2001 Sierra Emblem Challenge
August 4-13

Last Updated: 4/12/02

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The Sierra Emblem Challenge is a series of dayhikes to the most impressive peaks in the Sierra Nevada range. Any one of these hikes will test the stamina and skills of the most avid peak bagging enthusiast. For both miles logged and vertical feet gained, these scrambles are as impressive as the views obtained from their summits. There are 15 Emblem Peaks in all, making for 15 unique challenges. 10 of these have been chosen for a special 10-day marathon event beginning Aug 4, 2001. The Challenge is open to anyone who wishes to participate. This is primarily a Wilderness experience, and as such there are serious risks involved that are the responsibility of each individual participant to manage for themselves. There are no water, food, or first-aid stations, no emergency services or shelter of any kind available to those in trouble. If you are uncomfortable accepting such risks in any way, you should not participate.

The Emblem Peaks

The Emblem Peaks were designated by the
Sierra Peak Section (SPS), a section in the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, as part of a larger list of Sierra Peaks starting in 1955. The first list, proposed by Frank Sanborn, the first chair of the SPS, contained 100 peaks. Miles Brubacher, the first chair of the Mountaineering Committee, added to this list and compiled the first list of qualifying peaks around November 1955. It had 200 peaks on it with 10 Emblem Peaks. The present list of 247 peaks, unchanged since October 1992, now has 15 Emblem Peaks.

The Emblem Peaks were so designated because they dominate the area by their bulk or the amount of terrain that can be seen from the summit. All are over 12,000 ft in elevation, and span the High Sierra region from northern Yosemite to south of Sequoia National Park. Most were named by the Whitney Survey party in the 1860s, and three of them are named after members of that party (Whitney, Brewer, and Clarence King).

PeakElevationClassLocationTrailheadRoundtrip MilesElevation Gain (ft)Date
Matterhorn Peak 12327 2 Yosemite NP Twin Lakes 11.0 5187 Sat. Aug 4, 2001 (6a start)
Mt. Lyell 13114 3 Yosemite NP Tuolumne Meadows 27.0 4414 Sun. Aug 5, 2001 (5a start)
Mt. Ritter 13143 3 Ansel Adams Wilderness Agnew Meadow 18.0 5283 Mon. Aug 6, 2001 (6a start)
Mt. Abbot 13704 3 John Muir Wilderness Rock Creek 10.0 3464 Tue. Aug 7, 2001 (6a start)
Mt. Humphreys 13986 4 John Muir Wilderness North Lake / Buttermilk Rd. 17.2 4686 Wed. Aug 8, 2001 (6a start)
Mt. Darwin 13831 3s4 Kings Canyon NP Lake Sabrina 20.0 4731 Thu. Aug 9, 2001 (6a start)
North Palisade 14242 5 Kings Canyon NP Big Pine 21.0 6565 Fri. Aug 10, 2001 (5a start)
Split Mtn. 14058 3 Kings Canyon NP McMurry Meadows Rd 15.0 7490 Sat. Aug 11, 2001 (5a start)
Mt. Whitney 14491 1 Sequoia NP Whitney Portal 22.0 6223 Sun. Aug 12, 2001 (6a start)
Olancha Peak 12123 2 John Muir Wilderness Sage Flat / Monache Meadow 21.0/15.0 6323 Mon. Aug 13, 2001 (6a start)
Mt. Clarence King 12905 4s5 Kings Canyon NP Onion Valley 33.0 9169 TBD
Mt. Brewer 13570 2 Kings Canyon NP Roads End 26.0 9635 TBD
Mt. Goddard 13568 3 Kings Canyon NP Lake Sabrina 32.0 7956 TBD
Mt. Williamson 14370 3 John Muir Wilderness Symmes Creek Rd 31.0 9900 TBD
Mt. Kaweah 13802 1 Sequoia NP Mineral King 34.0 12882 TBD

Why the Challenge?

Good question. It was inspired by a couple of other marathon peakbagging events that boggle the imagination and the limits of human endurance. The first was an attempt by Hans Florine to climb all of 14 of California's 14ers in six days. He didn't make it, quitting after three days, but it was an impressive run nonetheless. The first day was the most impressive, climbing Thunderbolt, Starlight, North Palisade, Sill, and Middle Palisade, starting from and returning to the Big Pine trailhead. Hans travelled alone, climbing solo over a good deal of class 4 and 5 terrain (including a 5.8 move to reach the summit block of Thunderbolt Peak). Josh Swartz subsequently did all 15 14ers in six days in August of 2001, at the same time as this event took place.

The second inspirational achievement was Ricky Denesik's climb of 55 Colorado 14ers in just over 12 days. While not as technically challenging as the 14ers of California, the sheer number of peaks climbed is almost unbelieveable. This guy must be fit!!!

I figure there is no chance in hell I'm going to come close to either of these guys. I simply must bow down to their superior skills and stamina. I don't have the technique or the confidence needed to solo class 5 routes on remote peaks, nor the will to climb for days on end with little sleep, hiking way before sunup and way past sundown. I will leave it to others to chase those dreams...

The Sierra Emblem Challenge opens to a wider audience some of the same experiences of these marathon climbing events. I conceived it as a personal challenge that was at the edge of my own abilities, and wanted to share the experience with others who might similarly enjoy a good workout. Besides, suffering is more fun if you have someone to share it with. :)

Who is organizing this?

The Sierra Emblem Challenge is being sponsored by the Sierra Scrambles Club, but in fact is being primarily organized by Bob Burd. There is no legal entity responsible for this event and no grants available for advertising, promotion, or funding. It is being done on a volunteer basis (in terms of time, money, and energy), so please be kind to the organizer. He has a job and family, and so has limited time and resources. If you would like to help contribute to the organization of this event, please feel free to contact us.

How do I participate?

Send mail to snwbord@hotmail.com. Let us know which peaks you are interested in climbing. We will include you on a mail list for future info about carpooling, meeting times, changes, etc. We would like to collect the following information about you as well so that we can post it on this website. That will allow others to contact you for coordinating hiking, climbing, and driving partners. If you would like information to be kept confidential, please indicate this, and it will not be posted. If you're really worried about privacy, give us as much info as you see fit, your email address being the minimum required amount. You are also free to simply show up at the trailhead and join us, but it is helpful for planning purposes if you can let us know in advance that you intend to join us. Send a photo of yourself (or point me to one on the web) if you'd like your picture shown on your information page.

  • Full Name
  • Email Address
  • Phone No.
  • Mailing Address
  • Which Peak Challenges do you plan to participate in?
  • Rate your own experience and expectation level:
    1. - Professional guide
    2. - I would be comfortable soloing any of these peaks
    3. - I would be comfortable leading others on any of these peaks
    4. - I would be comfortable soloing some of these peaks (but uncomfortable leading or guiding)
    5. - I would be comfortable following on any of these peaks (but wouldn't solo them)
    6. - I will find it challenging to follow on these peaks, but eager to try.
    7. - I plan to hike only as long as I'm comfortable and can keep up.

    Try to rate the following using the Yosemite Decimal System:

  • Highest grade of Wilderness free climb I'm comfortable with:
  • Highest grade of Wilderness roped climb I'm comfortable leading:
  • Highest grade of Wilderness roped climb I'm comfortable following:

    You may also choose to climb these peaks following The Rules on days other than those listed here. We will be happy to add your name to the finishers list provided that as a minimum you post a trip report about your adventure. You can post it here (via email), or any other place and simply pass along the URL for us to post on this website.

    What does this cost?

    Nominally, nothing. There are no entrance fees to participate in any of these hikes. You are responsible for your own food, lodging, and gear. There may be a nominal charge for T-shirts, if available, but there is no obligation to buy anything from the organizers.

    What are the prizes?

    There are no prizes. It is hoped that the enjoyment of participation is reward enough. There will be recognition on this website for all participants, finishers, and fastest time finishers. If you were hoping for something more in the way of renumeration, please look elsewhere.

    What am I in for?

    Most of these peaks are usually climbed as multi-day trips into the Wilderness. As dayhikes these climbs are all very strenuous. You should not attempt any of them without proper training and experience. Only you can judge your level of preparedness, so no training formula can be given that works for everyone. There are those that train for months and still fail to summit Mt. Whitney even though a regular trail exists all the way to the top. There are others who because of outstanding physiology or possibly sheer will might not train at all and still go out and climb the toughest of these. I would expect that those with the best chances to succeed will have experience with long hikes combined with much elevation gain ( 20+ miles, 3000+ ft), extensive cross-country travel, and are comfortable climbing class 3 rock, snow, and ice.

    Who do I sue if I get hurt?

    No one. There is no official organization to ensure any level of safety any greater than you have on your own when you venture into the Wilderness. If you are hiking or climbing with others during this event, you do so the same as if you were out with friends. Don't expect anyone to ensure the qualifications of another you are hiking or climbing with. If you have doubts, you should find someone you trust, go alone, or choose not to participate.
    For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com

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