The Transcendentalist: Mount Emerson

19 Jun 1999 - by Aaron Schuman

One of these days I'm going to open up a climbing gym for peak baggers. It'll feature an artificial 2000 foot scree slope. I'll call it "Planet Grunt".

I composed the opening paragraph of this report before I ever saw the mountain. I had heard awful things about this peak: Emerson was a pile of slag, Emerson showered loose rock down on climbers, Emerson was too steep for beginners, go somewhere else, go to Pilot Knob instead. But Mount Emerson, met face to face, turned out to be a joy to climb.

RJ Secor's classic guidebook gives precise directions on how to climb Mount Emerson, but apparently many groups ignore RJ's correct, accurate advice. He tells us to go up the class three rib from the inlet of Loch Leven, not to start from too high in the north fork drainage, and not to get bogged down on the dusty, collapsing southern face. Those who pay attention to the guidebook will enjoy a long, satisfying scramble on solid granite with secure holds. But the disobedient should wear helmets.

Arun Mahajan, Greg Johnson, Noriko Sekikawa, Scott Kreider, Bob Plant and I ascended the 13204' peak on Saturday, June 19, 1999. While we climbed, Debbie Benham, Robert Amaral, Steve Rodrigues and Dave McCracken luxuriated in the splendid scenery by the lake. Noriko, who has had trouble acclimatizing to altitude, tried diamox, and flew up her first class three peak as if with wings on her boots. It was Bob's first Sierra summit and his personal high point. Upon seeing the calendar picture summit view, even those of us who had climbed comparable peaks before couldn't help but share in the exhiliration.

We camped just below Piute Pass, and at dawn, hiked up, over to Muriel Lake, and around to Lake Goethe. (Future travelers will find the west sides of the lakes quicker and easier than the east sides.) We stared up at Alpine Col. We tilted our heads and squinted, trying to find an angle where the col looked like the route of our dreams. Because this was a beginner trip, several people had no ice axes, and our deal with the Sierra Club was that we would only use ice axes to get out of trouble, not into it. So given who we were and what we had, we weren't heading up Alpine Col and we weren't climbing Mt Goethe.

If we had decided to climb Mt Goethe from below Piute Pass, we would have made a late return. Next time, in a two day weekend, we'll make Mt Goethe the only destination, and camp at Lake Goethe on Saturday night.

Instead of climbing, we hiked the long hike down, savoring the natural beauty of the canyon of the north fork of Bishop Creek, and returned to North Lake in the mid afternoon.

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