This is an amazing Yosemite- or Needles-style corner pasted into the middle of a High Sierra alpine rock route, and the rock quality is stellar. I feel like 5.9+/5.10- is fair for the corner, the former for breaking it in 2 pieces at the offwidth section (maybe 6-10 feet of wider crack), the latter if the leader powers through for 70m to the great step-across move at the top of the corner. Either way it is absolutely spectacular and even the 4th-class climbing to the summit is no letdown. I would put this route on the same level as the 3rd Pillar of Dana for spectacular position, exposure, and rock quality -- it is that good. It is also a bit easier than the 3rd Pillar.
Excellent beta for this route (and Startrekkin', and Western Front as well) can be had from Peter Croft's book, "The Good, the Great, and the Awesome". Croft's recommendation to bring a rack quite heavy on the hand-sized pieces, with one bigger (4") piece for the offwidth, is especially well advised if 5.10 is your limit. The forearm-withering effects of 14K altitude are surprisingly effective at encouraging proper protection practices.
Phenomenal route. Some of the cleanest rock in the High Sierra; too bad it isn't longer. Climb 2-3 pitches to the base of the dihedral. From here, a full 60m pitch will take you to a decent belay ledge; belaying anywhere below here will be at a crappy stance. I found the crux pitch to be significantly easier than the crux pitch on Red Dihedral. 2 more short pitches will take you to the summit ridge, and then 400-500 ft. of mixed 4th/easy 5th class to the top. If you camp near the base the night before, reasonably fast climbers can easily do two routes on Russell in a day. After looking at Startrekkin', Bloody Corner, or Western Front, it'd be hard not to.
The route as seen from Mt. Whitney summit.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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