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North America, United States, California—Sierra Nevada, Mount Russell, Southwest Buttress

Mount Russell, Southwest Buttress. On September 1, Gary Colliver, TM Herbert, and I climbed a steep crack in the south-facing western-most buttress of Mount Russell. Two horrifying cracks are apparent when the buttress is viewed from the western side of Whitney-Russell Col. We chose the less horrifying left-hand crack and found the climbing steep but surprisingly easy. Four pitches of F7 to F8 climbing, then easier 5th, 4th, and 3rd class leads to the summit. The first pitch is loose and requires caution if one is desirous of company on the summit. I climbed to the base of the right crack from whence Gary led a deceptively easy traverse to the bottom of the left crack. Colliver strung out the second lead well up into the F8 crack. TM led “the most enjoyable crack I’ve ever led” with only a minimal Herbertian F7 whimpering. The last difficult pitch is a moderate short chimney with a tricky traverse left to easy cracks on the western side of the buttress. The fourth pitch ended at the top of the vertical crack directly above our starting point. We climbed clean and hammerless. NCCS III, F8.

Don Lauria