I met Miguel in Ridgecrest at 4pm and grabbed some pizza, made tape gloves, talked about the route and then carpooled out to the trailhead.  The flexibility of my new work schedule allowed for the casual preparation and early bedtime; which was a first for me.  I usually arrive in the Sierras at the trailhead at 12am after a long work day.  This trip was a luxury.  We packed up our gear and food and were in bed by 9pm.


Welcome to the Sierras


What should I rack? I guess triples of green, red and yellow cams should be fine. We ended up bringing a 3.5 and a 4, which were pretty useless on the route. We were unsure what to do after the 4th pitch, so we took them just in case. We placed them a few times just because we had them.


Nutrion 101: eat sh#$t, stay fit. A motto in the mountains. Pizza, gummy bears, dried mango, nuts and energy bars.


The Approach

We woke up at 3:30 AM and were on the trail by 4 AM. It felt good to be back trad climbing after a long hiatus.  It had been a year and half since my last outdoor lead.  As we hiked to the base, old memories flooded my head.  I was back in the Sierras; my second home.  Being in the Sierras was like reuniting with an old friend after a long time apart.  Where you can just pick up just where you left off.   I had tried to climb this route three years ago with Miguel but ended up never getting around to it for some reason.  Now was the time to do it. I was back in action and ready to charge.

We made it to the base of the climb in 4.5 hours hiking at a casual pace. I packed a liter of water and refilled my bladder with two liters at iceberg lake.   We got to the base of the route at 9:30am.  It was still in the shade, but we decided to rack up anyway and climb the first two pitches in the shade.

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The sunrise during the approach

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Getting closer

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Nearing the the route. It started getting a bit windy here. We racked and headed to the base.

Pitch 1-2

We soloed a little bit up the route to a nice platform.  The plan was for Miguel to lead pitch 1,3 and 5 and for me to lead 2 and 4.  This idea came after a phone conversation where I excitedly nabbed the “money-pitch” in exchange for the “crux pitch.”  Miguel ended up linking the first two pitches on one rope length and set a belay at the pedestal for the crux.


Miguel on the pedestal.

Pitch 3

After reading a lot of beta about this pitch from various trip reports, I was unsure what to expect.  Is it 5.9 or hard 5.10c?  Is it beta intensive to unlock the move?  After climbing it, I have my own opinion to add to the mix.  It was a very doable hard 5.9 or easy 5.10 move.  I was able to rest on a solid handjam at the crux and there are two bomber fingerlocks.  I will leave it at that.  But I was following, so what do I know.   


Belay of the third topo pitch (our second pitch) getting psyched for the crux bulge.


Miguel at the crux.


After pulling the crux pitch bulge.


Pitch 4:

The pitch was the money pitch.  It was 180 feet of straight in crack.  Nothing beats bomber jams at 14,000 feet!  This is what climbing is all about.  We had brought triples of green, red and yellow camalots.  The crack started off about 5.9 with pretty solid rests and then eased up with more face and foot holds after about 100 feet.  Although I did runout several sections of the crack and back cleaned a little bit off the belay, I felt our rack was right on. There were plenty of rest breaks and footholds on the face, so in my opinion the crack was pretty cruiser.

I had heard a lot about the different variations to end Star Trekkin.  If you go up and left then you climb “5.10 dirty offwidth” or if you continue high right then you traverse “5.11 sketch.”  This is why we brought extra small gear and 3.5 and a 4 camalot. In retrospect they were pretty useless on the route.  I set up a belay had an obvious exit point towards Mithral Dihedral.  The exit was a traverse (seen in the photo below) with about 10 feet of easy class 5.  It was an awesome finish into the final pitch of Mithral.

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looking for a cam placement on the “money pitch”


It doesn’t getting any more splitter than this!


The Supertopo “High Sierra” Guidebook cover.

Pitch 5:

I had lead Mithral before, so I handed the sharp end to Miguel to enjoy the finish on some bomber jams. Such a great pitch to end the climb and probably one of the most classic pitches anywhere.


Miguel right after the traverse into Mithral


Looking down Mithral.

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Deep hand jamming.

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The exit move.


We simul-climbed the final few hundred feet to the summit.  For beta: shoot straight up, traverse slightly right, cut left into open space, climb up, step around left, climb up a bit more and then pull a final easy class 5 move.  We unroped and soloed the class 4 to the summit.  A perfect day with the mountain to ourselves.

aphoto 2


We scurried down the east ledges.  It was more class 4 than I remembered.  I also need to keep remembering that the ridge forks left and to arrive at the ridge notch before it forks and exit into an easy class 4 down climb.  We skied down the scree to upper boyscout lake.  We went down the E-ledges and reached the forrest section just as it was getting dark.  We donned our headlamps and reached the car at 9:25pm.  17 hours and 25 minutes.  I feel like we should have done gone car to car 1.5 hours quicker, but I didn’t really mind the extra time.  I love long days in the mountains and I was just letting the joy of the day soak in during the hike back.


Scree skiing to upper boy scout. Reminder to shoot left from the east ridge col and shoot left down the scree slope.


Looking back at our approach route with the sun setting

Celebration Meal:

We drove back to Ridgecrest and I crashed on Miguel’s couch.  We woke up in the morning and found a diner in town to fill our stomach of some much needed calories.


Bacon, potatoes and eggs


Yummy skillet

Final thoughts

There are really four things that draw me to climbing:  Goal setting, problem solving, suffering and freedom.

Goal setting: The process of envisioning a climb, setting a date, getting nervous about it and then taking the steps to make it a reality.

Problem solving:  Unlocking the moves, determining how much protection to place and the adventure of getting lost while trying to find the route

Suffering: Putting everything you’ve got in your tank into a single objective and feeling thrashed at the end.  The more physical the challenge, the bigger the reward.

Freedom:  Being in nature with silence.  Freedom of the hills.  No email or cell service.

Which is the best route on Russell?

I have climbed Mithral, Bloody Corner and now Star Trekkin.  In my opinion, Mithral is the most classic, Bloody Corner is the most challenging and Star Trekkin was just good old fashion fun and a great day in the mountains.  If I had to choose, I would pick all three.