Posted on June 7th, 2011 1 comment
SMI guides Rick Poedtke and Kurt Wedberg met Greg Lukenbill, Chad Buelow, and John Walsh for a climb of the East Ridge of Mt. Russell. This is one of our favorite 3rd class routes in the Sierra. The terrain is high quality white granite with good holds in an exhilarating setting with spectacular views. This is a climb we look forward to each year.
We met in the morning of June 4 at Whitney Portal where we divided up group gear, packed our rucksacks, and began our hike. On day 1 we ascend from Whitney Portal at 8365′/2550m to Upper Boyscout Lake at 11,300′/3444m. Most of the winter snow has melted up to Lower Boyscout Lake at 10,300′/3139m except for a couple patches of snow still holding on. Above Lower Boyscout Lake it is still more or less solid snow. As we climbed the sunny day we had started with began to turn to clouds. We arrived at our camp at Upper Boyscout Lake at 2pm. Shortly after arrived here and setting up tents it began snowing as wind gusts became more frequent. Our altimeters were indicating a drop in barometric pressure as well. A storm was upon us and the big question for us was how long would it last.
After setting up camp we hopped in our tents to stay dry. The temperature was warm enough that the falling snow didn’t stick upon hitting the ground. As the afternoon wore on though we could feel the air temperature drop. We ate dinner and discussed the climb scheduled for the following morning. If the storm cleared we would have a shot at the summit. If it didn’t we would have to descend. The East Ridge of Mt. Russell does not lend itself well to climbing in inclement weather. The ridge is exposed and therefore catches a lot of wind. There is a lot of exposure on the climb too. Even though hand and foot holds are plentiful the ridge is narrow in places and the ridge drops several hundred feet to the base of Lake Tuleinyo, the highest lake in the the US (a lake being defined at any body of water more than one tenth of a mile in diameter). At 12,818′/3907m it is over 300′ and almost 100m above Lake Titicaca in South America, which is the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500′/3811m.
We bedded down that evening with more frequent wind gusts and air temperatures cold enough to allow the falling snow to start sticking. During the night the cloud layer dropped to about 12,600′/3841m. Wind gusts became stronger and more frequent. The storm continued into the morning. Not seeing any end in site we decided to pack up and descend. The weather did clear by late morning however winds remained strong at the high elevations and the rock was covered in slippery wet snow.
Turning around on a mountain is always a tough call. The team discussed this as we descended. It was obvious the route wasn’t going to be in shape to climb but in the process of turning back we many times learned more than if we would have had clear weather. We also came back safely and are able to live to climb another day! Everybody in the group had fun and we will look forward to climbing together on future trips.
A couple pictures are below. The entire photo gallery is here: http://www.kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2011-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Russell-June-4-5-2011/17400040_dkg6F8
Posted on September 5th, 2010 No comments
Mt. Russell’s Mithral Dihedral has long been a classic test piece in the Sierra backcountry. While most of the route is mid 5th class the dihedral in the middle is 300 feet of sustained crack climbing. A dihedral is a rock formation that resembles a book half way opened up. The Mithral Dihedral was originally rated 5.9 but the consensus now has it rated closer to 5.10b. On a beautiful crisp early September morning Darryl, Zach, and Kurt went up to give it a go. Here are a couple pictures. The rest can be found here:
Posted on August 12th, 2010 No comments
Mt. Russell (14,086′, 4293m) is located immediately north of Mt. Whitney. Although overshadowed by it’s much more popular the routes are more challenging and many Sierra aficionados consider them more aesthetically beautiful.
The Fishhook Arête is an 8-pitch climb with the hardest moves rated at 5.9. Viewed from the south the ridges distinct shape is easily seen. The rock is high quality granite in a magnificent setting offering spectacular views all around.
Long time friend of SMI Ken Lewis joined SMI founder Kurt Wedberg for a climb of this classic route. Ken climbed the East Face of Mt. Whitney with us car to car in one day last summer and wanted to step it up a notch this year. We met the Whitney Portal trailhead with headlamps on for the approach to Mt. Russell. We picked our way up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek and walked past Lower Boyscout Lake, Upper Boyscout Lake, and Iceberg Lake. As the early morning sun started to turn the eastern horizon several pretty shades of orange we found ourselves at the Whitney/Russell Col ready to traverse to the base of Mt. Russell.
The weather was clear and a morning breeze kept the temperature cool. We roped up and began climbing the first couple of pitches of mid 5th class moves. The route then traversed off the ridge to the left before climbing straight up to a notch in the ridge. With exposure on both sides the ridge leads us straight up along superb quality granite. Every move higher reveals increasingly dramatic views of Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park to the west and sights as far as Death Valley to the east. The route takes us through a chimney necessitating pressing our feet and backs against opposite walls in a couple places before reaching blocky sections above. The final two pitches take us over blocky terrain with sections of 5.7 to 5.9 climbing that take us straight on to the summit of Mt. Russell.
Thanks Ken for a great day!!
A few more pictures are below. The entire photo gallery from this climb can be seen here: Mt. Russell Fishhook Arête, August 10, 2010.
Thanks Ken for a great day!!!