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Climbing Fishhook Arete with Peter Croft and Howie Schwartz

October, 2013

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.

Fishhook Arete is the long curving ridge just to the left of Betsy's head

We are at the saddle between Whitney and Russell. Fishhook Arete is the long curving ridge just to the left of Betsy’s head

Howie lead climbing the steep first pitch

Howie lead climbing the steep first pitch

Peter leading an awkward "hug the rock" move

Peter leading an awkward “hug the rock” move.  Well, it was awkward for me.

Betsy climbing up and over a big block on the ridge

Betsy climbing up and over a huge block on the ridge

Bored, taking photos because Peter takes so long leading.

Bored, taking photos because Peter takes so long leading.

The top portion is a gnarly sustained lie back.  If you chicken out you can hand jam it.

The top portion is a gnarly sustained lie back. If you chicken out you can hand jam it.

Betsy topping out

Betsy topping out

Peter on top.  I think he's been there before.

Peter on top. I think he’s been there before.

Betsy arriving back at the airport

Betsy arriving back at the airport the next day.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October, 2013 2:15 pm

    Wow! Another great adventure. Always enjoy going along even if vicariously. Enjoyed the photos as usual.

    Regards,

    Adventure Insider

  2. October, 2013 10:59 am

    Hey guys, thanks for the adventures because it’s only through you that I would ever experience something like this!

    My fear of heights would draw me inevitably to the edge in an attempt to conquer the fear and then I’m not sure what I would do!

    I’m a friend of Craig’s and he shared this with me, probably because he knew I was an aviator and figured I loved heights!

    Wrong…

    Cheers

    Bert

  3. January, 2014 2:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I took a climbing class from Peter Croft in Yosemite quite a few years back. I had to read this post when I saw his name mentioned. Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

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