My week was shaping up pretty well. I had just finished climbing Eichorn Pinnacle, the Regular Route on Fairview Dome, and Cardinal Pinnacle with Steve Larson. Now it was time to go with Javier to Mt Russell and climb a couple of routes. It is Wednesday afternoon and the great weather is supposed to hold through the weekend. Steve, Javier, Bill and I had dinner in Bishop after Cardinal Pinnacle. Bill and Steve were headed back to SoCal. Jav and I headed to Whitney Portal.
On Thursday we decided to wait until the afternoon to head up to Iceberg Lake. Hiking during the day, in the sun, looked brutal. So, we went to Lone Pine and bought a couple of cowboy shirts to climb in. We figured the routes on Russell were best climbed in the traditional spirit of Western Mountaineering. I know, it's stupid, but it was funny at the time. We in no way support or condone cowboyism in any way, shape or form.
We left Whitney Portal around 3:15pm and started hiking, arriving at Iceberg around 7pm. We found a great site close to the lake and set up camp. Our plan was to climb Mithral Dihedral on Friday and then figure out another climb for Saturday.
Friday morning we got up around 8am and started getting our stuff ready to go. We wanted to leave camp by 9am to get to the base by 10. Russell is especially cold in the morning and we wanted to maximize our climbing time in the sun. We got to the base of Mithral Dihedral around 10am and started climbing by 10:30.
The first pitch of the climb is fun 5.7 over some blocky terrain and up a dihedral with a bunch of horizontal and vertical cracks. The second pitch is around 5.8+ up more crack filled dihedral. This route was shaping up just fine.
The next pitch we were confronted with the main Mithral Dihedral. Oof, this sucker looked steep, sustained, and loooong. All of this at 13000+ feet seemed a little daunting. I got the first lead and started up the imposing dihedral. It seemed to eat up nuts and cams. The finger and hand jams were outstanding, but you had to also concentrate on your feet or you might pump out from hanging on your arms. This thing IS steep. I set up a belay at the base of an off width section, about 80 feet from the start of the dihedral.
Javier was next and wiggled up the off width section. After the off-width, the finger and hand cracks continue for a while. Then the angle seems to back off a little bit, where Jav set a belay, about 50 feet below a big hanging flake. I followed up to his belay with a huge grin. I could not believe how great the cracks were, and that there was nobody else on the entire mountain. He explained that the rest of the dihedral looked easier and should be “cruiser” to the top. I agreed that it looked easier, except for that big flake that appeared to be overhanging. So, I set off and the climbing was easier, until I got to the flake. This sucker was overhanging and needed to be jammed and then lie-backed to reach a huge bench for belaying. I was able to protect it with a #2 cam, slot a couple of bomber hand jams, then lieback to the top of it. Every move was bomber, but I was flamed and winded and thought I was going to blow off of the flake at any second. Luckily I didn’t, and the belay spot was awesome.
The next pitch was a lot easier than the others. It was “tricky 5.6” for about 150 feet or so. After that we simul-climbed to the top. The whole climb took less than 5 hours and we were psyched to be on top.
At this point we were feeling great and had had a great climb. Now the question was, what are we going to climb tomorrow? I wanted to try Western Front or Bloody Corner and Jav wanted to try Startrekkin. We decided that maybe an easy day of Double Dihedral might be fun also.
Saturday morning rolled around and we got up around 7:30. We decided to look at Double Dihedral and Bloody Corner and make the final decision when we got to the base. We left camp around 9am again and got to the base around 10. Double Dihedral looked like it would be cold all day and Bloody Corner was about to come into the sun. The decision was made.
This climb is described in Climbing California’s Fourteeners as “several hundred feet of increasingly difficult rock until the intimidating corner itself. The two pitch dihedral is the crux of the route.” Javier expressed that we were probably going to get our butts kicked. I said so what, it would be a great adventure.
The route was easy to find. Just start just below the steep imposing dihedral that is directly left of the Mithral Dihedral. I led the first pitch and it consisted of climbing cracks to ledges. It was probably around 5.8 and a little loose in places. The pro was bomber. The second pitch was Javier’s. As I watched him inch up this pitch I wondered why he was so slow. Finally he got to the top of the pitch with little rope to spare. I soon learned what took him so long. The climbing started out around 5.9 with some tricky moves. It was sustained, steep, and the pro was pretty good, but the rock was loose. About 1/3rd of the way up the pitch you came to an off-width that was a little past vertical. Now, I’m big and I like off-widths, but this sucker was hard. Jav had used a #4 cam to yard on so he could get past it. I followed it free and would guess that it was about 10a, at 13,400 feet.. The whole time Jav was telling me “you think that was hard, wait till you see this dihedral”. Then came the sustained lie-backs and finger locks up a nearly vertical corner through a small traverse, to a sloping ledge below THE dihedral. We were standing below the “crux of the route” and had just finished climbing some stuff that was about at our limit. Uh-oh!!
This dihedral, the Bloody Corner, was vertical for about 230 feet. THEN, there is a roof. I thought, here comes the “great adventure” part. I was the first one to set off on lead up this beast. It looks like you can lie-back the entire dihedral and that you will find good jams here and there. I lie-backed up this thing for about 80 feet with a few good finger locks thrown in. The pro was tricky because most of the crack is flaring. The lie-back feels bomber, but the feet are tricky because the face is loose flakey stuff from not getting climbed much. I set a belay and Javier made his way up. Oof, it looks harder above and the pro looks real tricky.
Jav mumbles something about it being my bright idea to climb this and sets off on the next pitch. After about 5 feet of climbing he decides that it would be a better/safer idea to aid it. Now before you go judging anyone, realize that we are a little over our head, and Javier has just finished the NA and Muir wall on the Capitan. With that said, I was a little shocked my self because Jav is strong. I start to worry He gets to the top of the pitch, just past the roof and sets a belay. I keep telling myself that I know I can free it. “On belay”, he yells to me and I start off on the beast. Now, I am pretty strong and lie-backs don’t usually pose much of a problem for me. The first 10 feet went pretty well. I got two pieces out without much problem. The third piece was a hex that wouldn’t come out, so I had to use a nut tool. Starting to feel pumped. The next few pieces took some wiggling because they were in so deep. Pump getting worse. After about 50 feet I was flamed and another nut was stuck. SHIT! POP! I was off. Jav keeps me on auto block because I am 200lbs and he is only about 150. So, I hung there for a second and contemplated the next move. If I move fast and all the gear comes out easy, I can probably make it to the ledge under the roof. Okay, let’s get going. Well, that didn’t work. More stuck gear and more flamed arms pitched me off a few more times. Finally I got to the spot on the dihedral where there is another crack on the right side wall that is perfect fingers. From here I was able to climb to the ledge below the roof. Then out past the roof to the belay. I have never been that pumped. That was awesome.
The next pitch was easy and lasted about 130 feet to a belay by the top of Startrekkin. When I coiled the rope to belay Jav up, my arms kept cramping. Above was another pitch of easy climbing then 3rd/4th class to the top.
My opinion is that there is no move on the Bloody Corner that is harder than 10a. There are also not many moves that are easier. I think that it is as good of a climb as Mithral, just a few grades harder. The pro is much trickier on Bloody, but a solid hard 10 leader with good protection skills should have a great time.