Type: Trad, Alpine, 1600 ft, 9 pitches, Grade IV
FA: unknown
Page Views: 3,261 total · 36/month
Shared By: Dustysdawg on Sep 6, 2011
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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This route is a great adventure in the Sierra. Based on the very limited information available on the web, it does not get climbed very often. The fact that this limited info has it rated Grade III or IV and 5.9 is a complete sandbag. Regardless of ratings, I can give a couple of comparisons to help estimate difficulty. It felt harder than NB of Merriam. Expect to expend the same amount of calories as you would/did on Western Front. I would say that this climb is more like Higher Cathedral with a bunch of 5.10 thrown in.
Pitch 1 - Start in the right facing corner with a hand crack that is just left of a large chimney. The chimney is an alternate start, but why? Belay under a roof. 5.9 200 feet
Pitch 2 - Go right and up over a bulge. Start aiming for the giant hanging flakes about that are about 800 feet off the ground. Follow the gully for most of this pitch. 5.8 - 200 feet
Pitch 3 - Scramble and simul-climb for about 250 more feet, still aiming for the hanging flakes. Belay on a ledge. 5.7 250 feet
Pitch 4 - Follow a thin crack to a ledge. It looks improbable, but it goes. It protects pretty well. 10a 190 feet
Pitch 5 - Climb up into the giant roof chimney. Looks intimidating, but it is really fun. 5.9 150 feet
Pitch 6 - Directly above the chimney is a single crack system that angles slightly right. It starts with a difficult thin crack and ends on a small stance. 10b 200 feet
Pitch 7 - Continue up the crack system, which widens to some great off width climbing. Finish on the ledge above the OW. 5.9+ 150 feet
Pitch 8 - From the top of the OW go up a jam/layback crack to a ledge. Then head left up another big crack to some more broken up terrain. 5.9+ 150 feet
Pitch 9 - Now you are close to the summit, but there is only really one way to go. Continue up through another OW and scramble around to ridge line.
From here you can decide if you want to keep going up he ridge line to the summit.

Descent: Southwest Slope Class 3. First Chute off the summit. Continue down 3/4 down chute, move descent left over slope to another chute. Loose rock at bottom increases excitement factor. Continue down to small alpine lake.


Once you get to Hungry Packer, scramble around the left side of the lake to the snowfield below the NE face. Look for the giant hanging flakes. The route starts directly below them. There is a giant chimney here, but the right facing corner is a fantastic way to start the route.


This route protects pretty well. We brought a full set of offset nuts, including micros. Grey and purple tcu, double green, yellow and red aliens. Double Camalots from .75 to #3, plus one #4. There are no anchors, no fixed gear, and no signs of anyone climbing it.
AWinters   NH  
This just got bumped up on my list. Thanks for posting, straightforward descent?? Sep 7, 2011
I would agree that PP is longer and more committing than most Russell routes.

Looking over my notes from 10+ years ago, I see very little that matches to your description, but perhaps different eyes see different things.

To respond to Adam's question, I wonder if you topped out. When you say: From here you can decide if you want to keep going up he ridge line to the summit. I recall that much of the truly technical climbing ended at what we called the "first tower". However, a substantial amount of 4th/5th climbing remained.

My notes say (leaving off Pitches 1-8 ):

Pitch 9: Class4/easy 5 climbing across buttress until saddle. 300-400' easy 5th.

Short Rap off chockstone or downclimb 5.? shitty rock.

Pitch 10: Class 4/Easy 5th out of saddle until rope drag kill you. 80'

Pitch 11: Class 4/Easy 5th climb buttress high until final "step across" saddle. Stay high on buttress, down and left looks awful.

Pitch 12: Class4/easy 5 step across saddle, continue up through some 5th class flakes. Move left at the final short head wall and below just below summit. 200+'

Descent: Class 3 shitty. First Chute off of summit. Continue down 3/4 down chute, move descent left over slope to another chute. Shitty rock at bottom increases excitement factor. Continue down to small alpine lake.

Sep 7, 2011
AWinters   NH  
Thank you Murf, good to know.. Sep 7, 2011
I will say if Dustysdawg said it is harder than western front, I would tend to believe him. DD has climbed everything on Russell, and a ton of other stuff too. just sayin...

and, if I climbed venturi effect without summitting the hulk, did i in fact climb venturi... Sep 7, 2011
Murf suks. Sep 7, 2011
I agree that "different eyes see different things". Check out the pics of the three main pitches that I submitted. Do they match what you remember from the climb? Maybe I was off route. I will post more pics soon.
I have not climbed everything on Russell. and I still have to do Fishook. But, I already did all the ones you mentioned, plus Southwest Buttress (TM Herber 5.8). That TM route is really fun.
My comparisons to other climbs are merely to give people a sense of how difficult the route will feel compared to other routes. To show something other than ratings, like "5.9", which can mean different things to different people.
Let me rephrase....Expect to expend more calories on NE Buttress of Picture Peak than you did on Western Front.

The descent is kind of a pain, but not as bad as getting off Twilight Pillar. Sep 8, 2011
After all that, I edited my description. Sep 8, 2011
Awesome route!!! Solid and fairly sustained climbing for the grade. Route info listed above worked great for us. Don't descend first chute! (cliffs out), we dropped the second chute (from top of technical climbing, not after summit proper) to the south which wasn't bad. Mostly 3rd class with 1 or 2 raps. Full day of fun, enjoy! Jul 8, 2013
D. Evans
Tustin, California
D. Evans   Tustin, California
I did this route in on July 1, 1977 with Sibylle Hechtel. I don't remember much about it except for that chimney and that it was a great adventure. My notes say IV 5.9, 9 pitches, 6 hours (I have a feeling we alpined parts). We did Cucumbers on Cardinal Lodge 2 days after and The Smokestack the day after that (July 4th). It was a big weekend! Jun 22, 2015
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Really good route; not to be missed. Should be on every Eastside aficionados list. P2 & 3 are easy scramble throw-aways, but the rest of the climb is spectacular. P1, 4, 5, and 7 are great ****, and the long sustained P6 might be the best pitch of climbing I've done in the Sierra (excluding the Incredible Hulk) *****. Bring at least a 60M rope and be ready to simulclimb a few feet on most of the rope stretching pitches. The hands-to-OW P7 is only 100' to the belay ledge, not 150' as stated above. Bring your best wide game and prepare to run it out above the tipped out #4 at your feet (OR bring a #5, but probably not worth the weight). Aug 20, 2016
Berkeley + Sunny Slopes, CA
old5ten   Berkeley + Sunny Slopes, CA
got mixed feelings about this one - there's some excellent and varied climbing, but also a decent amount of choss.

it's long, so i recommend being at the base at the crack of dawn. we got up a bit late and had an unplanned bivy.

we brought a 70m rope, a full rack of doubles to #2 camalot, and one ea.: #3 camalot, #3.5 camalot, #4 camalot, WC #5, and big bro #2. took hb offset brass #5+#6, in addition to another handful of bigger hb offsets and one #2 lowe ball. placed everything except the big bro and the #6 wc friend is still on p8 at the top of the wide section (if you're feeling charitable please return it ;-)

p1 is decent and not overly hard for 5.9, go up the crack then the dihedral. we belayed lower than shown in the topo.
p2-3, we wandered around a bit and made that 3 pitches (but i'll keep the regular pitch count for now).
p4 initially a thin crack with some solid pods. seems very reach dependent. if you're tall, you can grab the lower pod and it'll feel pretty low key (5.9/10a). if you're short you'll have to do a move or two to get to the first pod and it'll feel significantly harder (10+?). we belayed below the 12" hollow flake on one of the nice step ledges, definitely the way to go.
p5 'the chimney' is very size dependent. i was able to worm my way along the widest path toward the chockstone in back, then up, then right back to daylight. it felt really low key (easy 5th). my wife was second with a pack and climbed it more toward the outside, which was really hard for her. trailing the pack might work if it's pretty flat, but there's a good chance of getting it stuck. the crack to the right, before the chimney is short but fun (~5.8/9)
p6 was 'the money' pitch: technical, sustained, and heady. bring really small gear and hope that you don't fall. i'd say 10b is about right for the crux moves. i belayed a bit lower than what is shown in the topo/pic.
p7 (5.9) had some initial thinner moves, then a stellar thin hands crack. #1 camalot size the whole time (60'+?), i belayed where the crack changed to #2 camalot size. from now the pitch count is different from the topo.
p8 another stellar crack going from #2 camalot to #6 wc friend (new c4 #5), then some harder lieback/mantle moves (~10a) to gain a nice ledge up and slightly right. if you like fat cracks this pitch is just as good as the thin hands crack below - stellar...
p9 climb up easy ground for 15' then traverse left to another fat crack. i checked out the 'easier' arete version to the left, but felt the crack was more secure and not all that hard (5.9). traverse left on a small ledge, pass under the chockstone, traverse left on the short finger crack to a short vertical hand crack.
it was pretty much dark when my wife seconded this pitch. since we did not know the ground ahead, where the descent was, and how difficult things were going to be, we decided to bivy. insert 8+ hours of sleepless shivering here ;-)
p10 go up the right of two fat cracks (5.7/8), then up over (or around) a slab to the ridge.
from there we belayed for two full pitches (would be easy simul-climbing, but we're fried), staying mostly on the right side of the ridge but coming back to the top at the end.

descent - drop down toward two towers on the south side of the ridge (easy ground). find or set a rap anchor to get down about 60' to a saddle between two gullies (right where the two towers are). we took the (skier's) right (southwest) gully, which turned out to be loose (and a serious potential bowling alley), but otherwise 3rd class with not further rappels. Sep 4, 2018
Excellent route! Almost every pitch is quality, fun, and exciting. We found a 70m to be useful, especially for the long P6 (200+ ft). Topo from julienlecorps was very useful, although pitches 7-9 are a little shorter than topo describes. Bring micro cams and small brass nuts for pitches 4 & 6. Agree with old5ten that there is a height-dependent move on P4 - I'm 5'6" and a harder intermediate move was required.

Descent info: We took the first chute off the summit proper and crossed left per description, staying right on the wall itself when the loose gnar got a little too loose and gnar. This worked well. Out of the chute, stay high and left to end up on the slabby ridge that comes down between Hungry Packer and Moonlight lakes for the easiest and most open terrain. Sep 7, 2018