Mt Ritter

30 Aug - 1 Sep 2002 - by Mark Harper

On Friday Aug 30th Scott, Corinne, Sheila, Dave, Kelly and Mark took off from Agnew Meadows for an attempt at Mt Ritter. We got off to a leisurely start after a late breakfast and hit the trail about 12:00 PM on our way to Lake Ediza (9265'). Recovering from a cold I took up the rear as we climbed the Shadow creek trail to Shadow Lake taking in the views Of Mammoth Mountain the High Trail PCT the valley below and the many waterfalls cascading down from the lake above. We stopped for a very pleasant lunch on the rocks along the shore of Shadow Lake took off our boots and enjoyed the incredible scenery surrounding us including a great view of Mt Ritter.

We continued on our way setting up camp on a bluff above the south shore of Lake Ediza. To our West Ritter and Banner peaks towered above us to the South South-East the Minarets and to the North Lake Ediza. After a little clean up and dinner we hit the sack about 9:00 preparing for a 5:30 AM wake up call. We awoke to below freezing temperatures prepared breakfast packed our packs and prepared for our attempt at Mt Ritter. We hit the trail about 7:30 and climbed up the drainage to a valley South East of the Glacier. The class-II talus slog led up to a short snow climb on to some class-III rock which gained us the bench that we traversed to the Southeast glacier (this route traversed below the Clyde variation). Putting on our crampons we climbed a short steep pitch with Scott leading the way. We crossed over some exposed rock and practiced front pointing techniques on a steep short section of the glacier. We continued traversing up and to the North with Scott leading the way where the views changed every time we stopped to look back. Before getting to the Owens chute, Lake Ediza, Shadow Lake, Nydver Lakes, Garnet Lake, and Cabin Lake came into view. As you are climbing the glacier you will see a three toed buttress. The Owens chute is above the last toe. Note: It was possible to skirt the glacier on the right side so that an axe and crampons would not be required. However, this may not always be possible depending on the time of year and the snow pack.

The climb up the Owens chute is a steep class-II climb that leads to the broad talus field that gained us the summit. The summit block has room for about six people if you don't mind sitting close to a drop of several hundred to a thousand feet. Scott Corinne Kelly and myself summited about 2:30 with Dave and Sheebz bringing up the rear. The altitude was having its effect on Dave as well as the lack of food. It is important to keep up your energy level by eating and staying hydrated. On the summit 13157' (4006 Meters) we signed the summit register ate lunch and took in the views of the Ritter Lakes, Lake Catherine, Iceberg Lake, Cecil Lake, Mammoth Mtn, Banner Peak, the Minarets, Bear Creek Spire, Mt Mills, Mt Abbot, (sumitted two weeks earlier) Mono Lake and so many others I can not even name them all. We departed the summit about 3:30 arriving on a shadowed glacier. We put on our crampons and started our climb down practicing self-arrest techniques using our ice axes.

Our route down differed from our route up. In lieu of traversing back to the original valley, we down climbed the cliff to the East of the glacier utilizing a series of ledges and benches. On the way down Scott slipped on some glacial polish and tumbled over two ledges before landing on a grassy patch just above me. My first thought was if he was ok my second was here comes a bivouac. Luckily he suffered only cuts scratches and a major bruise to his leg. After a short break we continued down to a small tarn at the bottom of the cliff. From here it was an easy hike down the drainage and back to camp. Dave had long gone on to autopilot so rather then all of us hiking back in the dark Scott, Corinne, and Kelly went ahead while Dave, Sheila and myself brought up the rear. We strolled back into camp shortly after 8:00 PM and Dave went straight to the tent for a well-deserved rest. The rest of us cooked dinner and talked about the day's adventure all the while bringing Dave some hot soup and crackers and doing our best to re-hydrate him.

Sunday morning we awoke at our leisure only to find that Snow Nymph had gotten up early and went for a hike up to Iceberg Lake. After breakfast we packed up and took a very leisurely hike back to Agnew Meadows making sure to take plenty of pictures and enjoy the beauty surrounding us.


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