I went up the Mt. Russell East Ridge 3rd class route around the 3rd week of Sept and found this to be a really amazing hike with a few fun moments of that feeling like you are rock climbing. Any footwear will work. I see why Supertopo reminds you that you can end up in 4th or 5th class moves however, so bring good approach shoes if you kind of want that. I did. Definately some great exposure on this ridge, and really good clean granite.
I started around 5am. I think it took me 3.5 hours to get up to the Russell - Carillon Pass from the car. Then another 15 min to get to the ridge, and 45min to go up the ridge to the summit. Mt. Russell is 14,086' and the trailhead is 8340'.
Mt. Russell Reflection in the center of this pic at Lower Boyscout Lake. Only one party of 2 were camped up here, and I didn't see anyone else all day.
Mt. Russell - Carillon Pass
Looking back at the approach drainage. What you can't see here is the shoe filling sand slope you have to climb for an hour. Bring old shoes, you'll wreck your expensive new approach shoes on a long off-trail hike in conditions like this.
Looking up the East Ridge of Mt. Russell. The Summit is the second one.
Looking back east at neighboring Mt. Carillon. I went up that one on the way back, and found many people do this by reading the summit register. The climbing is comparable 3rd class and really fun. Less drop off exposure, and perhaps 2nd class rather than 3rd depending on what you do. Easy and fun with a great view back to Russell!
Tulainyo Lake 12,802' just north of Carillon
From the summit of Mt./ Russell, here is the view of Mt. Whitney North side, with Iceberg Lake below.
view to the left of previous shot
looking more left, back directly east
looking NE from the summit
Looking north at Mt. Barnard
Here's the view of the East ridge of Russell from Mt. Carillon next door.
The view from lower boyscout lake looking back up towards the crest.
Here's an approxiate route drawn in for the 3rd class ledges near the trailhead. Look for the cairns and read the supertopo description, it helps for sure. There was a group stringing up fixed ropes, which was totally overkill and probably more dangerous than just walking carefully. They had packs that looked to be 70lbs or more as well. Wish I could have had time to help them plan that whole climb from the start.
Here's the sign at the trailhead. I read this to mean I didn't need a permit. I wasn't going near Whitney, there was no map showing what the "Whitney Zone" technically is, and I wasn't going overnight. Turns out a forest ranger Dave was super pissed when finding me later without a permit, and not buying my story. I did finally find the Whitney Zone map on the way down, but couldn't have seen it in the dark that morning. It's at the trail junction for North Fork, where my headlamp didn't shine on. So there you have it. Whitney Zone is Anywhere above Lower Boyscout Lake.
I'll certainly get a permit in the future now that I know where it's needed, but this system is not fair at all. It is geared for the crowds going up the Whitney Mountaineers route. Come on, the system needs some modification obviously if it's a super competitive thing to try and get a permit, and you don't run into anyone all day! I got a permit 2 years ago for to do Whitney EB and Russell Fish Hook, which wasn't easy, and sure enough I saw 6 other people in 3 days at iceberg Lake. If the intention is to spread people out, then the permit system should take into consideration more details like Trailhead start time, camp location, and route choice.
Here's the other sign right next to the above white sign. It doesn't even show Mt. Russell or the approach terrain on the map. Day Hiking Russell East Ridge should not require a permit. No way. You are obviously starting pretty early and you're not camping with other people at the lakes.