Fishhook Arete on Mt. Russell

First, let me point out Dale's comprehensive trip report on SuperTopo: http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Fishook-Arete-20-June/t10679n.html

After picking up our permit at the Lone Pine Ranger Station, Dale and I drove out to the Mount Whitney Portal (8,360 ft.) and began sorting our gear for the climb.  It took quite a while to organize and pack, but we only needed to reach Upper Boyscout Lake (11,200 ft.) by sundown to set up our base camp.  We were on the trail around 2pm with a pair of packs weighing in north of 54 pounds each.  The gorgeous hike (facing Mount Whitney the whole way) took us a few hours and we decided to set up our camp there rather than continue up to Iceberg Lake.

After ravenously devouring dinner, we both passed out early in anticipation of our alpine start.  At 4am when our alarm went off, we both decided to wait for the sun to come up and warm things up--neither of us wanted to be climbing with freezing hands.  At 5am, the sun just started peeking over the hills to the East and we packed up in the alpenglow.

The approach from Upper Boyscout wasn't trivial--there was a significant climb on snow up to Iceberg Lake (12,700 ft.), where we chipped through the ice and filled our water bottles.  No need for treating that water!  From Iceberg, we followed a set of steps worn into the snow up and over the Whitney-Russell Pass (13,040 ft.).  It was quite steep and we were glad to have ice axes for self-arresting, if necessary.

From the top of the pass, we could see that the first few pitches of our climb were still in the shade, so we made ourselves comfortable and waited for the sun to track around and begin baking the granite.  Our climb was estimated to take about 6 hours, so we didn't want to wait too long.  We split the difference and finished the hike, getting to the base of the first pitch while things were still pretty cold.

The first pitch felt a little soft for 5.9, but I was happy to not be pulling really hard on cold, achy fingers.  The first four pitches took us through the 'hook' part of the arete and brought us to a great belay ledge.  Things were finally starting to feel warmer at this point and we didn't waste any time heading up the rest of the climb.

There was one short, cruxy section of hand crack that both Dale and I laybacked in true sport-climber form.  Other than that, the climbing was very straightforward and fun.  We made it to the summit of Mount Russell (14,094 ft.) in the mid-afternoon, added our names to the register, took some victory photos, and began our descent down a 3rd and 4th class gully, back toward the base of the climb.

On the summit, I started feeling a bit woozy and had a solid altitude headache.  By the end of the 3rd class scramble descent I threw up a few times.  Dale and I put the pedal down at that point and cruised the rest of the way down to base camp.  I was pretty out of it by the time we made it down and immediately stripped all my gear off and jumped into my sleeping bag to sleep it off.

I thankfully felt much better when I got up just after sundown and anxiously waited the 20 minutes for my spanish rice to cook.  It was delicious.

In the morning, we hiked back down to the Whitney Portal and then drove down to the hostel for some beers, showers, and pizza.  It was an amazing adventure.