North Ridge

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Mountaineering, Scrambling
Summer, Fall
Time Required:
Half a day
Rock Difficulty:
Class 3

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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North Ridge
Created On: Nov 12, 2006
Last Edited On: Nov 12, 2013


The North Ridge of Mt Russell is accessed via the Tulainyo Lake basin. Tulainyo Lake is one of the crown jewels of the Sierra Nevada mountains, possibly the highest named lake in the continental U.S. At 12,818 feet, this moderately sized lake is certainly worthy enough to attract a scuba diving team or just the occasional skinny dipper. The basin is flanked by Tunnabora Peak, The Cleaver, Mt Carillon, and the east and north ridges of Mt Russell. There are three possible approaches to the basin: via the Russell-Carillon Pass (13,280ft), via the Cleaver Col (12,960ft), and from the Wallace Lakes.
On The CleaverMt Carillon, Mt Whitney, & Mt Russell from The Cleaver's summit. The north ridge is at the far right

Getting There

The route using the Russell-Carillon Pass is described in the East Ridge route page and involves a loss of about 500 feet (shown in the picture above.)

The route over Cleaver Col follows the North Fork trail to Lower Boy Scout Lake (LBL). At LBL, turn due north to follow Carillon Creek, bypassing the cliff face on the left. Once above this cliff, follow the creek to the cirque that is formed by Carillon, The Cleaver, and Pk 12910+. The col is up the cleft to the left of the low point notch. About half way up, the cleft steepens to Class 4 which can be bypassed by climbing the Class 3 chute to the left. The col is a short scramble up. Descend a couple of hundred feet to the lake and circle it to the north ridge.

The basin can also be approached from the John Muir Trail following Wallace Creek up to the Wallace Lakes. Some maps show the existence of a trail on the north side of the creek. From the upper lake, continue up the valley to the basin and the start of the ridge. Vacation Pass can also be used to access Wallace Lake using the bushwacking route up George Creek. However, this arduous approach should only be attempted by those not of faint heart.

Route Description

The ridge starts on the west side of Tulainyo Lake. The initial 300ft gentle rise leads to the beginning of the real climbing. If you chose to stay on or close to the ridge, difficulty and exposure increase exponentially. To keep the difficulty down to class 3, contour around the first pinnacle and then begin climbing when the face eases to class 3 rocks. Continue climbing up as you’re traversing south. The higher west peak will come into view and can be recognized by the notch just west of it. Climb straight up to the east peak or traverse as you climb and hit the ridge that connects the two peaks. You should top out approximately opposite of the South Face chimney exit. Make your way to the east peak from here. Descend the way you came or by either the East Ridge or South Face.

Essential Gear

No technical gear required unless you stick close to the ridgeline. During the winter, the north ridge will pick up considerable snowfall making the climb much more difficult and requiring additional gear.

Red Tape

The north ridge of Mt Russell is located in the SeKi National Park system. Everything you need to know about permits and regulations can be found on the Eastern Sierra - Logistical Center page. Note that both the Russell-Carillon Pass and the Cleaver Col are accessed via Whitney Zone and require either day or overnight permits.