Mount Russell (N#68, T#2), Tunnabora Peak (N#69, T#3), Mount Carillon (N#70, T#4)
Nathan Day 58, Travis Day 2: Mount Russell, Tunnabora Peak, and Mount Carillon
The sun rose and kissed the east walls of the Mount Whitney skyline and turned the dark granite into golden pillars. Nathan and I biked up to the trailhead with our overnight packs filled with supplies for the next three days.
Despite our heavy packs, we were moving fast up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. We were both brimming with excitement, today we would climb the notorious Fishhook Arete of Mount Russell.
We eventually reached our camp at Upper Boyscout Lake, transitioned to day packs, and continued toward Russell. At this point in the day, late morning, the wind began ripping through the basin.
When we arrived at Iceberg Lake the gusts were aggressive and powerful, somewhere around 30-40 miles per hour. I felt a bit anxious about climbing the arete. Still, we carried on.
Nathan walked right across Iceberg Lake without a second thought. After seeing that the ice firmly held, I followed, albeit gingerly. We climbed a bit of steep snow with microspikes to reach the Whitney-Russell col.
From the col, Fishhook Arete revealed itself, standing as proud and majestic as ever. It is one of the most stunning aretes I've ever seen.
Nathan and I approached the base of the arete and gazed up at the immaculate granite cracks. The first 60 feet of the wall is the crux (most difficult section) and boasts a thin steep hand crack rated at 5.9. It seemed to say "try me if you dare."
Unfortunately, the wind had maintained its ferocity. Despite our excitement to climb, we knew launching into the vertical world in these conditions could be harrowing, and potentially dangerous. We sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes weighing our options. Then we decided on the count of three to give a thumbs up for climbing or thumbs down for bailing.
One… Two… Three… Both hands sprouted a thumb pointing up into the sky, or in this case, to the arete. Here we go!
Nathan led the way, I watched with nervous curiosity to see how difficult the climbing would become. He made a commiting move but nonetheless continued with excellent precision and control. I took a deep breath and then cast off after him.
The climbing was engaging, the rock was cold, and my hands began to numb.
The wind was screaming loudly all around and threatened to knock us off the rock. I forced myself to ignore everything but the climbing movement. There was no mental space for anything other than unwavering focus. Near the top Nathan reached a section of steep climbing that caused him to pause for a few minutes. He climbed through and told me it was a bit tricky. I went to check it out.
The move was a bit insecure. I found a small right foot toe jam, and a small sloping crystal with my left hand. I committed all my weight to my right foot and reached up for a thin hand jam.
I locked it in as best I could then reached for a higher hand jam with my left.
It was very positive and I became flooded with relief. I had made it through the crux and continued to the ridge.
From here the arete was sharply featured like a dragon's back with hundreds of feet of air on either side. The climbing became easier but still engaging, and quite frankly freakin' awesome! The granite was varnished with rosy red quartz crystals and golden crack systems. To avoid the wind, Nathan and I found small corners and caves to huddle in for warmth. But the wind could not dampen our spirits, we were psyched!
After 1,000 feet of clawing our way up the dragon's spine, we finally reached the summit of Mt. Russell!
What an adventure, but our day was still far from over. We climbed down the East Ridge, which also turned out to be a fun climb…
And carried on to Tunnabora Peak…
From there we climbed over to the Russell-Carillon col…
And on to the summit of Mount Carillon…
And then descended back to our camp at 5:30pm.
Dinner consisted of instant potatoes, ramen, and stuffing (calorie bomb!). We both retreated into our tents and to get some rest before the next day's 4-peak linkup.
View the activity here.