Mount Emma- Slut of the San Juan Mountains[img:200027:alignleft:small:Skirt rippers? Emma's white slip awaits some light weight turns!
When I first learned the name of this rounded peak between Ouray and the now swanky town of Telluride named "Emma" I immediately imagined the name was for a women of ill repute in a mining town's view of the peak. I’m sure the men about these rough towns were extremely thankful to have an Emma, (if my hunch is right) enough so to name a peak in her honor. In any case the joy of climbing Emma’s pleasant curves and sneaking a peak up the skirts of higher summits near her is pure ecstasy.
To mount Emma from Yankee Boy Basin follow the road past the trailhead and convenient pit toilet. Take the left road at the Sneffels Wilderness Boundary. The sign prohibits camping but apparently foot travel is acceptable. Follow this road to the end and down a climbers trail on a short steep bank on Sneffel’s Creek. Cross the creek and follow the climber’s left drainage to the basin between the reclining Mount Emma and Stony Peak on the left. The broad wall and bowl above has holds pleasant rolls and contouring benches, presenting several mellow climbing options. There are no avalanche safe ridges to aim for but the snow was very consolidated by endless thawing. I started by angling left and up across the lower sloping bench. I found the snow firmer by ascending hardened runnels on firm spring snow directly up the rolling benches to the smooth gap.
The high gap hides Emma’s prized summit for most of the ascent. Once at the gap you can pear into Governor Basin across the Saint Sofia Ridge to Mount Mendota just to the North. The summit now shows herself and as a whole new mountain, more deceptive and yet appealing.
A narrow set of tracks hug the near (left) side of the intricate ridge to a steep block. Once at the block several ways look possible. The most direct way leads left up a corner avoiding loose rock on both sides. Follow the stair stepping ridge on the right side of the rocky spine. I then ascended the left side up a low angled section similar to the choke of a desert slot canyon. I then crossed over to the right and up a final squeeze past an airy rock window disclosing the precarious consequence if too much discretion is abandoned. The smooth domed summit is attained by mantling your weight on top of her like a walrus to the climax of the adventure.
The summit is intimate. The sky drops away on all sides exposing stunning views across Emma’s west ridge to Gilpin Peak, Dallas and the ragged ridge of the Sneffel’s Range. Sneffels and Kismet lure the eye to their stiletto tops while Cirque, Teakettle, and Potosi wrap around the amphitheatre of Yankee Boy Basin like a stone mink collar.
Farther north Coxcomb, Wetterhorn, and Ucompahgre stand erect among the billowy heights in the North San Juan Mountains. Peeking south offers red light views to the seedy streets of Telluride nestled below the Ophir Peaks and the stoic San Miguel’s trio of fourteen thousand foot peaks. All directions are made fascinating as only a seductress like Emma can reveal.
Rejuvenated by my mountain escapade I blew Emma a kiss for luck and scrambled down from the summit over the tops of the boulders opposite my ascent. I continued down scree filled rock gullies on the north side of the peak to see if there were more possibilities on the peak. An obvious cliff below the scree kept me focused but otherwise Emma’s flanks proved very doable. I tip toed back down the ridge to my waiting skis.
Free spirited spring turns and a few easy tricks delivered me back to my wife and dogs waiting jealously in the grassy basin below. My wholesome wife has yet to read this so for now my feelings for Mount Emma’s sweet summit and views are a secret to her as well as to most who cast an unassuming eye in Emma's direction.
If you go, give her a kiss~
The green Colorado Garret/Martin 13er book describes Emma as a difficult summit block to attain. I found it interesting with several fun ways up but not necessarily difficult. I was nervous at the sight of the Peak but I made the top of the lava-domed summit it in AT ski boots (as other fellow tracks indicated ascents before mine.) A unique aspect to the Yankee Boy Basin approach of Mount Emma is nice rolling broad slopes that holds snow longer than any of its Yankee neighbors. Thus Emma makes for a safe hard packed spring climb and descent later in the season and features an engaging summit climb. She's a bargain...