Portal to Upper Boy Scout Lake to Mt. RussellThe plan for this Labor Day weekend was to do Mt. Russell on Saturday, Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineer's Route on Sunday, and the 8 mile Mt. Baldy Race to the Top on Monday morning. Two of us got all three in.
Saturday morning, our group of 9 left the Portal and picked up the North Fork Trail of Lone Pine Creek. I must say, getting up the slab to that landmark foxtail pine that marks the beginning of the Ebersbacher Ledges is challenging with a heavy pack. A word to the wise: on the return along this route, take care not to miss the spot where you drop back down to the creek from the ledges. You get into some dangerous terrain if you miss that spot and continue on the ledges because they get progressively narrower. I made this mistake hiking back by myself to the Portal the next day and almost slipped off the ledge at one point. Fortunately, some hikers below in the creek area shouted to me that I was off course and I was able to backtrack and find the correct descent point.
We got to Upper Boy Scout Lake before noon and set up camp. Three of us then took off to climb Mt. Russell via the 3d Class East Arete route. This is a fun, fun route, but with some serious exposure along the way. We got back to camp for a pasta and potato soup dinner and hit the sack early to be ready for Whitney the next day.
The Mountaineer's RouteEveryone in our group except one was up for Whitney Sunday morning. There was lots of talus and scree to cover along our route from Upper Boy Scout Lake. When you get to Iceberg Lake (12,240 ft.elev.), you're at the start of the Mountaineer's Route. The route goes up the large gully to the left (West) of the lake. There is lots of boulder scrambling and scree slogging to be done. There were still some patches of snow in the gully. You get a good workout, but when you gain the notch, the hardest part is over. You then traverse along the northern slope of the mountain and at some point take a left to ascend to meet the last few hundred yards of the main trail and then onto the summit plateau. After lunch and photos, we headed back to break camp and the return to the Portal.
My son and I got back to L.A. at 11 pm. I jumped out of bed at 5 am the next morning to meet a member of our climbing party and toe the start line of the annual Mt. Baldy Race to the Top. The gun went off at 8 am and we both finished the 8 mile ascent in under 2 hours. Afterwards, we agreed that we'd both done our share of labor this Labor Day weekend. But it was the type of labor we'll look forward to again.