Portland Cement Company Incline

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
      Last weekend I was at Yosemite enjoying a heat wave. On Saturday I attempted to get to top of the Diving Board. (Discussed in previous blog). On Sunday I DID accomplish a goal of mine. I made it to the top of the “Yosemite Portland Cement Company” Incline. It is located 11 miles west of El Portal between the Ferguson Rockfall and Briceburg. In 1928 the company opened a rail line set at 41 degrees to transport limestone from the upper hills down to the trains at the Merced River. The site was called Emory after one of the founders. There were two standard gauge rails to allow cars of 8 tons carrying 13 tons of ore. A 230 HP motor operated a cable system to hoist the cars up in 4 minutes. The Great Depression sunk the market for cement and the plant gradually faded away, with Henry Kaiser buying it out in 1944 partially to remove competition from his own operations. 

Early photo of the Emory Incline from Hwy 140

     I have looked up at the remnant buildings for years and I tried to get up last summer only to be frustrated after 3 hours and bloody skin from the heavy brush. I made it only about 1/3 of the way to the top of the 2300 foot high complex. 

Modern day


Close up of my goal

    I found the original track route with depressions from where the now absent rails lie. I also found shards of the cables in the gravelly surface. Sunday I resolved to make it up by going a longer but cleaner route. After one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done, including some hard core scrambling thru a tree cogged gulch, I reached the top. Here’s some photos of the massive concrete bunkers that supported the system. 

Dense foilage blocks route




Hollow concrete bunkers



Too much to tear down

The hike down was harder. It was very hot and I could not find a way through the gully thicket. Many attempts to find a path led me into a dense vine patch. At one point I lost balance and came down on one of my trekking poles – 200 pounds was too much and it snapped.

Boink! Warranty time.

     Running out of water, I finally made it back to the Merced where I had to ford it to get back to the car. Even though the flow is low this late in the year, it was a difficult task with only one pole for balance.  I’m not recommending this hike but thought you’d enjoy my story. Next time you’re on Highway 140 stop and look at the Incline. It’s near an old billboard promoting Savage’s Trading Post. There are a few buildings at the base. By the way there are 2 more Inclines – one near El Portal and one near the Cedar Lodge. Hmmmmm – maybe???

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” – The world’s most interesting man.
*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


6 Responses to “Portland Cement Company Incline”

  1. andy Says:

    Great story. That’s cool to go find some old stuff. History channel next?

  2. john Says:

    Poles come with a warranty, or only if you pay extra?

  3. mrhalfdome Says:

    Leki poles are warranted for life.

  4. Mr. Diving Board Says:

    Nice job Rick. Take that off the to-do list. I remember pulling off the road and looking up at the Incline with your live narrative when we got rained-out for Horsetail Fall earilier in the year. Frame your busted pole with an engraved brass plaque.

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