Climbing Mount Russell: The Beast

Summit view from Mount Russell - Whitney (right), Langley (far middle)
Summit view from Mount Russell – Whitney (right), Langley (far middle)

 If you can dream it, you can do it.
~Walt Disney

TRIP DATE October 2014
LENGTH about 9 miles round trip
TRAIL HEAD Whitney Portal
DIFFICULTY Strenuous on maintained trail, faint use trails, loose talus, cross-country travel, and class 2 and 3 climbing on long exposed summit ridge
NAVIGATION GPS and/or good map skills required
BEST TIME TO HIKE Summer when snow has melted
EXTRA INFORMATION One of the California’s 15 peaks over 14, 000 feet high
RESOURCES California’s Fourteeners by Stephen Porcella – Cameron Burns

Mount Russell is scary, very.

Once upon a very beautiful summer day, Dan and I attempted this peak. After climbing to the saddle above Tuleinyo Lake, we gazed at the famous and very intimidating east ridge and knew we must come back another day.

Last October, Dan, Silly Chili, and I climbed this beast, what is perhaps the single most spectacular route in the High Sierra.  The wildly exposed massive east ridge of Mt Russell is right next to the north face of Mount Whitney.

This trip was done in Rockin’s style:

eat big (burgers and fries at the Whitney Portal Store), hike in a few miles on a Friday evening, camp, alpine start on Saturday morning, climb, and head back home. We were lucky to have Burly, Lovenote, and Huckleberry (their trail dog) join us on the approach up. What a treat!

The classic approach leaves from Whitney Portal trail head and heads up the use trail of the North Fork Lone Pine Creek, to Clyde’s Traverse, up to Upper Boy Scout Lake, north to the saddle above Tuleinyo Lake, and then traverse the long exposed unnerving ridge.

Mount Russell does not disappoint. The views from the top are stunning and inspirational. One of the reasons I think it was so transcending, is because of the thankfulness a hiker is filled with upon reaching the summit after scaling the knife-edge ridge.

This of course is a peak that can be a bit more challenging navigating down the mountain. Continued focus and concentration is required. The 3 of us made a great team. It was definitely a day to be reckoned with.

Enjoy the beautiful views and climb on this short video from the safety of your home. Have a great day!

Friday Evening Approach – Whitney Portal to Upper Boy Scout Lake

Whitney Trail Approach
Whitney Trail Approach
Mount Whitney (distant right) from Lower Boy Scout Lake
Mount Whitney (distant right) from Lower Boy Scout Lake

Climbing Day – Upper Boy Scout Lake to Mount Russell and Back

Alpine Start
Alpine Start
East Ridge Approach - Mount Russell Summit Left
East Ridge Approach – Mount Russell Summit Left
Long Exposed Ridge to Reach Mount Russell
Long Exposed Ridge to Reach Mount Russell
Dan on Exposed Ridge
Dan on Exposed Ridge
Silly Chili
Silly Chili
Small Chute
Small Chute
Dan, Silly Chili, and Rockin' on the Summit
Dan, Silly Chili, and Rockin’ on the Summit


  1. Scott Bailey

    John called the repeater in Apple Valley. I left a message on my girl friends(now my spouse of 27 years) phone that we made the summit. Only 1 more of the +14,000 peaks to go.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Okay, I am envious. One of my goals is to climb all 14 of the +14000 peaks. I have climbed 10 of them. I am going to need a guide service to complete the rest.

  2. Scott Bailey

    Nice video and pics. Climbed w 2 others I met at Upper Boy Scout Lake August 1987. Helmet and a rope for short belays. John had a 2 meter band radio, c

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      I think we should have had helmets and rope for a couple maneuvers. A lot of exposure on the climb.

  3. What footwear did you use? Awesome pics!

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Right now I am using the La Sportiva Bushido. They are a trail shoe with more protection and support in the sole. I used them last weekend climbing in the snow on Mount Whitney with microspikes, they worked perfectly. The tread is very grippy on rocks and slush.

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  6. The photos are amazing.

  7. What a gorgeous adventure! Fun that the pup was able to go too – how far was he able to go, and what did you do with him while you summitted?

  8. Scary is so an understatement. I too could have used a helmet just sitting here in my office chair watching the video. I do love these trip reports of places that I’d never be able to mentally go. The views are just stunning.

  9. Thanks for taking me somewhere you know I’ll NEVER go, ha! Great photos, love that song in the video, and great footage. Oh man, I see why Dan had the reaction he did!

  10. As always, you guys put the “M” in “Mountaineering!” That video made my stomach flip; I could have used a helmet just watching it. I can only imagine how negotiating down must have been.

  11. I climbed it and the east face of Whitney (5th class climbing with ropes and protection) in a weekend in the mid 1970s. Seems like another century. Thanks for the memories.

    • Now that is HARD CORE and very courageous. I can’t imagine hanging off the east face of Whitney. What skill and strength that technical climb would take. the 70’s wow.

      • Christy, I was a serious climber and guide back then. I climbed extensively in Yosemite Valley including El Capitan (by the nose route). And, I climbed various rock faces and domes in the Sierras. Trust me, I know that what you did on Russell is serious stuff and I congratulate you on it. I couldn’t do that hike/climb to save my life these days. Keep it up.

  12. Jonathan Greenberg

    Thanks for your beautiful photos and inspiring posts.

  13. Oh wow, such amazing landscapes!

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