Western Front tr


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Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 26, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
Western Front, tr

It occurs to me that I have been remiss in my postings this past summer.
Its been a busy year. I’ll skip the mundane. I’m sure you’re not interested in an account of Cathedral Peak or Venusian Blind. I don’t blame you.

D really wanted to do Western Front on Mt. Russell. Keeler Needle has been on my list for more decades than I care to admit so I readily agreed, provided she take care of all that irritating bureaucratic nonsense that makes my head feel like its going to explode.

After many frustrating hours and no small expense she managed to secure a permission slip for July 28 to August 1. I feel compelled to add here that while I am not only philosophically opposed to “asking permission” to use my public lands, I am also just too disorganized and too lazy to bother. I typically begin planning a four day solo outing about forty-five minutes before my departure and about ten minutes after coming up with the idea. However, given the plethora of lemmings clamoring over each other to conquer the highest point in the contiguous Unites States and the concentration of armed and ambitious authoritarian federal lackeys bent on enforcement, I conceded that it was a good idea. Thanks D.

Our trip began almost immediately in controversy. D wrote a post on a competing site asking for a Sherpa looking to make $100 for humping a load for us (rack, rope and two bottles of wine). She was immediately bombarded by a barrage of replies from people anxious to show off their sensitivity to native cultures and their worldliness. This was followed by a second sortie of people telling her how lame she was for asking for a “Porter” in the first place. One particularly vitriolic respondent was a Jason Kim from some hideous So Cal metropolis. I felt compelled to respond:

Dear Wankers,
I’ve been climbing with DME for many years now and even given her 57 years, her blown knees and bad back she’s one of the better partners I’ve had in a long time. We have both worked hard all our lives and been smart with our money and if we want to help out some young dirt bags with some extra cash and let them in on our permits that’s up to us. Jesus just get over yourselves!
Oh yeah, and Jason. I onsight soloed your whole ‘to do’ list so just blow me!

Anyhow, that shut some people up.

So off we tromped, me D and our “Porter” (who shall remain nameless due to professional concerns and [stupid] Forest Service regulations).
The plan was to go over the col and camp at the base of Russell, however, at Upper Boy Scout Lake we were ruthlessly bombarded by hale the size of baseballs and hurricane force winds. In our haste to put the tent up a pole snapped, which in turn ripped a big hole in the fly. Just awesome! I managed to patch the fly for the night with my t-shirt and settled in for a long afternoon of shivering after bidding our “Porter” thanks and farewell.

The next morning we fought through the throngs of would-be alpinists between Upper Boyscout and Iceberg Lakes. Its sad to say but it kind of made The Hulk look like a back country climbing area.

Upon reaching the back side of the col the world shifted on its axis. Russell’s south face loomed before us, its west shown in steep profile. And there was no one around! We threw our bags down just below a small tarn, the sun had just passed its zenith, I looked at the swooping, sunny Fishhook Aręte and made some childish, grunty, whimpering noises while gesturing at the face.
“Well you might as well just go then.” D said, “it only takes one of us to fix the tent and make camp.”

“Thanks! See ya!”

Readers of my past reports will recall that I always try to include some useful piece of information, here is one of those pieces: the rock is terrific! If there is any 5.9, as the Supertopo book calls it, I didn’t find it. In the summit register I found the comments of an old friend, the late great Walt Shipley: ’soloed Fishhook, this would be 5.7 in The Valley.’
I might not go that far but whatever.

I hooted to D, just to let her know I was still alive. She hooted back and met me half way down the descent with water and cookies. So cool!

The following day we awoke to wave after wave of clouds blotting out the sun, a cold wind dashed any hopes I may have still held for Keeler. We wandered up the north face of Whitney in a half hearted attempt to summit. Another hope for alpine glory was dashed as the clouds thickened.

And then, on the morning of out fourth day, we woke to that clear blue Sierra sky I’ve heard so much about but rarely seen, the cold conspired with the western aspect to force a crack of noon start but eventually we were off. The first hundred feet or so seemed pretty straightforward. Then the crux, 5.10c tips in a corner up to a roof that, to me at least, felt more like .11- before letting up for another 140 ft of .10-, whatever, maybe I’m just getting old.

Some route finding confusion and impatience on my part led to me doing another somewhat convoluted but cool pitch up a 5.9 aręte.

A few hundred feet later we came to what Peter Croft describes in
The Good, The Great and The Awesome as: “the best pitch I’ve done on Russell… 200ft Corner… 5.10a…”

Well, at least he got the first part right. it’s a really good pitch, in fact, at 240 feet it’s a really good TWO pitches. I stopped at a ledge 90 ft up, couldn’t even see the end of the corner and made a belay. After bringing D up I did another 150 to the next ledge. I remember having a slight issue with the 5.10a ratting as well. Ok maybe there was no move harder than 5.10a but there didn’t seem to be any easier either. And at 14,000 ft… Whatever, you do the math…

Another 5.8 pitch led to the “several hundred feet of 4th class” (read wandering 5.6) and, at last, the summit.

In the end we got back to camp with just enough light to cook dinner and we both agreed it’s the best route we’ve done that no one ever talks about.

The following morning we hiked out. While passing Whitney D asked me, “Do you want to run up that while we’re here?”

I looked up at the herds on the mountaineers route, the seventeen parties on the east face, the congested Fresh Air Traverse… “No,” I said. “We don’t ever need to do that to ourselves.”

And that’s about it.

Thank You,
Steve Seats


Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
Aug 26, 2013 - 03:07pm PT
I honestly thought this was going to be about a Summer time ascent of Western Front on the West side of Pinnacles.


Social climber
Aug 26, 2013 - 03:29pm PT
Thanks for the report, Roadie! Always a pleasure to read your writing. By the way, the crowds you are describing are not so usual there. You might have just gotten a bit of bad luck. It's definitely worth your time to go back for the Keeler needle route!
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
Aug 26, 2013 - 04:30pm PT
Fun TR! Poor Jason Kim, he took a whoopin' on that one.

Trad climber
Aug 26, 2013 - 06:03pm PT
Fantastic Steve. Thanks for another great report. Hey man, I'll BUY you a camera if you'd use it and throw a few photos into these TRs. I'm freakin serious Brah.


Trad climber
Fresno, Ca
Aug 26, 2013 - 07:12pm PT
Hysterically funny and true commentary on the use of porters. Thanks for the TR and take Micro up on the offer. Keep 'em coming...
The Larry

Moab, UT
Aug 26, 2013 - 10:09pm PT
Great story, Roadie. Let's go on an adventure sometime.

Aug 26, 2013 - 10:17pm PT
Thanks for the tr Roadie, great writing. Always entertaining.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Aug 26, 2013 - 10:17pm PT
Nice report, WF been on my list for a while. Sounds like it is really worth doing!
adam d

Aug 26, 2013 - 10:42pm PT
Great report, great route (I agree with your rating assessment too).

Need pics though!

Here are a few to help...

adam d

Aug 27, 2013 - 11:44pm PT
photo bump


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 28, 2013 - 12:00am PT

What a good one!

I say we pile on Jason. I've been accused of being one of the whingiest(sp?) politically correct liberals around, but I just don't see what's wrong with "porter". Matter fact if someone wants to carry a bunch of stuff (i.e. a rack of wider gear, and wine or tequila) up to Cathedral Peak on the Canadian/USA border, send me a PM!

porter (n.1) Look up porter at Dictionary.com
"person who carries," late 14c. (mid-13c. as a surname), from Anglo-French portour, Old French porteor "porter, bearer; reporter" (12c.), from Late Latin portatorem (nominative portator) "carrier, one who carries," from past participle stem of Latin portare "to carry" (see port (n.1)).

Mountain climber
Pasadena, CA
Aug 28, 2013 - 02:05am PT
Ha, I actually looked up "Jason Kim" on Mountain Project to find the thread and the offending posts. Good laughs! On the Western Front sounds fantastic--can't wait to try it.
gonzo chemist

the east coast, for now.
Aug 29, 2013 - 04:04pm PT
great TR.

Western Front has been on my list for years. I've heard it called the best route on Russell.

Alas, those quiet areas seem to be getting busier these days. I spent the month of June at The Needles, Mt. Russell, Incredible Hulk and a few other areas. I was shocked at how busy these areas have gotten. The day before my friend and I arrived up at the Hulk, something like 7 parties had climbed PV.

Oh well, I'm not going to complain about congestion....after all, I'm part of it.

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Aug 29, 2013 - 05:48pm PT
Thanks for the amusing tr.

I had to dig up that thread too, definitely good for a laugh: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/sherpa-needed-for-n-fork-lone-pine-trail/108258837 (to save others the google search!)

Trad climber
Mountain View
Aug 29, 2013 - 06:00pm PT
Good TR (as usuall) and amusing commentary.

I've been wanting to do Western Front. Russel looks awesome! If only I could find a partner who would be willing to do all the paperwork!

Jason Kim wrote:
I would have apologized to Diane had her partner not solicited me for a blow job. That tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I give Jason points for the witty comeback.

Keep Crushing,

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