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Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

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Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby KathyW » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:38 pm

Has anyone gotten a look at the route from Lake Catherine to the Banner/Ritter Saddle Lately? I'm once again thinking about doing Banner this month if my shoulder can handle the weight of an overnight pack. If the snow has turned into boilerplate ice I will wait until next year.



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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby maverick » Fri Sep 05, 2014 10:27 am

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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby rsm333 » Sun Sep 07, 2014 7:43 pm

Not sure how helpful this is, but here's the pass at the West end of 1000 Island...on the North side of Banner...completely clear. This was about 10 days ago. My memory is that the Ritter/Banner saddle looked clear on the East side.
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby Herm » Sun Sep 07, 2014 11:23 pm

Today (Sunday 9/7/14) there was a huge plume of smoke rising behind Mounts Banner and Ritter from the fire burning in Yosemite. Hopefully this fire gets controlled quickly, but the winds were really blowing hard. Not a pleasant sight, for sure.
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Re: Snow and ice can be entirely bypassed from Lake Catherine

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:07 am

KathyW wrote:Has anyone gotten a look at the route from Lake Catherine to the Banner/Ritter Saddle Lately? I'm once again thinking about doing Banner this month if my shoulder can handle the weight of an overnight pack. If the snow has turned into boilerplate ice I will wait until next year.

Note that if you completely bypass snow and ice at this time of year but the trick is not to ascend from the toe of the glacier but rather to ascend to the crest of the low spur the bounds the glacier on the north (this is what amounts to the northern extension of Banner's NW buttress/ridge). The north side of this little spur (and somewhere near its lower NW end) is climbed from Lake Catherine via a class 2 slanting bench/ledge system. It is then ascended to where it steepens then one moves off on a talus/scree slope that is above the snowline of the glacier at this time of year. After a short traverse across this slope beneath the cliffs of southern face of the NE ridge/buttress one can turn and head up the easy (class 2) WSW slopes of Banner. This route was entirely class 2 and totally lacked snow or ice. I climbed Banner via this route in September 1973.

I usually post that the hike I did the next day (Ritter from west) was the first route I planned and directed from start to finish (age 14), but that is not technically correct, Banner was. My point being is that, whereas the slanting ledge/bench to the crest of the low spur is the key to keeping the route at class 2 and avoiding the ice, it must have been pretty visually obvious for me to see it from North Glacier Pass and aim for it, given that I was not hugely experienced at route finding at that time (as my huge error on Ritter the next day is testimony to).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby KathyW » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:25 am

Thank you all for the help. I struggle with doing it now or waiting until is is a nice snow climb. The fire in Yosemite is growing; so there is the issue of smoke in the air. I think I'm going to rethink the trip and even shorten it. I have been wanting to do The Thumb from Birch Lake for while and then I've also been thinking of Pine Creek to Royce Lakes and Merriam Peak (I did Royce a few years back). I won't have to worry about ice on either of these this year - Merriam Peak would be the easiest one to do. If I do head to the Thumb, the air is clear and I have the strength, I could always extend it a day and do Bolton Brown too.

The fire in Yosemite is up to 2600 acres or more.
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:15 pm

I was up there two days ago. Glacier is really melted back - dirty ice right now and only on the south side. If you can even get down to where the glacier used to be, you could go up boulders on the north side all the way but it looks ugly. I did this route in July of a high snow year and the walk up the glacier (crampons used) on clean firm snow was very nice. I personally would not do the route right now, regardless of smoke potential from the Yosemite fires.
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby seanr » Thu Sep 11, 2014 1:33 pm

From Lake Catherine Sunday:

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The Sunday flare up became visible to me during the afternoon as I was heading up the west slope to the summit of Ritter. I was only dayhiking, but was glad the terrain between me and the fire was rock and especially glad that the wind was blowing northeast.

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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:40 pm

Wow those are some amazing photos, both of the scenery and the fire. What is remarkable is that the air seems really clear away from the smoke plume.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby KathyW » Sun Sep 14, 2014 4:52 pm

I ended just doing an overnight from the Pine Creek Trailhead to Royce Lakes/Merriam Peak. That turned out to be a very nice trek. Banner will wait until there is good snow as Wandering Daisy suggests.

seanr - those are nice photos - the glacier looks really icy. This would probably be a good year to give that route from Ritter Lakes to Ritter a try like you did. How was that route?
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby seanr » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:31 pm

Well, we all have our own preferences. Had I been backpacking to Lake Catherine in current conditions, I'd have done Banner exactly the way giantbrookie describes on my first day. It looked to be reasonable class 2, with no glacier travel necessary if traversing clockwise a bit above the lake and under Banner, then staying left of the glacier.

I might have considered camping near the beautiful upper Ritter Lake directly below the west slope rather than at Lake Catherine. I saw no other people on my Sunday dayhike once half way around Thosand Island Lake until nearly at the northwest shore of Ediza.

I found the Ritter West Slope Route to be stable class 2 with the caveat that I was armed with this excellent description to keep me out of route-finding trouble:

http://www.summitpost.org/west-slope/438342

http://www.summitpost.org/mt-ritter-wes ... 8/c-438342

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http://www.summitpost.org/ritter-west-s ... 1/c-438342

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I suspect it would have been very challenging for me without the above as a guide. Even with those directions it was moderately steep and slightly exposed feeling in a few areas compared to easy class 2. I don't recall it feeling extremely long nor taxing, but was a bit distracted by the views of the smoke plume and glow from the fire. I recall repeatedly noticing a mitt like rock formation on the ridge to the south to aim toward if I needed to return to descend the way I ascended. There were some logically placed small cairns as well. I did not find it necessary to follow step 9 in xharv's directions. Getting to the summit seemed easy once on the ridge/at the saddle.

I saved some time and mileage on my descent by looping down the SE glacier route to Ediza finding it to be loose in places, but generally easy to keep to class 2, albeit approaching easy class 3 or harder in places if not cautious enough to search for the least technical options. I researched tips from Bob Burd/SP, but didn't find myself carefully reviewing directions as I descended. Getting through the steep, loose sections 100% unscathed did require some skill, gloves, and luck. It would be easy to get scraped, bruised, or to knock a rock down onto any partners. In comparison, the west slope was more firm and stable.
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Re: Conditions between Lake Catherine and Banner/Ritter Saddle??

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 15, 2014 8:43 am

Snow/ice or no snow? Depends on your background. I personally will choose a snow filled gully over a talus filled gully any day. I LIKE snow and ice and the only drawback is having to carry crampons and ice axe. Slogging up a bunch of class 2 boulders is not my cup of tea. I did Ritter and Banner on the same trip, early season, both mostly on snow. If you have the snow climbing skills, climbing early when there is snow is actually easier (and in my opinion, more aesthetic) than later when the snow melts and you are left with gritty dirty talus. So yes, if your goal is to bag the peaks and you prefer not to be on snow, this year offered some excellent opportunities. On the other hand, if your goal is a more aesthetic experience, I would do both Ritter and Banner early in a high snow year. Early season snow has yet to turn to ice; wait until late season and you have to deal with blue ice.
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