| California 14er Mount Russell – East Aręte
Horse Ranch Mountain (8,726') – 8 miles RT, 3,650' elevation
Mount Russell (14,088') – 9 miles RT, 5,800' elevation
Hayford Peak (9,912') – 14 miles RT, 4,100' elevation
Rainbow Point (9,115') – Drive-up
Team: Doug Hatfield and Susan Paul
Distinction: Zion National Park Highpoint
Horse Ranch Mountain, south face. It sure looked pretty in the light of the morning sun!
The prime objective of this trip was Mount Russell, but we figured Horse Ranch Mountain would make a good warm-up. Just eight miles, piece of cake! But then the weather report went from 20% to 50% precip. Three thunder and lightning storms, a couple miles of bushwhacking that rivaled even the nastiest Fremont county bash, one washed-out trail that meandered down a cliff face peppered with coffee-table-sized rocks that dislodged at the slightest touch, not to mention a boulder filled gully with occasional class 5 drop-offs later, we were down. Just in time for the deluge! We drove out in the dark, and did our best to follow the road that was now awash with mud and rocks. And we drove to Las Vegas for the night.
Distinction: California ranked 14er
We had been looking forward to Mount Russell since last August, when we got this fantastic view of the south side of the peak from the Notch on the Mountaineer's route on Mount Whitney. The long, sweeping class 3 ridge starts at the saddle between Mount Russell and unranked 13er Mount Carillon (far right), and runs from east to west. The false east summit is obvious from this view, as is the narrow ridge connecting it to the slightly higher west summit. There are some great technical routes on the south side of the peak. We opted for the easier, class 3 east aręte, or ridge route.
So here we were, back in Lone Pine. The route starts the same way as the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney. Rather than rehash that, you can check out DHatfield's and my trip report from last year: Mount Whitney via Mountaineers Route
It was much easier this year, due to the fact that we decided to day-hike it, and left our heavy packs behind.
Anyway, eventually we got to Upper Boy Scout Lake, and enjoyed the striking early morning views of the Whitney Zone.
After this point, it's 2,000 feet of scree. We kept to the more solid stuff on the right, but would opt for the softer stuff on the left for the way down.
Lovin' the scree.
Aw, c'mon, it's not that bad.
Yes it is.
Near the top of the scree slope, you'll need to follow some ledges to gain the plateau.
Almost to the Russell / Carillon saddle. What appears to be the higher point in this photo is actually the false summit; you need to continue west along the ridge to gain the true summit.
Doug works his way up to the ridge.
The scrambling starts immediately.
After a few stiff class 3 moves, the route relents quite a bit.
There's actually a section where a trail runs along the north side.
But soon enough you'll be back on rock, and working your way up to the ridge.
Gaining the ridge, with Mount Carillon behind me.
The rule here is: stay on the ridge till you can't any more, then find a route on the north side.
Rocky ridge road.
Straddling the rock. Doug did not enjoy this move – at all.
Looking toward the east summit.
Doug working up the crack system on the north side, toward the east summit.
This route will get your attention. I've done my share of 14er ridges, and Mount Russell was by far the stiffest, most exposed class 3 route I have ever experienced. The good news is: it really is class 3, the rock is solid, and the holds are bomber. Once you wrap your mind around the fact that some of the moves are going to put you on some vertical rock with a lot of air under your feet – but with cracks big enough to stuff your entire hands and feet into – you'll be just fine!
The section between the east and west summits narrows quite a bit, and features a lovely catwalk.
Here's the crux: a block that demands a few easy moves, and a mantel up to the top. With this kind of exposure, we didn't want to rely on balance and smearing to make the moves.
Instead, we found an easier route to the north.
…and summit bound!
Hey, isn't that Mount Williamson, another California 14er?
The teeny-tiny summit.
I sat up there for a while, feeling like the biggest badass in all the land, till I heard some guys coming up via the 5.9 Fishhook Aręte!
Looking north to the High Sierra.
The catwalk leading back to the east summit. At this point, you've stopped noticing the exposure. You know the route, you know it goes, and it's rock solid, and you can do it. Going down was a whole lot easier than going up!
Looking back at the guys in the Fishhook. We met them later, on the hike out. They were the only guys on the trail the whole day, in and out.
The only point that I recall crossing the ridge on the south side.
The mellower north side.
A beautiful route, highly recommended.
We punted Carillon and left Mount Russell behind. This is the kind of peak you'll want to repeat.
Hiking out in the dusk.
Distinction: Nevada Ultra-prominence Peak
There's a trail all the way to the top, but hiking fourteen miles in Las Vegas heat in the middle of August still made this a tough day. Five liters of water, and I drank it all.
Distinction: Bryce Canyon National Park Highpoint
This was a drive-up. But after a week of hiking thirty-one miles and way too much elevation, in thunder and lightning, pouring rain and searing heat, across some of the toughest terrain I've ever encountered, I was happy to drive all the way up, and park in the spot closest to the summit!
What a great trip.