Russell > Whitney > Muir

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Dayute
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Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by Dayute »

Hello all. I managed to snag a permit for the Whitney zone and am considering trying to bag all three in a day. Tentative plan is to go up the East Ridge of Russell, down the South Face, descend from Russell/Whitney saddle to Iceberg Lake and catch the Mountaineers route up Whitney from there. Finish with Muir on the way down the Standard Whitney route. I've read a few of the trip reports I could find but not finding a large amount of beta on this combo. I know its a very long day but I would have the easy option of bailing at Iceberg Lake after Russell and its mostly downhill after Whitney.
Does anyone here have experience with this combo that could offer some tips for the area between Whitney and Russell? Also advice on the weather in early July would be welcome. Im specifically worried about being able to see weather moving in from the Mountaineers route.
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by Ptglhs »

Weather shouldn't be an issue. Summers in that part of CA are hot and dry. When I did Whitney on the 3rd of July, 2019, I did it as a backpack from horseshoe meadows. Clear skies all day each day. Kinda weird for someone who is used to afternoon thunderstorms in the high country.

If you're going that early there will probably be some snow and ice. The Park Service totally overhyped the amount of snow that I had to deal with. They told me I would need crampons, and ice axe, that the routes would be at least a full class higher in difficulty, Etc. I got up there and thought that I had hiked through more snow in Colorado in August, at least on the west side. I would say listen to what they say, but take their warnings with a grain of salt. They're trying to scare off people who aren't ready.
Dayute
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by Dayute »

I had read that thunderstorms werent really a problem out there but for some reason I didnt believe it. I'll be watching their snowpack like a hawk for the next few months, so far its pretty low. I would rather not lug an ax, boots, and crampons over 9000' of mountain if trail runners and spikes will suffice. Overzealous rangers is definately an appreciated tip.
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Craig Barlow
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by Craig Barlow »

Here's a good TR if you haven't seen it yet. It's almost 20 years old, but very detailed and still relevant.

https://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_reports/russell_1.html
Dayute
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by Dayute »

Craig Barlow wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 8:39 am Here's a good TR if you haven't seen it yet. It's almost 20 years old, but very detailed and still relevant.

https://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_reports/russell_1.html
Thanks for that one, has a good description of ascending Whitney's north face. Makes it seem easier than heading down to Iceberg and up the Mountaineers route. I'm also considering going up Whitney standard and down the N face to do the trip in the other direction, may make Russell easier.

Just picked up a backup permit Sept 3rd in case its a heavy snow year.
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by stickmann »

We climbed Whitney via the MR in April and there isn't much snow up there. It seems unlikely you'll have to worry about snowy conditions unless we get a massive snow dump. You might be able to see weather rolling in from Lower Boy Scout lake but, past that, you're in a valley and close enough to Whitney that you won't be able to see to the west. Once you reach the Russell plateau before the east ridge route you should be able to see conditions again. The east side of Whitney often warns of potential weather with some massive lenticular clouds though.

I can't comment on the east ridge to south face of Russell but MR -> Russell -> Whitney -> Main trail sounds like an absolutely insane day. The MR route chute would be a real slog after doing Russell. I've heard the east ridge of Russell is a great route if you're okay with exposure and would love to hear about your experience! I have a few photos of the south face, east ridge, and plateau from our trip. PM me if it would be useful.
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nyker
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by nyker »

The "route" down the south face of Russell will be a step up from the ascent from the East ridge and legit Class 4 in spots, both sides are exposed with a knife edge on the east where you want very solid weather for in a long day; July will be a good time to do it since the days are long but watch for T-storms. The Sierra should have a lower chance of afternoon storms as does the Rockies in general but it's not impossible of course for weather to move in. Make your go-no go calls as you ascend Russel, then again when you start up Whitney from Russell, and then again heading up Muir. Research where to intercept the Mountaineers Route coming down Russel to go from here up to Whitney and then the Final 400. Try and avoid the north face proper of Whitney. Muir can be gotten descending towards then on the Main Trail from the summit, then you can either go back down the MR route or the Main Trail (longer). Muir is also Class 3/4. Plan your water strategy. In July you'll go through it faster; Once heading up from Iceberg Lake to Russell, you won't find reliable water again until potentially midway down on the switchbacks (maybe) or at worst Trail Camp (~12k+ on the Whitney Main Trail). If you choose not to daytrip this, you can camp at several spots before and after (Either of the Boyscout Lakes, Iceberg lake (higher) or on the other side, Trail camp (higher) or even lower.
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by Dayute »

stickmann wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 9:43 am We climbed Whitney via the MR in April and there isn't much snow up there. It seems unlikely you'll have to worry about snowy conditions unless we get a massive snow dump. You might be able to see weather rolling in from Lower Boy Scout lake but, past that, you're in a valley and close enough to Whitney that you won't be able to see to the west. Once you reach the Russell plateau before the east ridge route you should be able to see conditions again. The east side of Whitney often warns of potential weather with some massive lenticular clouds though.

I can't comment on the east ridge to south face of Russell but MR -> Russell -> Whitney -> Main trail sounds like an absolutely insane day.
I appreciate the confirmation on the lack of snow so far. The ability to see weather moving in is a factor pushing me towards reversing my direction. I thought Russell would be easier ascending the ridge but the more I read the more Im reconsidering. Seems like the ridge is very exposed but doesnt seem to go past 2/3 so shouldnt be a difficult downclimb and there are some equally long screefests in both directions. Also would make more sense to do the long miles up the standard route in the dark in the morning instead of the heat of the afternoon.
nyker wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 9:49 pm The "route" down the south face of Russell will be a step up from the ascent from the East ridge and legit Class 4 in spots, both sides are exposed with a knife edge on the east where you want very solid weather for in a long day;
Do you have experience with this area? Does it make more sense to take one side over the other? Im strongly considering acending this direction now if possible. Seems like theres almost 2k feet of loose scree in either direction.
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brichardsson
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by brichardsson »

Dayute wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 9:27 am
Craig Barlow wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 8:39 am Here's a good TR if you haven't seen it yet. It's almost 20 years old, but very detailed and still relevant.

https://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_reports/russell_1.html
I'm also considering going up Whitney standard and down the N face to do the trip in the other direction, may make Russell easier.
do not do that. do russell first. not only is the east ridge ascent a sierra classic, but i would not want to go down it without having gone up it (which i have).

in short, there's a reason why everyone who does it, does it russell / whitney / muir.
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brichardsson
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by brichardsson »

Dayute wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 5:40 pm
I thought Russell would be easier ascending the ridge but the more I read the more Im reconsidering. Seems like the ridge is very exposed but doesnt seem to go past 2/3 so shouldnt be a difficult downclimb and there are some equally long screefests in both directions. Also would make more sense to do the long miles up the standard route in the dark in the morning instead of the heat of the afternoon.
the east ridge is long, sustained, CA class 3. there are definitely a couple you-fall-you-lose zones. the descent off of russell on your way to whitney is a shitshow, but it is what it is if you want to knock out all three. the most sense is cruising down the main trail not having to think about anything except the great burgers at the notch. you do not want the end of the day - a long day that has left you smoked - navigating unfamiliar territory on the east ridge and the e-ledges.
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nyker
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by nyker »

Dayute wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 5:40 pm
stickmann wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 9:43 am We climbed Whitney via the MR in April and there isn't much snow up there. It seems unlikely you'll have to worry about snowy conditions unless we get a massive snow dump. You might be able to see weather rolling in from Lower Boy Scout lake but, past that, you're in a valley and close enough to Whitney that you won't be able to see to the west. Once you reach the Russell plateau before the east ridge route you should be able to see conditions again. The east side of Whitney often warns of potential weather with some massive lenticular clouds though.

I can't comment on the east ridge to south face of Russell but MR -> Russell -> Whitney -> Main trail sounds like an absolutely insane day.
I appreciate the confirmation on the lack of snow so far. The ability to see weather moving in is a factor pushing me towards reversing my direction. I thought Russell would be easier ascending the ridge but the more I read the more Im reconsidering. Seems like the ridge is very exposed but doesnt seem to go past 2/3 so shouldnt be a difficult downclimb and there are some equally long screefests in both directions. Also would make more sense to do the long miles up the standard route in the dark in the morning instead of the heat of the afternoon.
nyker wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 9:49 pm The "route" down the south face of Russell will be a step up from the ascent from the East ridge and legit Class 4 in spots, both sides are exposed with a knife edge on the east where you want very solid weather for in a long day;
Do you have experience with this area? Does it make more sense to take one side over the other? Im strongly considering acending this direction now if possible. Seems like theres almost 2k feet of loose scree in either direction.
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I haven't climbed up and down that route, though was there when a climbing partner had just done in the day prior. I was making my way over to the Mountaineers Route and he was commenting on the terrain there vis a vis the MR route and "standard" way up Russell. The East Ridge is the more traditional ascent on Russell for the non-technical climber. As far as descending a route I did not ascend, I usually don't like doing that unless I have very recent beta on that route and at least have been up/down it in the past. Main point is be prepared for solid Class 4 sections with decent exposure and loose rock/scree in spots. If you're not in really good shape and acclimatized, I'd split these two up into two separate climbs.

Splitting these two up while Camping though doesn't really work as well as some other peaks since your starting points would be opposite sides of Whitney. The one way to do it as an overnight would be do Russell, camp at Iceberg that night (and/or night before), then do the MR Route and Muir, but you'd to backtrack and reclimb the last couple hundred feet of Whitney after Muir and descend the two MR route chutes to get back to base camp at Iceberg (still probably faster than the Main trail though). The positive side of this is that you'd be climbing the standard classic routes on the peaks with more comfort on the routes, the negative is an extra day on the mountain and a little more mileage/gain. One option though I wouldn't recommend, would be to lug overnight gear up and over Whitney so avoid backtracking but it would be cumbersome making that up the two chutes and hiking out on the Main Trail 11+ miles.

I'd say the logistically simpler options are (1): day trip all three as you're potentially planning, just realize it's a long tiring day up above 12-13k most of the day with rough exposed scree/rock off Russell and a tougher but short climb up Muir at the end or (2) do two separate climbs, one for for each. For option 1, unless you are very fast, would assume a 1:00am-2:00am start if not earlier.
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Re: Russell > Whitney > Muir

Post by seano »

nyker wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 10:19 pmI'd say the logistically simpler options are (1): day trip all three as you're potentially planning, just realize it's a long tiring day up above 12-13k most of the day with rough exposed scree/rock off Russell and a tougher but short climb up Muir at the end or (2) do two separate climbs, one for for each. For option 1, unless you are very fast, would assume a 1:00am-2:00am start if not earlier.
If you're fast enough, i.e. acclimatized and capable of jogging the easier downhill parts of the trail, option (1) is natural and fun, via either the north face or Mountaineer's Route. The East Ridge isn't especially long or technical, but it is intimidatingly exposed in places, and better done going up the first time. It's also spectacular.

Option (3) would be to camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake and do Muir as an out-and-back from Whitney. It's a bit annoying to backtrack down the Mountaineer's Route, but not too bad. That way you'll be doing all the high altitude parts with just a day pack.
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