Mt. Ritter

24 Jun 2001 - by Richard Steele

In late June 2001, my friends EB, Liz, Griffin and I headed to Mammoth to get up Mt. Ritter. Our goal was to climb from Ediza Lake via the SE Glacier. (For inspiration and route information, I am indebted to Alan Ritter, whose repeated attempts to climb "his" mountain are well documented on the climber.org website). Although we were tired to begin with (I had gotten off a plane from Peru just 18 hours earlier, and Griffin had flown in from a business trip to Korea the day before), we left San Francisco at 5:30 am to allow for a "warm up" hike of Mt. Dana (13,053') in Yosemite NP on the way to Mammoth.

We got up Mt. Dana pretty quickly despite losing the trail in the boulders, and got some great photos on top. We also two skiers ascending the Dana couloir from below in Glacier Canyon, which is a trip I'll take another day soon. After summitting, we literally ran down the mountain so we could get down to Mammoth in time to pick up our permits for the Shadow Lake trail.

A late afternoon recon trip to Minaret Summit showed what appeared to be minimal snow on the SE glacier route above the actual glacier. The chutes above the glacier looked clear, and the summit snowfield looked small and uninteresting despite being early in the season. We left at dawn the next morning (pre-road closure) and took about 3 hours or so of very beautiful hiking to get to Ediza Lake. We pitched tents there and then began our climb up towards the SE glacier of Mt. Ritter. Conditions were actually more snowy than they looked from Minaret Summit the previous day. We used crampons, although they probably were only absolutely necessary for one short stretch above the pinnacle at the SE corner of the glacier. Better safe than sorry, I say.

We got up to the glacier by climbing above the SE corner pinnacle (what Secor calls the "Clyde Variation"). From there, we crossed over and up the glacier to "Owen's Chute" (so named in Alan Ritter's trip reports posted on climber.org). As we thought, the chutes were clear of snow, so we ditched our crampons. However, the summit snowfield was more expansive than we thought, but it was relatively easy to kick steps in the soft afternoon snow.

The view from the summit is absolutely spectacular, as are the views the entire hike in and climb up; probably the best overall I've encountered in the Sierras.

On our descent, we foolishly missed our ascent gully below the glacier and ended up taking a roundabout route by glissading down some chutes near Ritter Pass (towards the Minarets). That cost us about an hour on the descent, but it was fun nonetheless.

I've posted a bunch of photos and detailed information on the climb at this URL: http://www.tahoepad.com/travel_and_adventure/ritter/ritter_1.html

For those who are interested, I've also posted some good photos of a snowy summer hike up Mt. Whitney at the following URL: http://www.tahoepad.com/travel_and_adventure/whitney2001/whitney2001_1.html


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