MT, RUSSELL (14,086'), MT. CARILLON (13,552'), and MT. WHITNEY (14,495') 3X August 4-6, 1984
Signing up for a Sierra Peaks Section trip, I motored south on U.S. 395 to meet the usually avid and serious group. Meeting at Whitney Portal Trailhead, I backpacked up with them on the Mt. Whitney Trail, starting at an early hour.
We took the use trail up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek, and soon were floundering in the willows. I took a short fall with my foot caught in some roots, and almost injured myself in this unnecessary move, as told by a participant. However, I made it out of the brush, and soon we emerged at a small lake.
Ascending slabs past a waterfall, we were hiking up toward our base camp, with views down canyon along the way. At a nice base camp below the peaks and next to Iceberg Lake, I had my dinner, and rested well for a dawn start the next day.
We hiked up a nice, but loose, 2,000 foot long scree slope to the south side of the East Arete of Mt. Russell. The weather was excellent, and we made good time. Meeting a hiker camped way up high, here, we continued to the East Arete. A guide leading a group, that we ran into the day before, described it as "airy." I was a bit apprehensive, as the class 3 climbing had a reputation of sorts.
It turned out to be nothing. While you edge along the right (north) side of the arete, the holds are plentiful and the route obvious. The rock slopes down to near vertical, though, with a thousand foot drop potentially unnerving. We stayed together and helped each other ascend this portion, to come to talus and easy scrambling closer to the top.
I started to take pictures, although it was only about 9:30 a.m., so the morning light wasn't so good. Some in the group had a long drive home. We scrambled over to the west summit, and I enjoyed seeing the south face of Mt. Whitney. Tulainyo Lake, the highest lake in the Sierra, loomed below us with an icy shore breaking off into the water.
We descended back down the arete, and soon most of us were climbing the easy Mt. Carillon. It offered a nice but fearsome view and perspective of the East Arete we had just climbed.
Running back down the scree to camp, we packed up and headed out. The lone hiker knew the way down the Ebersbacher Ledges, then a way that avoided crossing the main creek.
Back to the cars by about 3:30 p.m., the SPS group all quickly left for home. I had a day more to stay down here, so had some camp food, and slept in a campsite, fortunately available, nearby.
Waking up early Monday morning, I started my day hike up the Mt. Whitney Trail by about 5:30 a.m. To make this story short, I had no problem, knowing the trail from my two climbs or hikes before, and finally then was topping out on the summit. I don't consider the views so great without clouds or dramatic light, but took pictures anyway. I signed the official summit log, and stayed a short while on top. I pointed out Mt. Russell to another hiker, who hardly believed that I had been there the day before, then hiking all the way back down to the trailhead. I wanted to make sure that I hiked the summit trail in a day, or 13 hours round trip, then, as it took me. My first two climbs had been first an overnight, and then secondly, the end to a 100 mile backpack from South Lake.
Human usage does have its impact, and facilities had been placed for the many hikers, up to 150 a day, that hike up here. The outhouse at the standard camp is now removed, with a pack-it-out rule in effect.
Back to the start by about 6:30 p.m., I began my drive home. Pleasantly tired, I savored my safe and successful longer weekend, and car-camped somewhere on my way home.
My stats would have been some 12,000' total gain, and the Whitney Trail is 22 miles, round trip. I think the short, horizontal distance to do Russell is about 6 miles round trip.
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