. From above, it often appears you will cliff out many times, but it always goes. Jun 11, 2012
Fremont, CA
spyork   Fremont, CA
Climbed on 6/30/12 - The entire chimney was dry. Crossing over the rock rib was a bit confusing. I ended up climbing more 5th class than I had to. The finish on the ridge took more time than it should, I kept trying to go around left or right, but then ended up going over the top. The beta about staying left on the descent was great, thanks Aerili! Jul 6, 2012
Rude Boy
San Francisco, CA
  Easy 5th
Rude Boy   San Francisco, CA
  Easy 5th
Yeah stay left on the descent. I went straight down the gully and it sucked ass for 2500 feet of class 3 down climbing. Jul 3, 2013
To find the South Chute descent: continue heading west along the summit ridge after passing the true summit. Watch for the chute on your left (south). It's a little ways past the summit. Once in the chute follow Aerili's advice.

Also, when following the summit ridge after the summit looking for the descent, if you stay too high on the ridge you may get faced with a 20 ft 5th class down climb. Might be better to go down a little bit on the South side as you follow the ridge toward the South Chute. Sep 15, 2013
Anouk Erni
Portland, OR
Anouk Erni   Portland, OR
There was some confusion as to the start of the climb because the two large cracks aren't necessarily visible/obvious from the switchback angle. We hiked up a little further from the switchbacks where the trail was nice and flat, and then we could see the cracks. I've added a beta photo with a big arrow pointing out the start of the climb from the angle we could see from the trail. Going up the talus field was easy compared to some others I've traveled. The climb itself is very doable solo/no rope and is mostly fun scrambling. You can make it easier or more difficult as you ascend. Mostly sturdy rock but there were some loose sections in the shoots. I found some amazing short 5.7 hand cracks (that were exposed but solid) that I couldn't pass up. Did the whole thing in approach shoes - if you have shoes with sticky rubber, leave your climbing shoes at home. The ridgeline was great! Took us 8 hours car to car at an easy pace. Fun day! Oct 11, 2013
Had a lot of fun on it today.
The summit ridge is great, and continued for longer than I expected. The starting moves are interesting, and there's lots of other good gully climbing. And it's worthwhile as routefinding "adventure" out in the middle of this big face -- not sure when's the best time to switch to a different gully, where to get on the ridge, etc.

But it has more drawbacks than some other great Sierra ridge routes: The descent of the south face on sand and scree is not fun at all, and goes on much too long for something that un-fun (like about 2000 vertical feet / 600 meters) -- so maybe I should have tried descending the rock rib instead. The discontinuity in the climbing, with some hiking sections in the middle between the lower chimney and the great summit ridge. The extra 0.5 mile (800m) of flat walking on the road at the beginning and end. Surrounding lakes + mountains not quite as pretty - (but pretty enough).

I think you get more sustained fun for less work on like say Mt Conness, or the Aretes of Crystal Crag Direct near Mammoth Lakes. But Mt Emerson still worthwhile as another fun high Sierra adventure.

Ken Jul 24, 2014
Some statistics ...
  • approach to start of 5th class climbing from official day-visitor Parking:
. . about 2000 vertical feet over 2.5 miles horizontal
. . / ( +600 meters over 4 km distance )

  • start of 5th class climbing to summit
. . about 2000 vertical feet over 0.5 mile horizontal
. . / ( +600 meters over 0.8km distance)

  • summit ridge climbing (including upper descent section NW from summit)
. . about 1100 ft horizontal (330 meters)

  • Total from official Parking to summit
. . about 4000 vertical feet over 3 miles distance
. . / ( +1200 meters over 5km distance )

  • descent on steep sand + scree
. . about 2000 vertical feet over 0.6 mile horizontal
. . / ( 600 vertical meters over 1 km distance )
some GPS latitude longitude (approximate)
  • official day-visitor parking: (N37.2275 W118.6273)
  • trailhead: (N37.2272 W118.6275)
  • leave trail to go NNW up to chimney: (N37.2337 W118.6483)
  • bottom of 5th class chimney: (N37.2360 W118.6498)
  • notch where I joined summit ridge: (N37.2404 W118.6532)
. . (would be interesting to know if could have joined it lower)
  • first gendarme after I joined ridge: (N37.2405 W118.6535)
  • summit: (N37.2425 W118.6542)
Jul 24, 2014
Berkeley + Sunny Slopes, CA
old5ten   Berkeley + Sunny Slopes, CA
Fun climb! 12.5 hours CTC for the geriatric corps. 1:45 approach to base; 6.5 for the climb (including lowering some hapless soloist from top of P1 - why solo when you're not up for it?), mostly belaying and simulclimbing, very little soloing; 0:15 for the salami sandwich on top; 3.5 for the full descent. Aug 21, 2014
Durango, CO
  Easy 5th
carl   Durango, CO
  Easy 5th
There was a fixed rope (looked like a 9-10mm lead line) hanging in the very beginning of the chimney 7/12/15, reaching the ground. The chimney was pouring with water so we took the class 3/4 face to the right, and didn't see the top of the rope or the anchor, but another party that passed us claimed to have climbed the waterfall and seen that the rope was tied off to some sort of multi-sling anchor. It had rained the afternoon prior, so maybe it was a bail line left by another party? Anyway, it's still hanging there if anyone wants to claim it. Otherwise I think it's booty for the next party up! Jul 13, 2015
Jeremy in Inyokern
  Easy 5th
Jeremy in Inyokern   Inyokern
  Easy 5th
Not any harder than Middle Pal 3rd class. Fun if not sustained Aug 24, 2015
What everybody else said! ^^

For an avid scrambler working my way up to more technical climbs, I would say the crux goes with only a couple tricky moves. Otherwise it's climbing a ladder.

I would add to BRING YOUR GATORS for the down climb, and it's nowhere near as unenjoyable as it's made out to be otherwise ;) Jun 29, 2016
Mike Mellenthin
San Francisco, CA
Mike Mellenthin   San Francisco, CA
It ain't no W Ridge Conness, but still a fun half day outing if you move quick. The gully is mostly meh, but the ridge is fun, and the summit views are excellent.

It's probably more dangerous to bring a rope on this than it is to just solo it due to to all the loose rock you'll be climbing over. Aug 15, 2016
Johnny Muir-Addleman
Johnny Muir-Addleman   Bishop
Enjoyed this High Sierra scramble! No water running down late September and the loose gully can be mostly avoided by with climbing that goes at or below the grade. For a direct variation you can skip the crossover, reach a small cliff, and climb a steep 4th class corner on the left with a low 5th finish and continue straight up to the ridge. Loved the rusty razor blade hand traverse on the way to the summit! Sep 23, 2016
Professor Snax
Professor Snax   Atlanta
Summited 06/14/18 and rock was very dry. Jun 15, 2018