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Mt Russell

August 2rd-7th 2011- 2012

This is a beautiful mountain and we summitted in a great trip after which we went on to climb Split...

Also known as “Steep, stunning and spectacular.

Those present:  Adrian Crane, Deborah Steinberg, Carey Gregg, Ray Kablanow, Christopher Crane, Jonathan Crane, Adrian Bennett, and Josh Boek.

Pictures on Flicker

August 3rd thru 7th 2011 we climbed Russell and Split. Deborah and Adrian along with Ray Kablanow, Carey Gregg, Christopher Crane, Jonathan Crane, Adrian Bennett, and Josh Boek. The climb of Russell began at Whitney Portal on Wednesday 4th, although after a good breakfast in Lone Pine we did not get started until 12:30. Following the mountaineering route up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek and the infamous ledges, on past Lower Boy Scout lake to our camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake which we reached at 6:30. Adrian Bennett is Adrian’s nephew and was visiting to enjoy a climbing adventure.

The next morning we rose at 5:30am and left by 6:50 which was pretty good going for our large party. We made our way around the north side of the lake and headed up valley toward the east arete (ridge) route. Seeing that the granite slabs at the head were quite steep we cut up to the right and followed a broad ledge to the valley’s end against the East face of Russell. It was not until we were very close to the towering wall of Russell that we could see that indeed rubble filled gully cut through the cliffs to the right and gave access to the base of the arete. Our group paused on the strangely flat plateau at the base of the aręte and looked back down the gully we had ascended. A knoll of rock provided a great photo op with Mount Whitney in the background. Deborah was dressed in pink in honor of the fight against breast cancer and feared that any other climbers we met might question her commitment to the heights. We traversed west along the sometimes knife-like ridge mostly roped together in two teams until we reached the eastern summit, then traversed another short ridge that took us to the true western summit of Russell (#13 for Climb for a Cure) at 1:30. We enjoyed the spectacular summit views for an hour. The air was still and the lunch tasty. We could view the tiny figures crowded on Whitney summit but during our time on the peak of Russell we had only 2 other climbers arrive, they having come up one of the hard climbing routes. We then returned to the low spot on the ridge between the two summits from where we looked down an 80 ft drop to the slopes below. We secured a rope and everyone rappelled down. The last, Adrian, then rearranged the rope so it could be pulled after him and descended. As is the way though, the rope jammed as he tried to retrieve it and so he left it stuck and continued. Half an hour later some much faster climbers came by and returned the neatly coiled rope! Our descent to base camp by way of Iceberg Lake, was exhausting, since most of us had run out of water half way back and were dehydrated as well as tired. After leaving the base of our rappel we stayed together as we climbed over the ridge and slid down the snows to Iceberg Lake but then our groups pace varied and we arrived back variously at 7:35, 7:45 and 8:00pm.

Friday 5th. The next morning we did not hurry and left camp at 8:30 and descended to the vehicles at the trail head at Whitney Portal, the advanced party reaching there at 10:50 while Adrian, Deb and Joel wandered in at 11:35. We were on our way to Split Mountain! But it was 5:00 pm before we arrived at the trailhead as we had to pick up a permit in Lone Pine and then visit Ricks Barbecue in Bishop. We also met Johnathan Crane;. Adrian’s son who was coming to join us on Split. It was not until 5:30 that we left the trailhead. We blazed up 4000 vertical feet of elevation to our base camp at lower Red Lake chasing the suns descent. Deborah was adamant that we make it to a good high camp so pushed us to continue into the dark on the narrow and sometimes indistinct trail. We spent some time unsure if we were following a stream or a trail in the dark especially when it disappeared into heavy brush. Our mantra was ‘Where’s Russell’ which we would yell as the group got separated. We arrived using headlamps at 9:40 pm and set up a beautiful campsite by Lower Red Lake. Dinner that evening was a fun and relaxed affair as we celebrated our success in Russell and looked forward to a good day on Split.

Early the next morning, Saturday, we were off again towards the summit of Split Mtn although after the previous late night we didn’t get moving till 8:30. We were taking the North Slope route with the steep Eastern approach to the Sierra crest. We wandered through the last of the trees and out among the snowfields and boulders at 12000 ft looking for the most doable route among the snowfields and rock. The steep East approach to the Sierra Crest lived up to its reputation. We had the choice of a steep snow gully or a fun and rocky scramble which is what we chose. Once on the ridge we were greeted by a large ascending expanse of boulder field peppered by snow patches. We started up, each making their own way across the rocks. Eventually we reached a point where we r ealized we were "home free", as we could see the rest of our ascent to the summit was easy small boulders and scree. We reached the top at 12:35. Summit #14 for Climb for a Cure! What a summit it was. Nestled in the ledges of rock it was warm and calm. From the Summit of Split we could see 12 other 14ers! Everyone was happy to hang out and enjoy the success. For Deb and I it meant that we just had the one remaining ‘easy’ 14er to get – White Mountain. After an hour and a quarter on top we set off down. It was a fun descent across the boulder field and then down the steep east side of the ridge. We glissaded the snow gully once we had passed the steepest piece and then continued to camp passing small patches of grass peppered with purple flowers whose pungent aroma perfumed the air. We got back to camp at 5:25, early enough to enjoy the evening and have a campfire. Faced with the perfect long evening in which to enjoy a sumptuous meal after the efforts and successes of the last few days we were mildly disappointed to find that we were scraping the bottom of out proverbial food barrel. Perhaps that is the result of inviting several younger team members whose appetites really did do justice to their efforts. Having careful calculated our food so as not to haul excess weight up the hill we now found ourselves a little short. Nevertheless we made a good meal and relished the freedom to enjoy it. Adrian Bennett sat in the flickering light and carved a walking stick looking every bit the African Masai warrior. Since he lives in Kenya, Africa he also regaled us with stories such as the day he couldn't go to work because of the Water Buffalo on his front porch that would not let him out of the house.

Sunday 7th. Christopher set off early as he had to be on the road for his next adventure. The rest of us packed camp and descended at a leisurely pace.

In honor of breast cancer survivors Loretta Ghaner and Koehler, Deborah was dressed all in PINK the entire trip. She was very picturesque even though some other climbers probably had trouble taking her seriously. We wrote the names of several cancer victims in the summit box (see our picture of the summit log). includng Richard Minkkenen who passed away on June 19th after a battle with cancer. Richard is the brother in law of Barbara Miller a dear friend of ours in Modesto, California.

The whole trip was a fabulous experience, and on the way down Adrian and I were reflecting on what an amazing journey this has been. Our only 14er left is White Mtn, which is a hike anyone can join, not a true climb. Email us if you are interested in joining us on the White Mountain hike, and we will have more details later. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and encouragement!

 Adrian Crane and Deborah Steinberg

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