Mount Russell: Mithril Dihedral Professional Review and Guide
"Several corner and crack systems cut the steep walls of Mt. Russell’s south face, all on excellent granite. The most striking line on the face follows a huge left-facing corner known as Mithril Dihedral. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy Lord of the Rings, Mithril is one of the most sought after materials in Middle Earth and is a symbol of strength, purity, and richness. In the dark depths of the mines of Moria, Gandalf tells Frodo and Sam, “Mithril! All folks desire it. Its beauty is like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril does not tarnish or grow dim.” In the 1970s, Alan Roberts and Alan Bartlett were members of the BUFF Alpine Club and employees of the Los Angeles climbing shop Westridge Mountaineering, owned by Yosemite climber Don Lauria. Lauria had climbed the southwest buttress with fellow Yosemite Gary Colliver and T.M. Herbert in 1974, and Lauria’s tales of his route on the huge south wall of Mt. Russell fired the imagination of these young climbers. Alan Bartlett recalled this as being his first introduction to backcountry climbing. “The route was Alan Robert’s idea,” he said. “I thought it was a lot of hiking to do for a climb, but the route really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the high country. I was so stoked. I didn’t know that the rock in the High Sierra could be so good.” This was certainly not Bartlett’s last Sierra adventure, as he has amassed an enviable record of first ascents in the range. Their route follows the huge left-facing dihedral to the right of the southwest buttress. Bartlett reported that the route offered “5 pitches of sustained, spectacular jamming. Only one pitch was under 5.8, and the superb rock accepted chocks readily.” Bartlett and Roberts had a near miss with lightning near the summit. “A short way down, the storm was getting quickly worse,” wrote Bartlett, “and all of a sudden I hear this buzzing, and my hair’s doing funny things. I’d never heard this before, but I know what it is and Alan sure does, too. Luckily we drop off the ridge into the correct descent gully, and a short while later, I’m feeling safe again. Man . . . what a route . . . what a day . . . what a life.” In the next few years, Bartlett added five more routes on the peak."