After a rather stormy month of May in the Sierra we were blessed with warming temperatures, clear skies, and calm winds on the first weekend in June. The East Ridge of Mt. Russell is one of the most fun and exhilarating 3rd class climbs in the Sierra. For many Sierra aficionados this is their favorite all time 3rd class climbs. The combination of excellent quality rock, great views, fun climbing on a classic ridge, and the opportunity to climb one of the California 14ers make this climb a truly memorable experience.
Our team consisted of Cory Cline, Nathan Fletcher, Demetria Gianopoulos, and Richard Stotts plus guides Peter Douchette and Kurt Wedberg. We met at the Whitney Portal Store at 8 AM on Saturday morning. After introductions and dividing up group gear we began hiking up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. The creeks have never been more overflowing than they are right now. Stones we normally use to hop across the water were submerged. We all made it through the various crossings and these impasses only added to the fun and adventure of the day. The snow is all melted up to Lower Boyscout Lake. Above there the snow gets patchy. From 11,000 feet and higher the snow becomes more or less continuous. We camped at Upper Boyscout Lake which is still frozen over. We found dry ground to pitch our tents and organize ourselves for the climb in the morning.
We woke before sunrise getting an early start up the chute below Mt. Carillon. A nice tongue of snow made for good cramponing leading to the plateau below Mt. Carillon. We then traversed to the start of the East Ridge where we roped up. The route was mostly dry with a couple interspersed snow patches. We were blessed with warm pleasant weather and clear skies that offered wonderful views in every direction. Below us to the north was Lake Tuleinyo, which is the highest lake in the western hemisphere. Reaching the 14,086′, 4293m about 5 hours after leaving camp we took a break then descended the SW Chute, climbed over the Whitney/Russell Col, down to Iceberg Lake, and looped around to our camp. We packed up and descended back to Whitney Portal in time for the best burgers in the Eastern Sierra.
Here are a few pictures. The full photo gallery is here: http://kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2010-Sierra-Trips/Mt-Russell-East-Ridge-June-5-6/12462449_6ZJSb#892624479_7BSWL
The team at Whitney Portal. Back Row left to right: Cory Cline, Peter Douchette, Richard Stotts, Nathan Fletcher. In front: Demetria Gianopoulos and Kurt Wedberg
Snow Flowers or Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea are actually fungus that grow off the roots of pine trees. They sprout up after the snow melts and always are a pretty site to see.
Demetria negotiating one of several creek crossings.
Nathan getting through another creek crossing of the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.
Richard, Cory, and Peter on the Ebersbacher Ledges en route to Lower Boyscout Lake.
The team climbing the pretty granite slabs en route to Upper Boyscout Lake.
Peter, Richard, and Nathan ascending the snow tongue below Mt. Carillon. Behind is Mt. Whitney, Keeler Needle, and Day Needle basking in the early morning light.
Demetria and Cory enjoying the climbing on the East Ridge of Mt. Russell.
Nathan and Peter negotiating the 3rd class terrain on the East Ridge of Mt. Russell.
Demetria and Cory on the East Ridge of Mt. Russell with Lake Tuleinyo below.
Peter and Nathan near the top of the East Ridge of Mt. Russell.
Cory and Demetria crossing a snow patch just below the slightly lower East Summit of Mt. Russell.
Nathan and Peter shortly before the summit of Mt. Russell.
Summit photo on Mt. Russell. Back row left to right: Peter Douchette, Nathan Fletcher, Cory Cline. Front row left to right: Kurt Wedberg and Demetria Gialopoulos
Crossing the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.