Although my friend Max climbed a few peaks in Sierra, he has never done Russell. Since Russell is one of my favorite peaks in the Range of Light I wanted to make sure we climb it together, via Fish Hook Arete- a route that was also new to me. Since both of us love the scenery around Whitney we decided to avoid a day hike and spent a few days camping at Iceberg lake, which would allow us to climb East Buttress of Whitney as well.
Since the forecast showed 20% chance of Thunderstorms we decided to wake up and hike in early. It was a great choice- it gave us time to relax in the sun and have our camp set up before the sky let the hail/snow rain down on us.
On the next day we woke up after dawn and made sure to climb the route quick. It did not matter because there was not a cloud in the sky. When we got to the summit the temperatures seemed to be in the 60s with calm winds. A beautiful day indeed!
Rock quality of the route was perfect, but climbing not too sustained.
First pitch was probably my favorite pitch of the route due to great rock quality, sustained technical moves, and a cool mix of features to use. Reminded me of Charlotte dome in a way...
Max took the 2nd pitch high towards the difficulties and I was able to connect 3rd and 4th pitch into a long one. After that we did the short '5.8' down-climb and did the other half of the pitches, which for most part were fun- scrambling with short sections of mostly 5.7 climbing at most.
Cool thing about Fish Hook arete is that it tops out on the summit of Mt. Russell. We enjoyed the views for about an hour on top. Met another STer, and headed back to camp.
On the next day we enjoyed another beautiful sunrise right from our tent and climbed East Buttress of Whitney. Unfortunately (or fortunately with this economy) we had to get back to work the next day, so a hike out was also in order.
East buttress turned out to be a cool and scenic climb. Rock quality was great till the last pitches that we simul climbed to the summit. I think with simul climbing we were able to do the route in long 6 pitches. Views from Whitney were fantastic, as always, but by that time my camera died. Fortunately we had Max's to take a summit shot of us.
Beta: No crampons or ice axe required to get down from Whitney or Russell. We did not bring them, and were happy with our choice. Running/approach shoes are sufficient.