Climbing Fishhook Arete with Peter Croft and Howie Schwartz
Last year Betsy and I climbed the Third Pillar of Mt. Dana with Peter Croft as guide, and it was so much fun we decided to do another climb this year with Peter. We settled on Fishhook Arete, a high backcountry 5.9 climb on Mt. Russell, which is located beside Mt. Whitney. The way into Russell, however, is to hike to the bottom of Mt. Whitney, then over a high saddle and over to the base of the mountain. In other words, its a long way, but we all agreed it was possible for us to do it in one long day.
Having Peter and Howie as guides (Sierra Mountain Guides) is wonderful because it makes doing the climb in one day do-able because they move quickly on the rock, know the route and set up lightning fast belays. Betsy and I are pretty good at keeping our speed up while hiking and climbing so it worked out well. We left the car at 5:00 am and got back to the car around 5:30 pm, and then back down into Lone Pine in time to ride our bikes into town for dinner. A perfectly awesome day.
The day before the climb we flew into Lone Pine and rode our bikes a few miles to the Comfort Inn at Lone Pine. We definitely got some funny looks riding our little folding bikes with backpacks and climbing gear hanging off the back. Peter and Howie picked us up the next morning and we were off.
It was a good time with great people and fantastic rock (often the granite on the highest peaks is not the best quality, but Fishhook Arete is superb granite). The only frustrating part, and this happened to both Betsy and I, is that we both almost completely blew our remaining arm strength on a lie back crack at about 13,999 feet. Give or take a foot. However once we got to the belay Peter said, “What lie-back crack?. That was a hand jam and it wasn’t very difficult”. Ug. So apparently we need to practice identifying and doing hand jams.