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By: Miles Brubacher

When the Sierra Peaks Section was formed in the fall of 1955, Section Chairman Frank Sanborn appointed me chairman of a Mountaineering Committee which included Owen Blackburn and Roger Gaefcke as members. The Mountaineering Committee was to make up the list of qualifying and emblem peaks for the Section.

One problem in making a peaks list was that we did not have complete USGS topographic maps of the Sierra. The 15-minute series hadn't yet been published, and the USGS maps we did have dated back to the surveys of 1901. So, we used maps from the Automobile Club of Southern California. Next we developed criteria by which peaks should be judged for inclusion on the list. We thought peaks should be chosen for elevation, dominance and inaccessibility.

Frank Sanborn gave me a list of 100 peaks in the Sierra, which he had prepared as a first draft. Nearly all the present emblem peaks were on that first list. Needham Mountain was one of the first emblem peaks, largely because Frank, Pat Meixner (Gentry), Chuck Miller, Lee Owings and perhaps some other charter members had climbed it. However, it was obvious to the Mountaineering Committee that Needham was not in the same class as the other emblem peaks. So Needham was struck from emblem status, to the tune of much screaming and hollering from Sanborn, Meixner et al.

There was a big gap in the emblem peaks between Mt. Humphreys and Mt. Ritter. After scrutinizing our trusty Auto Club maps, we chose Mt. Abbot to fill this gap, strictly on the basis of its location and elevation. None of the original SPSers had ever seen Mt. Abbot, much less climbed it. When we did climb it we found that it is a good 3rd class challenge.

After a few years, Split Mtn. was added and North Palisade was substituted for nearby Mt. Sill, as emblem peaks. The rock climbers prefer North Palisade as its easiest eastern approach route is 4th class. Perhaps the fact that Sanborn is not a rock climber favored his choice of Sill. Also, Mt. Sill presents a more spectacular silhouette to the east. The only other change to the emblem peaks list has been the addition of Mt. Clarence King in recent years.

Another fact that became obvious to the Mountaineering Committee in 1955 was that the Sierra Nevada could not be adequately covered with a list of only 100 peaks. So, the first list ended up with over 200 peaks, almost as many as the present 246. There have been quite a few changes in the lesser peaks as the various "Peak Baggers" over 20 years have promoted their favorites, but the great majority of peaks on the original list remained unchanged.

Published in the 20th Anniversary Issue (1976, Vol. 20, No. 8) of The Sierra Echo

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