The Russell Project — Page 9

Mount Russell - South Face

Iceberg Col

The clouds continue to darken as we descend, the temperature drops, and a few actual snowflakes drift about. The sky seems to lack the necessary ingredients to produce lightning.

The cloud cover is therefore a welcome development—though I would not want to be atop any ridges. Our target now is Iceberg Lake, via Iceberg Col. The Col is easy to miss compared to the obvious (and incorrect) notch between Whitney and Russell, which leads to big-time cliff trouble.

Iceburg Lake The Author and Snowflakes Descending Iceburg Col Iceburg Lake and Rain

Luckily for my companions, I've already made that mistake a few weeks earlier, so I lead our group to the proper pass just as the snow starts in earnest.


Sure enough, snow it is, a little Sierra September surprise.

We scramble to pull hats and jackets out of our packs as the little white flakes swarm about with sudden intensity.

The novelty of snow seems to put a little bounce in all our steps as we hike down a little use trail leading toward the blue waters of Iceberg Lake below.

Our elevation soon drops below the magic line, and the snow turns to rain, trading novelty for nuisance.

Still, it's good to have a little weather to roughen up the edges of our adventure—and lightning remains conspicuously absent, which is just how I like it.

There will be no hair-raising tales of static today, thank goodness!

The short scree slope below Iceberg Lake proves amenable, and we soon reach the lake, elevation 12,700'.

Here, it's time to pump water to refresh our bottles.

Wet and exhausted, it doesn't take long for our bodies to cool, cutting snack time short.

Iceberg Lake, of course, is a popular (if lofty) campsite for climbers attempting Mount Whitney's Mountaineer's Route.

We're borrowing the lower portion of the Mountaineer's Route as part of our loop through the Whitney Zone. Now, back on the trail, we shuffle past tents, campsites, and weary hikers. For us, all the major climbing is over. We just have to slog down another four thousand vertical or so, and then we get to call it a day.

next: Hiking Out

About SierraDescents

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.

Pray for snow.