Mount Russell East Arete

Lone Pine, California

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Mt. Russell is one of the most beautiful peaks in the Sierra, and there is no walk-up route to the summit. The peak is named for Israel Cook Russell (1852–1906), who was a geologist with the Wheeler Survey and the USGS. In the summer of 1883, he made intensive studies of the glaciers on Mt. Lyell and Mt. Dana with Grove Karl Gilbert. Norman Clyde wrote, “Immediately to the north of Mt. Whitney, across a deep cirque, is Mt. Russell. It is a fine craggy mountain, one that delights the heart of a mountaineer. The ascent can be made from several directions, but is foolhardy for any but experienced mountaineers to climb it.” Norman Clyde made the first ascent of the peak by this route 53 years after the first ascent of nearby Mt. Whitney. This fine arete offers an exposed climb on excellent granite. Clyde described his climb, “The route ahead looked formidable—at times impossible. To the south, the wall dropped abruptly; to the north, after descending at a steep angle for a few feet, it fell away sheer. Difficult as it seemed from a distance, nevertheless the way opened up as I progressed. There were always enough protuberances and crevices to afford secure hand holds and foot holds.” From the summit of nearby Mt. Thor, there is a tantalizing view of the southeast face of Peak 13,355 feet, also known as the “Cleaver.” In 1980, Bill St. Jean, Alan Bartlett and Allan Pietrasanta made plans for a free attempt of the original route on the face. Pietrasanta recalled the climb. “We had been attracted to this wall for a long time, so close to the Whitney region, yet still unclimbed. Our route follows a line left of center, beginning with a full pitch of strenuous off-width above 12,400 feet and going 5 pitches to the lower left end of a gold band high on the face. One pitch along the ‘Golden Traverse’ led to the final rope length up cracks and over a roof to the summit ridge.”

Mount Russell: East Arete Professional Review and Guide

"Mt. Russell is one of the most beautiful peaks in the Sierra, and there is no walk-up route to the summit. The peak is named for Israel Cook Russell (1852–1906), who was a geologist with the Wheeler Survey and the USGS. In the summer of 1883, he made intensive studies of the glaciers on Mt. Lyell and Mt. Dana with Grove Karl Gilbert. Norman Clyde wrote, “Immediately to the north of Mt. Whitney, across a deep cirque, is Mt. Russell. It is a fine craggy mountain, one that delights the heart of a mountaineer. The ascent can be made from several directions, but is foolhardy for any but experienced mountaineers to climb it.” Norman Clyde made the first ascent of the peak by this route 53 years after the first ascent of nearby Mt. Whitney. This fine arete offers an exposed climb on excellent granite. Clyde described his climb, “The route ahead looked formidable—at times impossible. To the south, the wall dropped abruptly; to the north, after descending at a steep angle for a few feet, it fell away sheer. Difficult as it seemed from a distance, nevertheless the way opened up as I progressed. There were always enough protuberances and crevices to afford secure hand holds and foot holds.” From the summit of nearby Mt. Thor, there is a tantalizing view of the southeast face of Peak 13,355 feet, also known as the “Cleaver.” In 1980, Bill St. Jean, Alan Bartlett and Allan Pietrasanta made plans for a free attempt of the original route on the face. Pietrasanta recalled the climb. “We had been attracted to this wall for a long time, so close to the Whitney region, yet still unclimbed. Our route follows a line left of center, beginning with a full pitch of strenuous off-width above 12,400 feet and going 5 pitches to the lower left end of a gold band high on the face. One pitch along the ‘Golden Traverse’ led to the final rope length up cracks and over a roof to the summit ridge.”"

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Lone Pine
Class: Class 3
Local Contacts: Inyo National Forest; Sequoia National Park
Local Maps: USGS Mt. Whitney, Mt. Langley
Driving Directions: Directions to Mount Russell: East Arete

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May 2018