Type: Trad, Alpine, Grade III
FA: G Ledyard Stebbins, Robert Stebbins (August 1955)
Page Views: 33,637 total · 196/month
Shared By: fossana on Jun 7, 2010 · Updates
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurk Er, Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer Ski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Description Suggest change

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 also water polished, so be prepared.

Preventing Epics

Although in the alpine climbing sense this is an easy route, for newer alpine or trad climbers this route should not be underestimated.  There have been a growing number of rescues and unplanned bivies due to parties failing to prepare for the route finding, conditions, exposure, altitude, rockfall and arduous scree descent.  Plan accordingly and start early.  Before attempting this route:

  • For newer trad climbers, have your multi-pitch trad skills down, including anchor building/equalization, efficient gear placement and removal, and downclimbing.  There are no fixed anchors on this route.  Strongly consider taking a climbing self-rescue class (or refresher).
  • All members of your party should practice alpine route finding (ascents and descents) and scree descents, and mentally prepare for exposure on easier routes before attempting this route.  Physically prepare for the altitude. The Sierra has many fun opportunities for practice.  The SE Face of Emerson is not a route you can reasonably pitch out to the top.
  • Study the route description and bring along beta, including any critical landmark photos.
  • Check the weather and route conditions. Have a plan in case you hit unexpected adverse conditions or other reason for retreat.
  • Prepare for an unplanned bivy by carrying an emergency blanket, warm clothes, extra food, and a headlamp.  Even if you call for a rescue, you may need to wait until the following day if there are no life-threatening injuries.  In general, an unplanned summer bivouac is not an emergency and doesn't merit a rescue.


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 (potential for route-finding mishaps here, see 5th photo below). 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.

Location Suggest change

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.

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.

Protection Suggest change

  • alpine rack, 50-60m rope (optional); no fixed anchors
  • ice axe if the chute and/or descent is snowy