As Mt. Whitney’s neighbor Mt. Russell often gets overlooked, but this granite giant has dozens of world-class routes to choose from. The 3 we list here are arguably the best and are among the best in the range. Mt. Russell is a mountaineer’s peak with no easy routes to the summit, but all of them are classic.
The scheduled dates here for the Fishhook Arête and the East Ridge are in a 3-day format, with a minimum of 2 to run. Fishhook has a 2:1 maximum guiding ratio and East ridge has a 3:1 max ratio. We often climb these routes in 1 and 2 day formats, with prior screening. For well-honed climbers, it is reasonable to do all 3 of the routes recommended here in a 2-3 day format.
Click HERE to arrange a custom private variation on this trip that best fits your goals, abilities and dates of availability.
Mt. Russell (14,086 ft.)
Mt. Russell is the often forgotten beautiful stepsister to Mt. Whitney. Still a 14′er and gorgeous, she is barely noticed by thousands of tourists who hike to the summit of Whitney. Climbers on the east side of Whitney very much notice this incredible peak. Here we have listed the routes we recommend.
We also offer a 4-day option to climb both Whitney and Russell on the same trip!
Fishhook Arête (III, 5.9)
This “J” or fishhook shaped arete is the first thing you see as you hike over the Whitney/Russell Col. The most obvious rock ascent line around and one of the most aesthetic climbs in the range, the Fishhook is the climb of a lifetime. The climbing stays fully engaging all the way to the end, and the final pitch finishes right on the summit.
East Ridge (Class 3)
The sharp east ridge of Mt. Russell is 3rd class climbing with the exposure, quality, and views of 5th class climbing. Many turn around when the ridge gets steep and exposed. With an SMG guide, the rope comes out in efficient alpine style and you’ll be confident to continue to the summit. One of the best 3rd class routes on a 14′er in the Sierra!
Mithral Dihedral (III, 5.10a)
A stunning left facing corner marks the relatively short and stout, yet classic, technical crux of the route on the South side of the peak. The rest is relatively easy cruising. Makes a great linkup to start in the afternoon when the sun hits it for those burly enough to climb 3 routes on Mt. Russell in a big day. Available by custom private arrangement only.
Mount Russell is impressive for technical alpine rock climbing. Let’s go climb Startrekkin’ – a splitter 5.10 crack system left of the Mithril Dihedral, or Western Front – a modern combination of two 5.10 routes up the steepest and biggest wall on the mountain, or the Southeast Ridge, a classic 5.9 alpine adventure route, or a grade III or IV route on the Southeast Face in the 5.8-10 range. There are many recommended adventures. just let us know!
- 3-day Itinerary
TRIP ITINERARY: Mt. Russell 3-day DAY 1 Meet for a gear check and hike up the adventurous North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. This day is strenuous and passes over the famed Ebersbacher Ledges before ascending to Lower Boy Scout Lake. From there, we continue to camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300'). DAY 2 Climb Mt. Russell by either the Fishhook Arête or East Ridge (depending on your program). Descend to UBS Lake for another night in camp. DAY 3 Descend to Whitney Portal. Fishhook Arête climbers may want to spend the afternoon rock climbing in the Whitney Portal area. For East Ridge climbers we recommend a casual sunrise hike to take photos of Mt. Whitney and the needles bathed in alpenglow, or a morning of fishing at the lake before the descent.
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