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Peak(s):  Mt. Emma  -  13,592 feet
"T 5"  -  13,437 feet
Mendota Peak  -  13,279 feet
Date Posted:  09/08/2019
Modified:  09/10/2019
Date Climbed:   09/01/2019
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   RyGuy, Tony1
 Traipsing around with a crown of wildflowers in a rock garden   

Mt Emma, Mendota Peak, T 5

  • mileage: 6.32
  • elevation gain: 3,276'
  • trailhead: Governor Basin
  • 3 musketeers: Ryan (Aramis), Tony (Porthos) and me (Athos) All for one, one for all!
  • class: 3/4/5 depending on route and if you're a 5.10+ climber (ie sandbagging)

Note: Mt Emma has gained a spot in my top 10 13ers, not just because of the prolific wildflowers and delightful scramble climb to the summit, but because of the teamwork needed to get there. The full package, so therefore a ton of photos. Sorry, not sorry.

We woke up from our campsite and drove down to the Sneffels 2WD trailhead to drop Tony's BJ to minimize the vehicles up top. The drive up to Govenor's basin was a good one, and the road is in great shape. We found a good parking spot near the mine, that still allowed people to turn around easy enough. We deployed our marmot guards and after discussing our route with a group of hunters going after a stag on Mt Emma's slopes, we dropped a short distance and crossed the basin over to the switchbacking narrow jeep trail on the other side.

View of Emma from our parking spot

On the other side of the basin, we were immediately distracted by the explosion of wildflowers. Hard to believe it's September, and the flowers are still prime!

San Sophia Ridge

Flower boys

After the flower distraction, we ascended a steep grassy slope on the left, to avoid the hunter to our upper right.

Steep grass off the road

On the first bench, we started to get a view of the upper route on the mountain, or at least what we had to look for. The loose talus/scree dues collector!

Emma's east ridge coming into view
Cool rocks below Emma

After a really cool rock garden, we dodged the lower snowfield and went up a scree field to a mini scramble section to get to the base of the peak. I chose a class 4 chute that while fun, I wouldn't go down, The guys went up the chute to the left and the scrambling was as desired, but not necessary.

When we got to the base of the peak itself, there was a debate on the route. Ryan wanted to head up to the left of the snow to gain a higher cliff zone and then traverse. I didn't like the snow field above. I didn't want to hike all the way up there, to get to uncrossable steep snow and then have to descend, loosing elevation. I left my crampons in the truck, and the guys only had micro spikes (or at least Tony had them). From Potosi, you could see the snowfield better, and it didn't look good. I figured the best AND most efficient way, would be an ascending traverse to the right of the initial snowfield. But Ryan was unconvinced. To each their own!

Split in route here. I went right of snowfield in ascending traverse (there are cairns and signs of use)
Mt Emma from Potosi - Note triangle snow patch midway up on the cliffs on the east ridge

My ascending traverse was loose and not really pleasant, but it was very efficient. I got up to a corner on the cliffs, where we went straight up to the notch in the ridge below Emma, well before the guys. Thankfully we were able to be in voice communication, so I could get the guys across. Ryan asked what slope angle I thought the snow was, if they could cross it, and if they did, could they make it over to me. Thankfully I was able to give them beta on the snow crossing with my zoom lens. I could see that if they could climb the snow on their side, there was a separation in the snow and the cliff above, so they could travel between the snow and the cliff. Then it would just be a loose talus traverse over to me.

The guys on the triangle snow patch
Zoom of the boys on the snow patch

Tony in the bergschrund - Photo: Ryan

While the guys were playing on the snow, I got to scout the route beyond, take a snack break, and use the restroom. Bonus break of being an efficiency route queen.

Turn left here, on the use trail, to get up through the next set of cliffs to the saddle

Eventually the guys got around the snow patch. So I advised them on the best path to me.

Boys on the other side of the snow patch
The guys on the loose talus traverse
The look on Ryan's face says it all!

Once the guys got to me, we stuck much closer together, so the route finding would be more collaborative.

Ryan after coming up the first section of loose straight up

Nearing the saddle on the steep, loose up

Loose goosey with the corner visible below

Last steep section up to the saddle

At the saddle, we had a clear shot to Telluride and got a good view of Emma's summit turrets. The terrain eased in steepness and most loose crap. We went up the ridge, and then dodged around to the right/east of the turrets, until we found a spot that looked easily scramble-able.

Emma summit turrets from saddle
Getting closer to the upper scramble

The next scramble section has a couple options, so choose your adventure!

Tony starting up the fun lower scramble
Tony nearing the narrow slot

Ryan coming up on the right side scramble
Tony standing on the cross over section, while I'm in the slot.

The cross over has a fun little down scramble to a mini saddle area in the giant summit boulders.

Ryan coming down the crossover down climb.

When we got to that multi direction saddle, we had quite the decision point. There looked to be a steep, narrow scree chute that had signs of foot prints that dropped to the left/south. Tony was eyeing the giant summit ridge boulders that only tall people could get on top of (I was in no way capable of this route, too short. Plus I couldn't make the leap down with my titanium leg on the return). Then there was a fun looking option with a tight squeeze climb. Some have sandbagged this option, saying class 3. I call BS with the loudest voice I can summon. At best its stiff class 4+. I used climbing moves on it, and Ryan said it was reminiscent of the upper crux on Jagged. So I call it 5.easy.

So with our unique group of 3, we had to find options that worked for all of us. I figured I could get up the class 5.easy route, but descending is always different. Tony really like the boulder hop. So once Ryan went and checked out the squeeze climb option, and thought he could do it, we got on it. Ryan went first with me spotting the upper route from below. Once he got up, I ascended and checked out the next step - which was not trivial, before we gave Tony the OK to bounce up the ridge.

Ryan scouting wether he could do this route.

Ryan making the initial moves to get into the tight squeeze. These are class 5 moves FYI class 5.10+ climbers

Ryan in the tight squeeze above the first chock boulder section.

I made quick work of the 5.easy climb up to the round summit ridge boulder, and looked over at what was required to get to the summit. I could do it, with a bit of help from the guys.

View of summit cairn from top of round summit mound.

When Tony arrived, as the tallest, he went and butt scooted and then jumped down off the rounded mound we were on. I didn't like the thought of jumping with my titanium rod, so after Ryan followed Tony's scoot-jump technique, they helped me get down. I scooted as far as I could to try and reach the foot holds, but I was short. Ryan grabbed my right hand for stability, and Tony physically moved my feet into position. Great teamwork!!! Glad I wasn't solo today!

Tony scooting down the round rock
View of the round mound we had to descend from summit.

It was quite the celebration on this well earned summit. We were all in great spirits. Plus the views were amaze balls!!!

Bowing down to the awesomeness that is Mt Emma

Emma pano north

Emma pano south

Potosi with Wetterhorn & Uncompaghre

Since Tony and I wanted to get T 5 today, we couldn't spend too much time on the summit. Plus we all wanted to get down the climbing section before any weather (that never showed up).

Getting up the round mound also proved tricky too, since there were no hand holds. Ryan went up first, and layed down above, so he could grab my hand and Tony's if needed. It was a bit of a tummy scraper, and I did grab Ryan's hand to help my progress up it. I grabbed onto Ryan's ankles to give extra support, in case Tony needed a hand.

Ryan starting up the round mound

On the mound we proceeded back to the squeeze climb, and Tony decided to join in the fun too.

Ryan in the first boulder squeeze
Ryan in between the 2 boulder problem

Ryan squeezing through the lower boulder problem

Ryan making the chimney move below the boulders. I was a millisecond too late to capture Ryan looking up at me. Bugger, too slow!

Ryan stayed below for moral support as I came down the route. Was such a tight squeeze, my helmet with bill on my hat got stuck! So you have to plan out your head position on the lower squeeze!!!

Tony making the chimney moves to get down.

Once down the class 5.easy section, we rapidly descended the easy scramble section to the talus below.

View from the top of the cross over to the narrow slot
Scrambling down to the talus

Back at the saddle, Ryan was very interested in pounding directly down to the lower bench via the scree slope. Tony and I decided to do the descending traverse that was the trail I took up. But we also wanted to do some boot skiing!!!

Ryan dropped directly. Tony and I took the corner and trail traverse

I got to check out the route the guys took up on the first cliff section above the snow field that we would boot ski.

My class 4 ascent
Mine hole on the guys route

Then it was just a short scree section to get to the fun boot ski, that Ryan took video of (that I'll attach later)

Tony boot skiing below me
Our boot ski marks with the first cliff scramble above

We got to just above the Jeep trail and parted ways with Ryan. He would go relax by the vehicles and entertain and be entertained by the flux of tourists in the basin.

Looking over to T 5 from the upper basin below Emma

Tony in the flowers again, with Potosi behind

Tony and I were able to follow the mining road over to an old abandoned mine to approach Mendota, which Tony really wanted.

Easy ascending mining road to other end of the basin

Along the way, we spotted the perfect 3 musketeer Columbine group

3 musketeer columbine!

At the end of the mining road, we scampered up some mining piles, before ascending some easy snow.

Emma and mining ruin above snow climb
View of route up to Mendota on the snow couloir

We both eyed the snow route up to the ridge above. I was hoping the ridge would be continuous over to T 5 (surprise it's not), and figured I might as well go up with Tony and get Mendota too. The snow climb started off mellow enough to do without sharp and pointies on my feet, but soon became too difficult. As I didn't want to practice my ice ax arrest skills AND lose hard fought elevation, I made my way over to the right to ascend the loose talus to the ridge.

Steep snow climb to ridge

Once on the ridge, it was a short stroll over to the unranked summit of Mendota. It has great views, so worth it!

Route over to Mendota

Mendota pano north

Mendota pano south

We couldn't see Ryan from the summit, so we couldn't moon him from Men-dota.

Waterfall above Telluride!
Ridge to Mt Emma - SPICY

View of T 5 from Mendota - Please tell me the ridge goes, it looks like it could

After a short break on the unranked peak, we strolled down the ridge to the saddle with T 5. Some guys on the ridge up T 5 yelled over that we'd have to drop down to the trail and go around. Uhhhh yeah, we see that, NOW. Grrrr.

T 5 from about where we figured that the ridge didn't quite go

We back tracked by a gully or two, before we found one that looked easily doable to the south. Well, it was delightful. Some of the BEST scree skiing I've had in my life, and we were down to the lower trail to the south rapidly. Then we just had to take the trail up to the saddle.

Looking down the scree ski descent from above
Scree ski to the trail, with the slope up T 5's false summit to right
View from trail saddle of Governor's Basin

There's a trail or two that goes up T 5 from the saddle. The one on ascender's left in steep and loose while the on the right we took on the way down, was much nicer.

Looking over at Mendota above the saddle

The stroll over to T 5 was easy flat talus stroll. We met the 2 older guys from Delta on the false summit, and chatted for a short bit before going over to the real summit.

Massive cornice still on T 5's north side

T 5 pano

T 5 pano

YBB from T 5

After a nice summit stay, we headed down. Still couldn't see Ryan. We hoped he was full of meat and beer with his feet up, relaxing.

View of the basin below to the north of the saddle
Approaching the talus descent to the saddle, on the south side
Saddle in view before the Mendota side of the saddle

We got to the saddle and the original trail between Telluride and Ouray (some knowledge dropped by the older gentlemen we met). It was steep and loose, but it went. Then I got in some butt skiing, complete with my own personal butt jump. Yeah, I caught air. It kinda hurt in-between the fun squealing!

Saddle area from below.
Taking the trail to the north

Once below, we continued along the trail back to Ryan and the vehicles.

View of ridge from a lower bench

After dropping down through the lower cliff band, it was a loose talus descent down to the mining road.

Talus descent below the cliffs
Looking back up at the trail through the lower cliff section

Once on the road, it was a quick stroll to where Ryan was in his chair looking up at us. He told us all about the tourist cluster that happened all day long, and how my marmot guard was commented on by everyone. Someone thought it was a fence for a dog!!!

Such a great day climbing fun peaks with great, supportive partners! We all worked hard for this day to go well! All for one, one for all!

Day 5: Lookout Peak& Day 6: S. Snowdon

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74

Comments or Questions
Mmm class 3
9/9/2019 8:47am
Nice job!

Class 3?
9/9/2019 10:18am
Where is this class 3 of which you speak? It wasn't that little chimney for sure.

9/9/2019 2:30pm
Nice trip - and trip report!! Great work.

Nice report & photos
10/13/2019 4:20pm
Compare your image #48 on 9/1/19 to my image #15 on 8/9/19 (https://www.14ers.com/usercontent/trips/2019/19656/19656_18.jpg) to see how much the snow melted in 3 weeks.

BTW, my dad's all-time favorite 13er was Mt. Emma, which we did the day after a snowstorm for extra spiciness.

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