The Russell Project — Page 3

Below Upper Boy Scout Lake

Mount Carillon

From Upper Boy Scout Lake, we part company with the Mountaineer's Route, heading up the steep, sandy slopes of Mount Carillon's Southeast Face.

It is potentially faster to reach Mount Russell's East Ridge by continuing directly up the drainage above Upper Boy Scout Lake, though this route is perhaps more rugged. Either option demands considerable patience, however, as one soon confronts a relentless 2000 vertical feet of hiking up loose, sandy ground.

Mount Carillon - South Face Mount Carillon Mount Carillon's East Ridge

Also a factor now is altitude.

Having passed Upper Boy Scout Lake, elevation 11,300', we lowlanders are starting to find the air a bit thin.

Ironically, fitness can work against you when it comes to coping with high altitude.

A physically-fit climber's respiration rate tends to react more slowly to the thinner air, unlike the instant gasping of a couch potato.

But 'over-breathing' is exactly what the body needs in this context in order to maintain oxygen saturation.

Savvy hikers can consciously work to counteract this liability by timing their breathing to their steps, and breathing in more deeply and rapidly than they think they need to.

This technique can be quite effective in fending off AMS symptoms, though it is of course far from perfect, and comes with its own risks, including hyperventilating.

Hugh dubs this part of the climb 'the Grind'—and Carillon's talus is soon grinding away at all of us.

In terms of distance, Mount Carillon's 13,552' summit is but a short detour on the way to the East Ridge.

Our scientist, however, is beginning to show signs of fatigue, so extra climbing will not be on today's agenda.

I try my best to stay on solid ground as I ascend, but it's impossible not to slide backwards with every other step on this ever-shifting landscape. We stop to rest, then soon stop again for a snack.

We're not far from Russell-Carillon Col, I say, trying to sound encouraging. But the Col is nowhere in sight, just more talus and sand. I know Russell's East Ridge will spring into view soon enough, offering a preview of its electrifying climbing, but first we have to get there, and the only way to accomplish that is to earn it.

next: Apprehensions

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

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