Whitney Portal to Camp Comfy at Upper Boy Scout Lake
Our group of 9 left Whitney Portal at a pretty unalpine departure hour. We were headed for the North Fork Trail of Lone Pine Creek to set up a comfortable camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake. For most of the group, the big target was Mt. Whitney via the Mountaineer's Route the following day. But three of us intended to put the rest of today to good use and climb Mt. Russell by the East Arete route after setting up Camp Comfy.
The backpack to Upper Boy Scout Lake was a pleasureable one, although I hadn't anticipated the slight challenge that it was to hoist myself up to the Ebersbacher Ledges with a heavy pack.
We established our campsite at Upper Boy Scout Lake and could not coax additional takers for Russell. Our trio headed out at 12:40 p.m. determined to make good time because one of our party was to be tonight's guest chef and so he needed to be back before dinnertime.
The Climb, Part 1, and a Slight Problem
We found our way to an area about half a mile east of Upper Boy Scout Lake and started trudging up a monstrous sand/talus slope in a northwest direction. This slope encumbered the southeastern section of Russell for what seemed to me well over a mile. You finally come unto a wide chute that transports you to the Russell-Carrillon Pass near the east end of the East Arete. Much better! The route from this point on is what you came for.
There was only one problem. By this time, I was feeling quite fatigued and a bit "punchy" if you know what I mean. Although I was pretty well hydrated, I realized that I hadn't been eating nearly enough to this point in the day. I'm certain that the lack of calories, the day's effort to now, and of course the altitude, contributed to what is, for me, a rare case of altitude sickness. I never considered turning back though. I wasn't feeling that bad! I did pound it into my brain that I would have to be extra careful when the upcoming ridge narrowed on the interesting part of the climb. I was thinking "why me?" when one of my partners heaved up the contents of his stomach unexpectedly. He assurred me that this was nothing to worry about as he always emptied his stomach like this every time he went above 12,000 feet. With all of this, the bottom line was that none of us had lost any enthusiasm for this climb.
The Knife's Edge and Dragging Ass Home
From the pass, you head west on the lengthy east ridge. My best recollection is that it's about a mile to the point where this ridge joins with Russell's eastern summit. The ridge turns excitedly narrow when connecting the eastern summit to the higher western summit. The small summit was spectacular to say the least. Lakes galore down below.
This route may be 2d and 3d class, but you'll encounter enough serious exposure on parts of it to grab your attention and elevate your heart rate a few beats.
The descent was difficult for me due to my fatigue and the steepness of the route(at least I wasn't nauseous and didn't have a headache). My coordination began to get a little effected when we got down to the boulder slope and this caused me to really drag ass during the last hour of the return trip. Our chef made it back to camp first and he fired up dinner: yummy pasta and potato soup. I was still feeling a little under the weather after dinner, but I got a decent night's sleep and was ready for Whitney the next day.
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