Type: Trad, Alpine, 1000 ft, 8 pitches, Grade III
FA: Gary Colliver & John Cleare, June 1974
Page Views: 37,630 total · 237/month
Shared By: M. Morley on Mar 5, 2006
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Certain Peaks: Access limited from May to October every year Details


Excellent rock, incredible exposure, high elevation, and panoramic views earn this the deserved status of one of the 100 best alpine climbs named in John Moynier and Claude Fiddler's "Sierra Classics".

I'm sure this has been done many times car-to-car by parties stronger than mine, but most will opt for at least one overnight at either Iceberg or Upper Boyscout Lakes to acclimatize and enjoy the surroundings. Consider combining with one of the Whitney routes (East Face, East Buttress) by camping an extra night at Iceberg.

The route itself is roughly 8 pitches, and follows a sharp crescent-shaped spine on the southern aspect of the peak. The start is a bit ambiguous, so just follow the path of least resistance for a pitch or so to gain the ridge proper. Continue along the ridge for several more pitches. At one point, you'll have to downclimb about 15' to a prominent
Looking south from The Notch. . The pitch above the notch is the
The money pitch, just above the prominent notch. , on impeccable golden rock. Continue for several more pitches, staying on the spine for full value. From the summit, descend via the
The beautiful East Ridge descent. . This will take you back to
Early morning at Upper Boy Scout Lake, Mt. Whitney Area . Choose another descent option if you left gear at Iceberg Lake.

Allow *roughly* 6 hours from base to summit. Allow roughly 5 additional hours to descend from the summit back to the car at Whitney Portal.


From Iceberg Lake, scramble up and over the saddle between Whitney and Russell. Head north, picking up a faint climber's trail to the base of the arête. Several starts are possible.


A standard alpine rack will suffice. Hexes and/or tri-cams may be substituted for cams to keep the weight down. A couple double-length runners. Double ropes are nice, but not essential. There is no fixed gear on the route as I recall.


Oakland Park, Florida
Floridaputz   Oakland Park, Florida
Very fun clean route. We did the first pitch 5.9 variation. The obvious crack goes left or right. Stay left to gain ridge(easier) or right(harder) P2 is easy 5th class to the base of the next tower. P3 5.9- was one of the best. Try to stay close to the true arete and head for tower. There is an improbable move right (crux) this puts you on the arete. Bypass tower (left side) nice little airy move, and climb along the Arete to a Cool mantel move. Now down lead into notch. From here the you can bail (don't) P4 is right up the arete on easy climbing. P5 5.8 takes you up to an OW chimney deal to a nice belay. P6 5.9 really cool. Climb up to this huge detached flake that tapers to a small stance. go straight up crack 5.9 to cave and on to top of the block. You can also traverse to the Right corner and climb the face if you don't like the crack. The exposure here is amazing, you must take a quick look down. P7 climb up and traverse over to left side of the arete. P8 follow the left side of arete to summit. The summit is really cool with great views of Mt Whitney and a 360 view. There are many variation that can be done on this climb. Stay as close to the true arete as you can is really enough beta to do this climb. We did it sans topo. to decend take the SECOND gully (2-300 ft east) with a short downclimb to head back to Iceberg lake or decend the East Ridge to Upper Boyscout Lake. Aug 18, 2006
C Miller
C Miller   CA  
A fabulous route which takes your right to the summit. An early start means the lower pitches will be chilly but higher (and later) it warms up nicely. Watch for loose rock on this one. Take in the world class summit view and then descend off right down the obvious 3rd class gully. Oct 22, 2006
It is possible to scramble into the gully to the right of the Fishhook arete and climb a loose pitch of 5.8/5.9 directly into the notch.

This is a good way to pass slow parties on the initial pitches or also get you on the route quickly if you woke up later than you wanted to.

Beware of off route gendarmes, this route goes pretty easy above the notch if you are crafty with your decision making, but you can also make it a lot harder if you get "pillar vision"... Mar 6, 2007
M. Morley
Sacramento, CA
M. Morley   Sacramento, CA  
Notes from 6/04:
- Whitney Portal to Upper Boyscout (~4hrs).
- Hiking by 4:30am, 5:30 at Iceberg Lake, climbing by 6:30am. Summit around 12:45. Back to car (Whitney Portal) by 6pm. May 25, 2008
flagstaff, AZ
markguycan   flagstaff, AZ
enjoyed this route immensely, found and interesting and challenging variation on pitch one: immediately left of the giant overhanging flake which becomes the ridge below the belay for pitch two is a steep finger crack which goes for 25ft at probaby 10b. Jul 14, 2008
Mike   Phoenix
This route is lots of fun. I tried Supertopo's "5.10 variation" and thought it a bit sandbagged and insecure. Jul 25, 2008
Justin York
Phoenix, AZ
Justin York   Phoenix, AZ
My fav route so far in the Sierras. Super solid, not too hard, not too easy, great views, good pro. I thought the first pitch was a little easier than 5.9, and it depended on which way you went on the third pitch. Nov 9, 2009
David M.H.
los Angeles, ca
David M.H.   los Angeles, ca
Thought I was being smart hiking up into the canyon beyond UBL. It was very neat in there and no one else was around. I had taken a look at the "peaks passes & trails" book and saw a route that appeared to go up that canyon and then use the "sakai col" to get into the sandy bowl that leads to Fishhook. It worked, turned sharp right onto the sandy ledges at the end of the canyon. Miserably sandy, loose, and steep I should say. It seemed like we were going to hit a dead end all the way up but made it work somehow. Higher up it was better and the "sakai col" was not an issue. The ground on the way to fishhook after the "col" was also very sandy. Sorry for the complaining but I really have not yet had such a miserable approach in the sierras. The climbing was great after the notch section. Too inconsistent before the notch but there were a few good sections. We took the NE ridge off Russel, which was cool but for it to get such notoriety... well I have seen better ridge hikes. The ridge ends into another area with sand and loose rock. Kept trying to find a more direct route back to our camp through some notch/colouir. Each spot to drop down looked like it could just end in a drop. In the end we had to hike some steep loose sand & rock to get to the UBL then hike back up to our camp. As a result I cant recommend either my approach or the Russell-Carillon pass approach as they both go up miserably loose sand & scree. Jun 10, 2013
Snow travel significantly increased the approach and descent times.

Plan water accordingly if attempting this route early or late in the season.

rack brought:
2 sets of nuts (only 1 used)
cams BD 0.5-3, doubles 0.75-2
Many long slings

Day 1: Drive from LA, Hike to and camp at Upper Boy Scout
Day 2: Summit, descend E Ridge, drive back to LA (long day)

As of 3/28/15: Snow above lower boyscout lake. Water available at runoff from Upper Boy Scout. Iceberg lake covered in snow, would be difficult to get water there. Crampons and ice axe suggested (we used axe, no crampons above UBS, spikes would have been worth the weight). No snow on Fishhook Arete. Snow on East ridge descent.

Packs were not an issue on the 5.8 "chimney" Mar 30, 2015

What ^ he said for gear. We had 3- .75's by accident, and used all 3 on at least 3 pitches. 11 shoulder slings, 2 doubles, 3 draws and used them all. Great line. Stay left on the third pitch for some wildly exposed 5.10 fun!
The notch downclimb is easiest if you go across the blocks to the end and climb down on climbers right and back into the notch. (This will make sense when you see it).
We had a #4 with us and used it a couple of times, not really needed, but good if you are unsure on wider stuff.
Had another party in front of us, one of which got exhausted/altitude sickness. Helped them down. It is possible to lower unsure partners into the 4th class descent to some rap tat (with ring!) and rap the steep part of the descent. If you have one rope, go down the ramp, right, to an intermediate station. 2 ropes gets you straight down to the bottom of the 4th class into the dirt. Jul 19, 2016
Well, me and Seth was clompin' along up above Iceberg when he turns to me and says, "I'll be damned, Dan, if that there mountain don't look just like the fish hooks me n' pappy used ta use for wrangling in largemouth lunkers down at the ol' pond."
"I'll be damned too," I said, and so we scrambled on over for another look. Now, me n' Seth is from Tennessee, so we didn't even hardly know rocks could get that big. Figured, though, it couldn't be too different from trusty sandstone, so we tied in and started climbing. The good Lord musta been on our side, 'cause the weather stayed fine, almost as hot as summer in the Cumberland foothills, while we worked our way up 'long the fishhook, down into a little ol' notch, and then back up to the tippy top of Russell.
"Golly me," I says to Seth, "The air up here don't breathe right!"
"I'll say!" Seth calls back, and then we stumble down a big gully back to the base of the granite beaut'.
Well, wasn't hardly even supper time by then, so I turn to Seth, and he turns to me, and before I know it, we're heading up toward Heaven one more time!
Can't say I read too good, but I'll be danged if our line of choice didn't look right like a big copy of the Good Book propped wide open on its side! Soon we're 2 football fields off the ground, and as I sink my hands in a right-solid crack that never seems to end, I can't help but feel like I'm down in the swamp with diddy, noodlin' for catfish; I remembered his words of wisdom as we pulled up on through the headwall and hit a knife-sharp ridge up high: "It ain't that hard, boy! Just shove your fist in there and don't let go!"
Me n' Seth finished up 'round dinner time, and seein' as we ain't never been that high before, it felt again right like papa's work horse was sitting on my chest! We headed on down the gully, skipped back over to Iceberg, wrangled up a couple of marmots, and thanked our lucky stars as we kicked back over a proper mountaintop feast.

[We approached Russell from Iceberg Lake on 6/13/17. Crampons were helpful just above the lake, but there was little snow in the Whitney/ Russell col. We started up Fishhook at ~8:00am, just as first light hit the base of the arete, and topped out around 1:00pm. The route was in great shape, and temps got to the high 60s. Essentially all ice and snow had melted out of the 3rd/4th-class descent gully east of the summit, so the downclimb was quick and easy.
We started onto Mithril at ~2:00pm, perhaps an hour after the route came into full sun, and managed to partially combine a few pitches before hitting the upper ridge. (We stayed on the true arete, which meant substantial 5.4-5.5 climbing all the way to the summit, but cutting climber's left a bit earlier might have sped things up and allowed for easier scrambling.) The whole route was in good shape, with no ice or snow in the way, and we were back at the base of Russell by 6:00pm.
Quite feasible to combine both routes in a day if you've got the energy and move fast.]

Jun 18, 2017
David Champion
Centennial, CO
David Champion   Centennial, CO
Not much here or in the guidebooks about the 5.10 variation of pitch 6; the alternative to the 5.8 chimney indicated in the High Sierra SuperTopo guide. Having just done it I thought I’d share some beta here (on-sight purists feel free to move on).

First, here is the gear I placed, in order (note this is the I gear placed just in the 5.10 section, not the entire pitch):

#.4 Camalot
#10 (Gray) DMM offset nut
#.5 Camalot
#2 Camalot
#1 Camalot (at the top of the incipient crack to left of the main)

Expect flaring fingers on slightly licheny/grainy rock to start, gradually widening to flaring hands. I found all but maybe the last two pieces very strenuous to place. Solid foot jams were the key for me. The difficulties back off gradually the higher you get. But a fall near the start would be bad as you will be ~50’ above your belayer, who won’t be able to see you, and you will be starting the business right off a flatish ledge.

Objectively I estimate the difficulty is probably about 10c, but at nearly 14k feet it felt harder. Aug 13, 2017