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Two routes on Mt. Russell (Star Trekkin' and Bloody Corner)
Trip Report

Two routes on Mt. Russell (Star Trekkin' and Bloody Corner)

 
Two routes on Mt. Russell (Star Trekkin\' and Bloody Corner)

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: California, United States, North America

Object Title: Two routes on Mt. Russell (Star Trekkin' and Bloody Corner)

Date Climbed/Hiked: Aug 20, 2015

Activities: Trad Climbing

Season: Summer

 

Page By: StephAbegg

Created/Edited: Aug 22, 2015 / Aug 26, 2015

Object ID: 950724

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Page Score: 71.06%  - 1 Votes 

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Trip Report


INTRO

By the time of this trip I had climbed the four most popular routes on Mt. Russell: Fishhook Arete (5.9, 700') (Aug '13), Mithral Dihedral (5.9+, 700') (July '15), Western Front (5.10+, 900') (July '15), and East Ridge (3rd, 800') (as a downclimb, Aug'13 and July '15). All of these routes were great. The rock on Russell is some of the best alpine granite I've climbed. After learning that there were yet a couple of more established routes on Russell (namely, Star Trekkin' and Bloody Corner), I was itching to return to climb these routes. Star Trekkin' ascends the mostly 5.9 crack splitting the face about 20' left of Mithral Dihedral, and Bloody Corner ascends the beautiful 5.10+ corner about 30' left of this (this corner is about half as deep as Mithral, but perhaps even more splitter).

My friend Dow was also itching to climb Star Trekkin' and Bloody Corner, so when the latter half of August presented a super stable forecast across the Sierra (the only negative was that this dry weather was accompanied by a string of forest fires across the state), we headed into Russell for a couple of days. We climbed Star Trekkin' (5.10-, 700') on the first day. Dow and I found this route to be a really fun and cruiser climb with lots of 5.9 crack climbing with a great position. The climb went quickly and we were standing on the summit after just a few hours. Great day. The main downside to this route is that it leaves you wanting more — we wished the route were about twice as long. After a quick descent down the South Gully, we stashed our gear at the base, and the next day we returned to climb Bloody Corner (5.10+, 800'). Bloody Corner was definitely a step up in difficulty than the day before; we found the route to be pretty sustained at the 5.9+ to 5.10 grade, with a variety of good climbing, just a tad grainy and loose from lack of traffic. The splitter corner is superb and sustained. Dow and I felt like we earned our way to the summit on this route — just the kind of alpine adventure both of us relish, making Bloody Corner a contender for both of for favorite route on Russell. After enjoying the summit for the second day in a row, we slogged down, packed up camp, and hiked out, already discussing our next adventure....

Dow and I thought both Star Trekkin' and Bloody Corner were just as excellent as any other route on Russell. The following page gives a route overlay, pitch-by-pitch description, and photos for each of the climbs. 



CLIMB 1 - AUG 20
Star Trekkin' on Mt. RUSSELL
(5.10-, 700'
)

Star Trekkin' ascends the mostly 5.9 crack splitting the face about 20' left of Mithral Dihedral. Dow and I found this route to be a really fun and cruiser climb with lots of 5.9 crack climbing with a great position. The climb went quickly and we were standing on the summit after just a few hours. Great day. The main downside to this route is that it leaves you wanting more — we wished the route were about twice as long!

ROUTE OVERLAYS

PITCH-BY-PITCH
The various route descriptions (SuperTopo, MountainProject, random trip reports) for this route seem to have some discrepancies in the pitch breakdown. As we climbed the route, Dow and I discussed the "best" pitch breakdown based on things like: minimizing overall pitches, pitch length for a 60m or 70m rope, nice belay ledges, having enough gear to lead the pitch, rope drag, etc. The following pitch-by-pitch breakdown describes the pitches as Dow and I decided was a good way to climb the route. The description matches the pitch-by-pitch breakdown shown on my route overlay.
Pitch descriptions:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Whitney Portal trailhead to trail up North Fork Lone Pine Creek to Iceberg Lake to Whitney-Russell Col to base of route below the obvious splitter crack system about 20' left of Mithral Dihedral.
1.    
2.    
3.    
4.    
5.    
6.    
1. View back towards Iceberg Lake from the Whitney-Russell Col. It took us 22 minutes from camp to col.
2. A cool detached block we spotted on a peaklet across from Iceberg Lake, spotted while we were hanging out at Whitney-Russell Col waiting for the sun to move onto the route.
3. Sun does not hit the routes on the southwest face of Russell until mid-morning, and at 14,000 feet, climbing in the shade means cold! In this photo Mithral Dihedral forms the shade-sun cutoff (the dihedral itself is shaded). This photo was taken at 8:20am.
4. This photo was taken at 9am. Sun has started to hit the edge of the southwest Face just above Bloody Corner (the corner itself is shaded). Still no sun on any routes. 
5. After waiting awhile at the Whitney-Russell Col watching the sun gradually creep closer to the route, we meandered over to rack up near the base. This photo was taken at 9:40am. Star Trekkin' is nearly in the sun now, so time to get started! Notice that the corners—Bloody Corner and Mithral Dihedral—stay shaded (and hence chilly) even longer.
6. Dow soloing the 4th class approach to the ledge at the base of Pitch 1. It's steep for a move or two but the holds are positive. We did not put on rock shoes for this.

Pitch 
1
5.7, ~110'
Follow cracks up to a ledge. (Same as first pitch of Mithral Dihedral.)
7.    
7. Looking up Pitch 1 of Star Trekkin', which is the same as the first pitch of Mithral Dihedral. Fun climbing. 
Pitch 
2
Pitches 1&2 can be linked with a 70m rope
5.7, ~100'
A knobby crack to a belay about 10-20' below the Mithral corner, on a small ledge below and slightly right of roof with splitter crack (belaying at a perch directly below the roof is possible but not as safe of a belay position). (Same as second pitch of Mithral Dihedral minus the last 10-20'.) 
8.    
9.    
8. Looking up Pitch 2 of Star Trekkin', which is the same as the second pitch of Mithral Dihedral. More fun climbing. I easily linked this with Pitch 1 with our 70m rope. I think a 60m rope might also work for linking since you stop short of the top of the second pitch of Mithral Dihedral.
9. Looking down from by belay at the top of Pitch 2, which stops short of the Mithral DIhedral corner by about 10-20 feet. There's a small ledge here.
Pitch 
3
5.10-, ~200'
Climb through roof and continue up the splitter crack. There is a nice pod to belay in about 200' up, otherwise you have a hanging belay.   
10.    
11.    
12.    
13.    
14.    
10. Dow just above the crux (5.10-) roof on Pitch 3. Mithral Dihedral is formed by the shaded wall about 20 feet to the right. NOTE ON THE BELAY POSITIONING AT THE TOP OF PITCH 2: As is evident in this photo I had set my belay at a perch directly under the roof crux of Pitch 3. As I was sitting there watching Dow lead off the pitch, I realized it was not the best belay spot (since if the leader fell at the crux they would fall on the belayer as well as put the fall on the anchor); a better belay spot is a ledge just to the right.
11. The splitter crack up the face, mostly just 5.9 jamming fun. What a position!
12. Nearing the top of the pitch. The crack becomes more fragmented and lined with juggy face holds for the last bit. NOTE ON THE BELAY POSITIONING AT THE TOP OF PITCH 3: Dow was having so much fun on this pitch that he went about 40 feet too high and had to establish a hanging belay. About where I am at in the photo, there is a much more comfortable belay spot with better gear. This belay is still within a pitch of the top.
13. A cam I cleaned off Star Trekkin'. Also shown in the photo is looking down Pitch 3. Mithral Dihedral is to the left.
14. The view to the west from Star Trekkin'. Great view and great exposure on this route.
Pitch 
4
5.9, ~120'
Continue up the crack, with about 10-15' of wider crack before the final corner. Pop out onto a large flat area to belay.   
15.    
16.    
15. Dow on the wide section on Pitch 4. I guess some parties get a bit intimidated by the offwidth and traverse off right into Mithral Dihedral here, but this offwidth is really not too hard (5.9 ish), it's protectable (a #4 is useful but smaller gear would also fit further back), and it would be a bit unsatisfactory to not continue the direct crack line you've been following since the start of Pitch 3.
16. The large flat ledge at the top of Star Trekkin'. We unroped here.
Pitches
5+
4th-low 5th, 100's'
A few hundred feet of 4th and low-5th class lead to the summit. 
17.    
18.    
17-18. We soloed the last few hundred feet to the summit. Without the rope drag, the final few hundred feet is much more enjoyable, if you're comfortable with exposed low 5th terrain.
Summit
You've arrived! Enjoy the view!
19.    
20.    
19. The disheveled summit register.
20. Looking north from the summit. The smoke is from the Rough Fire, which was at the time about 48,000 acres big with 3% containment. We had some smoky evenings because of it.
Descent 

Either descend the South Gully (if headed back to Iceberg Lake) or the East Arete/Ridge (if headed back to Upper Boy Scout Lake).
21.    
22.    
23.    
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25.    
26.    
27.    
21. Looking towards the east summit of Russell. Tulainyo Lake below.
22. Photo showing the third class ramp into the South Gully, and its relation to the East Summit of Russell pictured in the previous photo. To get to the South Gully descent from the West Summit (where routes finish), you first need to scramble a bit along the East Ridge towards the East Summit and then locate this ramp down into the gully below the East Summit.
23-24. A view from below of the ramp shown from above in the previous photo.
25. Descending the South Gully.
26. The vertical walls of rock lining the north side of the South Gully. This would be a popular crag if it weren't so difficult to get to and trumped by better routes to the summit.
27. Headed back to Whitney-Russell Col after the climb. Camp at Iceberg Lake is about 15 minutes down on the other side of the col.




CLIMB 2 - AUG 21
Bloody Corner on Mt. RUSSELL
(5.10+, 800'
)

Bloody Corner ascends the beautiful 5.10+ corner to the left of Mithral Dihedral by about about 30' (this corner is about half as deep as Mithral, but perhaps even more splitter). Bloody Corner was definitely a step up in difficulty than the day before; Dow and I found the route to be pretty sustained at the 5.9+ to 5.10 grade, with a variety of good climbing, just a tad grainy and loose from lack of traffic. The splitter corner is superb and sustained. Dow and I felt like we earned our way to the summit on this route — just the kind of alpine adventure both of us relish, making Bloody Corner a contender for both of  for favorite route on Russell. 

ROUTE OVERLAYS

PITCH-BY-PITCH
The various route descriptions (SuperTopo, MountainProject, random trip reports) for this route seem to have some discrepancies in the pitch breakdown. As we climbed the route, Dow and I discussed the "best" pitch breakdown based on things like: minimizing overall pitches, pitch length for a 60m or 70m rope, nice belay ledges, having enough gear to lead the pitch, rope drag, etc. The following pitch-by-pitch breakdown describes the pitches as Dow and I decided was a good way to climb the route. The description matches the pitch-by-pitch breakdown shown on my route overlay.
Pitch descriptions:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Whitney Portal trailhead to trail up North Fork Lone Pine Creek to Iceberg Lake to Whitney-Russell Col to base of route below the obvious corner about 50' left of Mithral Dihedral.
1.    
2.    
1. Approaching Mt. Russell from just below the Whitney-Russell Col. We had left our gear stashed at the base after the climb the previous day, so we enjoyed a fast and light approach.
2. Zoomed in on the upper pitches of the route, as seen from the base of the southwest face. Bloody Corner ascends the shaded corner system on the left side of the photo and Mithral Dihedral ascends the shaded corner system on the right side of the photo.
Pitch 
1
(direct start)
5.6-5.7, ~100'
A short easy pitch up to a bench below the corner. (A less direct alternative is to scramble on 4th class ledges to the right to access the bench.)
3.    
3. The 5.6-5.7 terrain of the direct start. Several options.
Pitch 
2
(Pitches 1&2 can be linked with a 60m rope.)
5.9, ~80'
Start up a handcrack just left of corner, then step right into corner, then up to ledge.  
4.    
5.    
4. Looking up Pitch 2. Start in the crack on the left side of the photo, then traverse into the shaded corner and continue to the obvious ledge about 80 feet up. 
5. Taken just after entering the corner on Pitch 2.
Pitch 
3
(Pitches 2&3 can be linked with a 70m rope, but it is better to link Pitches 1&2 for gear management.)
5.10-, ~120'
Climb up the corner. There is some jamming, laybacking, and offwidth. Near the end of the pitch step left and then go up a thin crack to the base of the splitter corner pitch.  
6.    
7.    
8.    
9.    
10.    
6. Looking up at Dow climbing Pitch 3, as seen from the base of Pitch 2. He had decided to try to link Pitches 2&3 (see NOTE). The climbing above him is pretty sustained 5.9 to 5.10 terrain. The top of the pitch is on a ledge below the splitter corner which can be seen at the top of the photo.
7. Taken just after starting Pitch 3, just below where Dow is in the previous photo.
8. This photo was taken from an intermediate (hanging) belay near the top of Pitch 3 (see NOTE). This photo shows where you step left when the crack in the corner thins down; from there ascend a thin crack to a ledge below the splitter corner. NOTE ON LINKING PITCHES: Pitches 1, 2, and 3 are all short; for good belay spots you can choose to link Pitches 1&2 or 2&3. I'd advise linking Pitches 1&2 as opposed to 2&3 since the climbing on Pitches 2 and 3 is sustained at the 5.9 to 5.10 grade and if you attempt to link Pitches 2&3 you run the risk of running out of gear on the 5.10 terrain near the top of Pitch 3.....
9. Climbers on Mithral Dihedral. They bailed when they got to the base of the dihedral. 5.9+ at 14,000 feet is not trivial.
10. Shadow belaying.
Pitch 
4
5.10+, ~150'
Lieback, stem, jam, and otherwise enjoy yourself on this beauty. The climbing gets steeper and the options for resting and stemming disappear the higher you go. There's a nice belay at an alcove/ledge right under the big roof (#3 Camalots).  
11.    
12.    
13.    
14.    
15.    
11. Looking up the beautiful Pitch 4 corner.
12. Dow staring up the corner.
13. Dow nearing the top of the corner. The pitch ends at an alcove just below the obvious roof in the photo. The last 20 feet or so is perhaps the steepest and hardest part of the corner. Great lead Dow!
14. Looking down the corner from near the top.
15. Dow at the belay in the alcove at the top of the corner. Save a #3 Camalot for the belay. It's a pretty cool belay spot...in both senses of the word "cool."
Pitch
5
5.9, ~110'
Move left around the roof and climb through grooves to a platform. Stop here or climb 30-50' higher to the platform at the top of Star Trekkin'.
16.    
16. Looking up Pitch 5 as I stepped left around the roof. 
Pitches 
6+
4th-low 5th, 100's'
A few hundred feet of 4th and low-5th class lead to the summit. 
17.    
17. Like the previous day, we soloed the final few hundred feet to the summit.
Summit
You've arrived! Enjoy the view!
18.    
19.    
20.    
21.    
18. Looking down at Dow on the final scramble from my perch on the summit.
19. Summited twice in 2 days! Now I've climbed all 6 of the "popular" routes on Russell (L to R: Western Front, Bloody Corner, Star Trekkin', Mithral Dihedral, Fishhook Arete, and East RIdge). Dow had also climbed all of these except for Western Front, which I am sure he will climb sooner or later.
20. Dow enjoying a cookie made by his wife Stacy. He shared a bite and it was indeed delicious.
21. Mt. Whitney as seen from Mt. Russell.
Descent 

Either descend the South Gully (if headed back to Iceberg Lake) or the East Arete/Ridge (if headed back to Upper Boy Scout Lake).
See photos/detail for Star Trekkin' trip report above.   




OTHER PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP


Photos:
Photo descriptions:
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1. Unless you get your permits in March (and what climber does that?), you need to brave the daily lottery to try to get an permit to climb in the Whitney area. If staying overnight, you need an Overnight Permit and if car-to-car you need a Day Use Permit. There are more of the latter.
2. In Summer 2015, there was an infestation of boxelder bugs in the Lone Pine area. Their carcasses lined the gutters and the bugs were especially annoying in the evenings. I learned to be a bit wary as I drank coffee or ate a sandwich—boxelder bugs don't taste very good.
3. Ebersbacher Ledges on the trail to Whitney/Russell along North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. This section zig-zags right and then back left up 3rd class. It's pretty well-travelled and marked by cairns.
4. Approaching Upper Boy Scout Lake.
5. Camp at Iceberg Lake, right below Mt. Whitney.
6. Iceberg Lake.
7. I dared Dow to take a dip in Iceberg Lake...his expression says it all.
8. Ak! Boxelder bugs at camp! Thought I'd escaped these guys! A few of the millions in Lone Pine made it up to Iceberg Lake, probably carried by wind currents.
9. Smoke from nearby forest fires was a bit annoying in the evenings. In this photo (taken from Iceberg Lake), Mt. Russell is behind the ridge in the foreground.
10. Smoky evening over Mt. Whitney.
11. Morning alpenglow on Day Needle, Keeler Needle, and Mt. Whitney. Kind of smoky still.
12. A train of climbers on the Mountaineer's Route on Mt. Whitney.
13. Breakfast: Coffee and crackers, tuna, and tomato. I usually get tired of instant oatmeal by August and move on to other things for awhile. I return to oatmeal by winter.
14. Our rack: doubles from BD #0.4-3, and a single #4, 7 shoulder length draws, 3 quick draws, and 2 long runners. We also had an extra hand-sized link cam. We went with the same rack for both climbs, but removed the #3 for Bloody Corner and felt that the double #3 was not needed for Star Trekkin' either.
15. Dow's new link cam before Russell....
16. ...and after two routes on Russell. Not new any more. We used it a few times.
17. I caught Dow with some junk food....



More on my website

This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: www.stephabegg.com.

Images

Route Overlays Mt. RussellRoute Overlays Mt. Russell, as seen from baseRoute Overlay Star Trekkin\' on Mt. RussellRoute Overlay Bloody Corner on Mt. Russell

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