Eastern Sierra Backcountry Report: 13,225′ Mt. Emerson

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words, photos, and video by Pee1000

13,225′ Mt. Emerson

May 12, 2014

10 years down the road, which days in the backcountry will you remember as though they were yesterday?  The fun days party lapping your favorite stash, or the bizarre days trying to do something ridiculous?  The days when everything goes perfectly, or the days when everything is a struggle?

Boulder hopping on the approach
Boulder hopping on the approach

Every day is great in its own way, but the day that Ryan, Ben, and I went up Emerson in mid-May of a year with record-low snow fall will stand out in my mind for a while.  We had an incredible adventure, and yes, even made some great turns in an amazing place.  My legs may be sore from the boulder hopping, my arms may be scratched from the bushwhacking, and my lips may be sunburned from the intense sun, but strangely, I feel pretty good.

Ben and Ryan finishing the climb
Ben and Ryan finishing the climb

The Eastern Sierra has its fair share of giant couloirs, and Emerson has some of the biggest.  It had snowed a little bit two days prior, and that’s usually enough to refresh protected, North-facing chutes in the High Sierra.  This year, the hard part is getting to them.  After a long, mostly snow-free approach, we were already pretty tired by the time we started booting up the couloir.  The heat was getting to us, but up we went.

Looking down Emerson's North couloir
Looking down Emerson’s North couloir

The very top of the chute wasn’t really filled in and I knew that I wasn’t up for a sketchy down-climb to get back onto the snow, so I stomped out a nice platform where I could relax a bit and transition.  Ben and Ryan wanted to top out, so I rode down as they finished the climb.  The snow was a little variable, but powdery and great for making hard turns.  There was some sluff, but not enough to worry about.  Perfect!

13,225' Mt. Emerson marked on this map by a red dot.
13,225′ Mt. Emerson marked on this map by a red dot.

Eventually, after a mini-epic on the down-climb back into the couloir, the boys made it down safely.  We got some amazing corn turns riding out of the valley, and then it was time to shoulder the boards and start the long hike out.  It was best to just keep moving, because once you stopped it was hard to get going again.  We had to dig deep, but thoughts of picking up some Gatorade and junk food at the Manor Market in Bishop got us back to the cars.

Emerson Couloir.  photo:  eastsidescott.blogspot.com
Emerson Couloir. photo: eastsidescott.blogspot.com

This was a memorable day, but at this point in the spring only recommended if you’re a masochist with a high degree of self-loathing.  Would I do it again?  Ask me in a week.

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3 thoughts on “Eastern Sierra Backcountry Report: 13,225′ Mt. Emerson

  1. Thanks. Looking at the map, the couloir tops out at a saddle around 13k. The last 200 feet or so above that to the summit is a rock scramble. I’m not sure how easy (or hard) it would be to summit in ski/snowboard boots. Also, the south side of Emerson has a moderate rock climbing route that is popular and pretty ‘famous’.


  2. Remote peak. Big elevation. Aesthetic line. Good on ya man! How far below the summit did your boot up top out at?

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