Mt Ritter

20 Aug 2000 - by Dave Calvert

My son, Ryan, and I returned from our trip to Ritter yesterday, the 19th, and it was the most awesome climb we've ever done. We left Clover Meadow trailhead at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning the16th, and made camp at Hemlock Crossing about 4pm. On Thursday the 17th, we hiked up the north fork of the San Joaquin to just below Twin Island Lake. At this point we left the main trail and headed up a beautiful waterfall that led to a bench below the upper Ritter Lake, the one farthest south. Made camp at about 3:30 in a howling wind that shot right up the canyon below.The view of Ritter during sunset was spectacular. We were looking east directly at the face which was framed by two peaks west of the Ritter Lakes. In 97' when we attempted to climb Ritter, we were turned back because of snow and the glaciers above the lakes. This year we took ice axes and crampons and were prepared for the worst. Our climb started on the 18th at 7 o'clock. We climbed a talus field that took us to a chute just below the upper lake. We ran into a lot of snow but we were able to climb around it to the exit stream that led to the lower lake which goes under the glacier. The lakes had ice in them, but nothing like 97'. At this point we could see that there was very little snow, and we would not need the ice axes or the crampons. We started up the talus slope to the south and west,and it was really steep. Most of the time it was hands on climbing.We kept the snow field that's in the middle of the slope to our left and kept telling ourselves to stay right (south) on the slope. We just couldn't do it. We saw Ritter right there up this steep narrow chute to the left and of course we said we can climb that. Wrong! At this point we cut across the slope on scree that was on top of frozen scree.Really slippery. We got into the chute that's just south and west of the summit which we could see above us. The climb at this point became hands on all the time. We got about 200ft up in this chute and it became apparent that we could'nt safely go any further. I got hit in the chin and in the back by rocks that just randomly broke and fell and Ryan was finding boulder size rocks that were loose and moving. We deciced at this point to back down. We went on belay and backed out of this chute which took about 2 hours. When we got back to the scree field we had lost about 3 hours and all of our adrenaline. I don't mind saying and I think Ryan agrees(although he'd never admit it), that we were both a " little nervous" in that chute. We were pretty discouraged at this point and time was running out, it was now 12:30, but we decided to go to the right side of the slope and and "just see". We found a slab of granite that led up to a spring and when we looked up we saw the route. We climbed straight up a steep, but really nice talus field that led to the ridge to the south of Ritter. At the top we went to far south and popped up on top of the glaciers in between Ritter and the Minerets. We back tracked a short way and had to do some hands on, but we knew we were going to make it. We climbed north and came out on the ridge, and there was Ritter right in front of us to the north. We were pumped. We followed the ridge above the snow field and got to the south edge of the summit and found a "trail" that led west up to some cairns,( we call them ducks). We followed them up to the summit of Mt Ritter. What a feeling! It was 2:15 when we made the summit so we didn't stay long. The wind was blowing sorta hard so it was really cold. We signed one of the books and got a kick out of the old photos of the guys that climbed it in the 40's, I think. We ate lunch did the photo thing and then headed carefully back to camp. The round trip took 11 hours, but it was worth every sore muscle we have.


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