Mounts Russell, Whitney, Muir, and Carillon in a day
ScottyS and I chose July 4th for this jaunt as there were Whitney Zone dayhike permits available for this day, and we wanted to use the Whitney Freeway for part of the trip.We spent the night before in the Tuttle Creek Campground, it is close, and it is free. We got up early and headed for the Portal. There were very few tourists in evidence, and no garbage-scrounging bears. We left the Portal at 5:15, made Trail Camp at 7:15, Trail Crest at 8:10, and the summit of Mt. Muir via the easy east side at 8:25. We passed very few tourists on the way up, the trail was nearly deserted. On top, we signed in, took some photos, and enjoyed the view.
We re-joined the trail, headed for Whitney, and made one detour to fill up on water from a melting snowfield before reaching the summit a little over an hour later. Amazingly, there were only 3 tourists on top, and as we arrived, they started down, leaving us to enjoy some solitude on one of the busiest peaks in the U.S., in the middle of the summer climbing season! We took in some calories and water, and descended toward the top of the Mountaineers Route. When we arrived at the notch that denotes the right turn to continue the Mountaineers, we kept on straight down the north slope.
The north slope descent was much more difficult than expected, steep and loose, with intermittent cliff bands and polished slabs. Patient route finding kept the difficulty in the 3rd-4th class range. There were many relicts of past rappels left on the slope, we found a servicable #2 Camalot, and an old ring piton, along with many rotten slings. The descent to the base and the subsequent crossing of the basin to the base of the South Face of Mt. Russell consumed an additional hour and fifteen minutes.
We then headed up the South Face of Russell in a chute just right of the Fish Hook Arete. At the top, we chose the left-hand option, rated 5.0, but it seemed easier. The left-hand option was definitely steep and somewhat exposed, and a fun and interesting route if you don't have a rope with you. At the top of the face, we were midway between the East and West Summits, and we scrambled first for the higher West Summit to sign the register. The ascent of the South Face involved about 2,000 feet of scrambling and took 1:15. We traversed over the East Summit and down the East Ridge. The East Ridge is a long, narrow, spine of rock with fun (and wild) exposure on both sides that is all the more fun because of the moderate nature of the route. Looking down from the top, I would never have guessed it to be as easy as 3rd class. At the bottom of the East Ridge, we hopped in the Russell-Carillon saddle, and began our ascent of peak #4 for the day, Mt. Carillon.
From the Russell-Carillon saddle and up the west ridge, it was an easy class 2 scramble. This was definitely the most casual peak of the day. We took the obligatory photos and signed in, and turned toward the car. We descended the south face of Carillon, turned left, crossed a sandy plateau, and went down a steep sandy slope that was speckled with large rocks and cliff bands, and joined the trail that follows the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. We followed this to the tourist trail, and then down to the car. Our descent from Carillon to the car took 2:10, getting us back to the car at 5:15 for a total car-to-car time of 12 hours. We covered approximately 19-20 miles, and 8-9,000 feet of vertical in our day's travels.