13-17 Aug 2002 - by Steve Landes

On this past tuesday myself and VashalJ took off early week to venture to the Mt.Whitney area to add to our collection of CA 14er summits. We took the chance that if we were at the Bishop ranger station mid week, that we would be able to get a permit for the Whitney Mountaineers route trail. As such, we were in Bishop by 10AM on Wednesday and by 11AM as luck would have it, we got two of the remaining three person entry passes to the North folk of Lone Pine creek. Since this day was for the most part gone by that time, I had planned for an aclimitization climb of Mt. Tom so off to Horton creeks we headed.

By 1Pm we had parked at the Horton lakes trailhead and were on the trail. It was a hot sunny/hazy day. The haze was from the fire in Sequoia national forest. The smoke had blow all up and down the east side in owens valley.

The hike to Horton lakes was uneventful except for at the Horton lakes mine the flies were ferocious biters. We looked around the old rusting mine cars and then continued up the hill via the old mining trail/road. By afternoon we had reached the plateau over the pass where some more Tungsten mines are located. At this point you would think you are close to the summit, but as you look up, the summit is still quite a ways above. Vishal, still going strong at this time headed directly up the ridge moving between the rocks as if he were still on the trail. Myself, I headed across the plateau trail/road for about a mile before heading up the talus slopes. Because we approached the top from different directions we summited at much different times and met on the way down. We knew we had made a very late start so we had carried flashlights and headlamps. We also knew it would be a half moon as night descended on us and we would be walking on the old mining road so we were OK. We returned back to my truck under cool night skies and waited until the next morning before heading back out the rough dirt road in.

Next morning we head south of Bishop and swung by the Keough Hot spring for a soaking in the creek and a beer - ahhh. Next we drove to Whitey portal and ventured up the trail via the North fork Lone Pine creek. It was hot and dry but still plenty of biting mosquitos in the creek drainage and at lower Boy Scout lake. The views on the approach of Mt. Whitney and the crest are excellent and make the hike in worthwhile. We camped out just below iceberg lake as it began to get late in the day with the idea that we would be in for a short hike next day followed by a climb of Mt. Russell. Next morning we finished the short hike to iceberg lake and dropped packs at one of the many nicely arranged camp sites. We prepared day packs, food and water and headed out for Mt. Russell.

We were on our way to Mt. Russell by 10am. The weather this day was partially cloudy but good. We climbed over the talus pass adjacent to Mt. Whitney, and then crossed the level area before heading up the very talus(y) slopes of the south face chute of Mt. Russell. Can you say two steps forward and one back? We arrived at the headwall at the top of the chute at different times. Vishal was already up and heading across the ridge by the time I was in the chute heading for the ridge. As for which is the correct chute to climb I am still slightly unclear but I have a good feeling that I must have climbed the first chute and not the suggested second though there were plenty of boot tracks that led up to that chute. I would not suggest climbing the first chute to others. Climbing up the chute was not bad, but in places the rock crumbled in your hands so you had to make double sure the holds were good as the slope was quite steep. After a 50-60' climb I was on the ridge and working my way across to the summit. As far as the ridge goes I had read other trip reports and talked with people about a 'knife edge ridge' with exposure on both sides. Honestly the ridge was a piece of cake as long as you stayed to the north. I really didn't see any of this exposure people had hinted at. As such, within ten minutes I was on the summit enjoying the views with Vishal. There was also another group on the summit who had day hiked in from Whitney Portal. After we enjoyed the views and snacked Vishal headed down the ridge and later summited Carrilon. Myself, I headed back across the ridge and back down the same very steep chute that I can come up to . Couple body wedges here and there, a couple of cat clinging holds on the wall and I was back safely on the talus slopes and heading back for camp. Vishal and I met back at camp and enjoyed dinner under dimming evening skies.

On saturday we again woke up to beautiful clear skies. Seems this was a popular day for the mountaineers route on Whitney. We again packed up our day packs and with a late morning start and were heading up towards the climbers already in the chute. Except for the occassion call of "Rock" from above and a quick check of position, getting to the ridge was pretty straight forward. There was little if any snow to mention. Once on the ridge we headed up the slope and gained the plateau in good time. On the summit there was a big party going on. Lots of people, pictures and booze going around. We did the standard summit photos and snacks. Then Vishal headed down the trail for Mt. Muir which head later summited. Myself I stayed on the summit for a while longer before heading back down the way we had come. The descent was uneventful and I made it back to camp with plenty of time to enjoy a hot bright sun and some reading in my pocket book. Vishal arrived back at camp later having summited Mt Muir and spent additional time enjoying the views from Whitney.

Next day we packed it out. Along the way down Vishal had mentioned he wanted to climb Thor peak so at the base of Thor peak is dropped his back and headed in that direction. We planned to meet up at the car. Except for the steep slopes below Lower Boy Scout lake the climb down was fine, and later in the day we met back up at the car and headed home.

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