The Rules

Why have rules? Simply to avoid future contentions as to what constitutes the proper execution of a Challenge. It would be unfortunate for someone to have put in lots of planning and effort, only to find later that the climbing/hiking community does not consider the effort valid because a criteria was misunderstood. If you don't like rules, that's ok, too. Just ignore this page and have a nice hike.

1. The Trailhead Rule

"You must enter and exit each Challenge from a recognized public-access trailhead."

You cannot use a trailhead that is not available to the general public. This includes any trailhead that can only be reached by passing through private property (to which public access is not available). It does not exclude trailheads that require the use of 4WD or off-road vehicles to reach, although their use should be discouraged where possible. Split Mountain is the only Emblem Peak for which this is needed. 4WD can be used for an approach to Mt. Humpreys as an example, but the North Lake Trailhead leading to Piute Pass is "cleaner" since all 2WD drive vehicles have access to this point. One should not have an advantage because of the type of vehicle one owns or has access to. Graded dirt roads are fine as access points since these routes are generally accessible by 2WD vehicles.

The trailheads described here are not the only ones that may be used for the Challenge, although in most cases, they are the shortest, most direct access points to the peaks. One does not need to return to the same trailhead to complete a Challenge.

2. The Dayhike Rule

"You cannot be on the trail at the stroke of midnight."

The Dayhike Rule says that a hike can be considered a dayhike if it is completed within a single day, where a day is 24 hours starting at midnight. Camping or bivouacking is not allowed. If you set out to bag two peaks, this does not allow you an overnight in the Wilderness between the peaks. Completing two peaks in a single day does however earn you considerable bragging rights. This Double Challenge might be conceiveable for Mts. Lyell and Ritter or Mts. Goddard and Darwin. This said, I'm sure to be proven wrong by intrepid marathoners out there who are able to make other combinations possible as well. 'On the trail' means any point past the recognized trailhead, usually marked by a sign leaving the parking lot, campground, or roadway.

Why the Dayhike Rule? Without it, the Challenge become more like the other multi-day mountain marathon events where participants are driven to exhaustion not just by hiking long distances, but through sleep deprivation as well -- all fine and good, but a different sort of challenge. Plus, it becomes more difficult to organize since Wilderness permits must be procurred, and these are limited by the Forest and Park Services that are responsible for these Wilderness areas. We did not want to limit participation to a small group due to permit limits. This must be done for Mt. Whitney of course, since even dayhikes there are limited.

3. The No Aid Rule

"Once past the trailhead, no form of aid may be given to any persons except those in the party."

An important aspect of the Challenge is self-sufficiency in the Wilderness. No one is allowed to carry food, water, ropes, or anything else for the participants. Similarly, one cannot take advantage of gear placed by previous parties, or use gear, food, or water cached previously. This includes anything you may have cached yourself, intentionally or otherwise. The sole exception to this rule is the use of rappel slings. It is not ethically reasonable to require you to leave any more gear in the Wilderness than necessary, so it is encouraged that you use existing rappel slings where possible.

The Aid Rule also applies to advice. Before one leaves the trailhead, one can get as much advice as they want. After starting, it is up to the experience and ingenuity of the party to find the top of each mountain and their way back down. Pacing is another form of muling because it leads the way. It is recommended and advised that participants have climbing partners for safety reasons, but your climbing partner must be a member of the party completing the Challenge. You cannot ask directions to a given summit, and cannot be lead on any portion of the hike or climb by someone not a member of the party.

4. The Gear Rule

"Once on the trail, no form of mechanical or biological devices for carrying or propulsion may be used. Any other gear carried is at the sole discretion of the individuals."

The Challenge requires you to use your own feet to transport yourself from from the trailhead to the summit and back. Trekking poles are not mechanical devices, nor are ropes, crampons, snowshoes, skis, or packs of any kind (except possibly jet-propelled ones). While skiis may seem unfair to some, it should be noted that the effort required to climb significant snowfields and carry them to the summit is generally more effort than saved during the descent, as opposed to a late-summer climb when no significant snow is present on most of these routes.

All of these peaks can be climbed by those sufficiently skilled without the use of ropes and protection. However, that is not an endorsement for any party to begin a Challenge ill-prepared. If you have any doubt about how to reach a particular summit, you should probably carry a rope and any gear needed to use it properly.

The Challenger may carry whatever food and gear he deems necessary. You may carry as much or as little water as necessary - you may decide to bring a water filter or may decline and drink directly from the streams or snowmelt. You should carry clothing appropriate for the weather, and it's changeable nature. Proper gear selection is an integral part of the Challenge, an interesting tradeoff in being properly prepared versus the limitations on how much you can carry and still complete the Challenge.

You are allowed to suffer as much as you choose, but there are no extra points for this.

5. The Top Rule

"The top is the top."

You must climb to the recognized summit, including any summit block to count that summit as climbed. Mt. Darwin is a good example where one must ascend the detached pinnacle to gain the true summit. There is no requirement to locate or sign the summit register, although doing so is customary. And fun, too.

6. The Leave-No-Trace Rule

"Pack out anything you pack in."

This is essentially a Wilderness experience, and Wilderness rules provided by the Forest and Park Services already require you to pack out those things you bring in. It is repeated here to help emphasize the importance of respecting the Wilderness environment. It is not required that you carry out human waste, but it should be properly disposed of far from water sources, and away from trails and camping areas. Toilet paper should be burned or carried out.

One exception to this rule is the aforementioned rappel slings. Where possible, use existing ones rather than placing new ones. If the existing one is unsafe for any reason, you should replace it and carry the old slings out with you. Having to abandon a rope may be necessary from a safety standpoint, but the party should consider that particular Challenge a failure. Carrying rocks out to mimic the weight and effort of carrying out a rope that has been abandoned does not correct the visual blemish left on the mountain. Removing the rope at a later time, while noble, does not correct the failure.

7. The Clock Rule

"The clock starts when you leave the trailhead, and ends when you return."

To complete one or more of the Challenges, one needs merely to meet the Dayhike Rule as far as time goes. Should a person or party like to quantify the time required (either to compare to another party or to break the previous record), this rule helps resolve which time should be measured. Time is not measured upon leaving your car, as some hikes may require you to park a considerable distance from the trailhead should the main lot be full (Mt. Abbot is a good example). To make it fair to all parties, the trailhead is used to begin and end any timed Challenge.

8. The Honor System

"The Sierra Emblem Challenge rules are informal and essentially voluntary."

In fact, in the Challenge all is essentially informal and voluntary. There is no one set course, there are no officials to record the times, no competitors alongside to provide a gauge of reference. There is only you, the 10 inanimate peaks, the currently recognized records, and your word of honor that you have actually done what you report you have done.

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