Mt. Russell: After 5 Years of Dreaming...





Dawn at Lower Boyscout Lake

We got an early 3AM start, both my buddy David and I driving up from LA on about an hour of sleep.

We stuck together up to LBSL, we reached LBSL in 2:45 (about an hour slower than my last time). It was at this point David realized he would be going much slower, we decided to split up and set a series of scenarios JIC something happened to one of us alone.

I covered the span to UBSL in about 35 minutes where I would diverge from the MR taking the Rockwell Variation up the UBSL drainage.

Though I was feeling downright chipper, and my pace wasn't half-bad (for me). I rounded UBSL and began following another couple going the same route.

I noted a difference when the couple started climbing high on the NE side of the drainage. They smushed their path right up against the vertical granite walls while, in the past, I had stayed at the bottom of the drainage, cutting upwards at the end of the drainage looking for the Rockwell chute at the last second.

They looked like they were on top of their business so I decided to follow them thinking they might know a better path through the sand and scralus. I also was hoping to catch them and have a bit of company too, curse my extroversion.


Above Upper Boyscout Lake


After losing sight of them, I reached a particular sand pile that marked a cliffed out chute and realized that the couple had disappeared, not only had they disappeared, but they had me on a path which would require me to lose 100+ feet of gain.

Perplexed, I guessed they must have turned back and cut directly down-hill or they had began to climb a different chute.

Cursing my bad luck, and a little melancholy of being abruptly solo. I curbed my pace and took my first break of the day.

I continued the Rockwell route up through the class 3 bluffs below Russell's E. Ridge. I tried my best to stay on solid ground and loose talus (you know the sand and incline are bad when loose talus is the better alternative), but I was still slowed.

I happened to look up and I discovered the couple of climbers who had gone MIA. I guess they had topped out a short chute that deposited them back on route...

Doing my best to pace, I slowed further, finally topping out at the notch below Russell's E. Ridge nearly FIVE HOURS after leaving UBSL.

At this point I noticed some clouds building, though the forecast called for 20% chance of T-storms above 13,100 ft in the area, I wasn't too concerned. It seems that Sunday had a bigger chance of storms.

I began the ridge, massively excited. I'm not particularly reckless, but I love me some exposure paired with good hand/footholds. Russell delivers on both.

I was finally enjoying the hike, nabbing a few good photos, and loving the day. I happened to notice that I was in sight of Independence so I pulled out my phone, flipped airplane mode to off in order to update David (who was supposed to finish earlier than me) and update Instagram.

Clouds build over the East Ridge

A few moments after switching my phone on, a blaring signal rang aloud. Looking at my phone a mass area emergency alert notified me of imminent storm danger for t-storms and dust storms. Looking down to the valley I notice several large dust clouds ripping along.

I hustled along to the next ridge-top spot and looked south to behold a LARGE rain squall building from Lone Pine Peak all the way to the Great Western Divide. It had built behind the Whitney Massif hiding it beforehand.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. I was just below the east summit, and with the West (high) summit a little further beyond I didn't want to turn around empty handed. There were scattered clouds overhead and to the north and west.

I hadn't seen any evidence of lightning, but the East Ridge of Russell is probably the worst place on planet Earth to be for an electric storm...

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