Fishhook Arete

9-10 Jul 2004 - by Jake Martin

Arrived late Friday night at Whitney Portal (12 am) and threw down the bags for a few winks before getting an early start for the hike. Awoke several hours later to hustling bear (UR!) sounds, one of our party was licked before the bear (ur!) retreated. Woke at 5, hiking by 5:30. Trail was very well worn. After much sweating, swearing and resting, we made it to Iceberg lake, myself in 4 hours, my partner in about 6. As the pounding headache worsened, I realized our goals of two Mt. Russell routes in one weekend wasn't going to happen. Trying to assail the High Sierra weekend warrior style when you live at sea level is a tough proposition.

The rest of the day Saturday was spent napping, hydrating and watching people flail on Mt. Whitney. By the time sunset rolled around, we began to feel less like death and more acclimatized. Woke early and humped it over to the base of Russell. There was a party 15 minutes behind us who began the route slightly uphill (south) from where we began at the very base of the route at a carin. My partners poor route-finding skill, which would rear its ugly head again before the day was over, lead us climbers left of the arete proper for a full rope length, leaving me with some shwazz, poorly protect but easy ramps leading back up onto the sunny arete.

Many topos route description reads only a sentence "Climb the arete", which, although brief, is really all the beta you need. After regaining the arete, my partner lead up to the top of the "tower", encountering several 5.8 sections of heads up jamming on the aretes edge. I took over for an easy pitch to the base of the "notch" (via an interesting horn-mantle move) which can be reached by down climbing some .7 moves. If the second does not feel comfortable following this, the leader can "downlead" this section by placing pro that the second removes as he down climbs.

The next two pitches are money, and should be pitched out a full 200 feet for maximum enjoyment. The second of these two includes a chimmney section that is easy because of a climbers right handcrack. After this, it is possible to simulclimb to the top--be careful, as route finding here it tricky--it is possible to go many different paths. the one we took was 5.5ish to the top, skirting east (climbers right) for about 300 feet to the summit. Staying on the prow would lead to more difficult climbing. Whatever, choose your own adventure!

The summit was awesome, the descent was easy, the hump back down to Whitney Portal was a big time bit*h, as was the delirious drive back to San Diego--Weekend Warriors Unite! I have heard much whining about the routefinding on this route, but hey, when you climb in the mountains it's not always laid right out in front of your face. Deal with it. The routes quality is very high, and no move is more difficult than 5.8. Enjoy this gem!

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