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Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

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Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

Postby J ney » Thu Jun 05, 2014 8:43 pm

Great to hear you had a successful outing!! Very much looking forward to your TR and pics!!
What a beautiful area.



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Re: Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

Postby Shawn » Thu Jun 05, 2014 11:07 pm

Great job on Banner; also looking forward to your trip report. :thumbsup:
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Re: Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jun 06, 2014 9:32 am

I did Banner the same route several years ago, around 4th of July. At that time the snow gully between Ritter and Banner was hard as a rock and had to use crampons. I also did Ritter, and used crampons. One good thing about an early ascent in June is that the snow usually has not yet turned to Sierra Cement. The standard route on Ritter tends to have a lot of rock fall as the sun first hits the snow up high. A climbing helmet is advised. I camped at Catherine Lake so was able to get up and down while the snow was nice and firm before the lower sections on North Glacier Pass softened to post holes. I really loved the view from the top! When I did the High Route in August and came through the Ritter Lakes area, it was still very snowy. That area stays in the shadows and melts very late, if at all in some years.

A word of caution for would-be mountaineers. Simply purchasing or renting ice axe and crampons does not make a route requiring these items safe. There is an art to using crampons safely and some practice is needed. Without crampons you self arrest using feet; with crampons you have to resist the urge to put feet down or you will go cartwheeling down the hill. I personally think if you are not practiced on crampons, it is safer to stick with ice axe only (and then you need to repeatedly practice self arrest). When I was seriously mountaineering I would spend an entire day each year refreshing my ice axe and crampon skills on a safe slope (used to get onto a slope at Kirkwood ski area after they closed the mountain).
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Re: Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

Postby davidsheridan » Thu Jul 10, 2014 3:26 pm

I will be following this post until first week in September when I will be out for a trip with my wife. Very interested in the conditions of the snowfield/glacier from Lake Catherine to Ritter/Banner saddle.

I have some questions regarding traversing that snowfield up to the saddle. I will be later in the season, 2014 had little snow.

I am currently planning on bringing only crampons to help us get up and down Banner peak from Lake Catherine. Does this sound like enough?

Tentative Plan
Day 1 - Devils postpile to Minaret Lake
Day 2 - Minarret Lake to Nydiver Lakes
Day 3 - Nydiver Lakes to 1000 Island Lake
Day 4 - Banner Peak return to 1000 Island Lake
Day 5 - 1000 Island Lake to Agnew Meadows via high trail

With an early morning start, is the Banner summit doable from 1000 Island Lake, or would you recopmmend camping higher towards Norht Glacier Pass or at Lake Catherine?

Any good camping spots in between 1000 Island and North Glacier Pass/Lake Cahterine?

Thanks for any input or advice!
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Re: Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

Postby cefire » Thu Jul 10, 2014 4:20 pm

The common wisdom is that if the conditions require the use of crampons, they almost certainly require an axe. They do different things, the crampons allow you to access terrain you otherwise wouldn't be able to, BUT they increase the danger if you slip. The axe is to prevent a slip from becoming a slide and really is the more valuable piece of equipment IMO.
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Re: Conditions Around Mt. Ritter/Banner

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Jul 10, 2014 4:29 pm

davidsheridan wrote:I will be following this post until first week in September when I will be out for a trip with my wife. Very interested in the conditions of the snowfield/glacier from Lake Catherine to Ritter/Banner saddle.
I have some questions regarding traversing that snowfield up to the saddle. I will be later in the season, 2014 had little snow.
I am currently planning on bringing only crampons to help us get up and down Banner peak from Lake Catherine. Does this sound like enough?


With an early morning start, is the Banner summit doable from 1000 Island Lake, or would you recopmmend camping higher towards Norht Glacier Pass or at Lake Catherine?

First, to answer your last question you can certainly do Banner on a fall day via the "backside" (N Glacier Pass-Catherine) from Thousand Is L. I did this in Sept. 1973 as a 14-year-old with my 11-year-old brother and my dad. We were camped on the eastern part of the northern shoreline (far from upstream end), but not in the currently restricted area (although there were no such restrictions in 1973). I had in fact wanted to push the campsite to the far SW part of the lake so as to be closer to the objective, but my dad was pretty upset with me for even going a 1/3 of a mile or so along the shoreline because my mom was pretty beat and wanted to stop (I was a bit ahead so didn't hear the pleas to stop).

The earlier question brings up a subject I have commented on before: which is the lack of difficulties we encountered (no traversing of any steep snow or ice) climbing Banner by going over N Glacier Pass and by Lake Catherine. Looking at the topo, this looks very unlikely because the cliffs of the west ridge of Banner are shown as coming right down to the glacier. Here is the route as I remember it. I seem to recall we ascended a little rock ramp to the top of the low spur/ridge that projects NW from the base of the W ridge of Banner and bounds the lower part of the glacier on its north. From reading posts on this and various mountaineering sites it seems like this may be a key move to avoid difficulties in the lower part of the climb (perhaps steep ice on the lower part of the glacier?). Does this mean that we actually walked around the E shore of Catherine to get to the ramp? Maybe, I'll try to dig up the old 35 mm slides my dad took because my curiosity about this has certainly been piqued. In any case you ascend from near the lake shore up this ramp which we felt was strictly class 2. With today's "grade inflation" it might be generously rated low class 3, but I think that would be dubious, because my class 3 tolerance back then wasn't too high. In any case once atop this one traverses (class 2) beneath the cliffs of the base of Banner's west ridge before heading up the final class 2 talus slope to the summit. Did we set foot on the glacier? Wow, I don't remember. (edit after looking at that photo taken earlier this year): I'd guess we never set foot on the glacier. Notice that there is low-angle talus below the W ridge cliffs and above the snow. By September the snow in the foreground (near the photographer) would be gone. My recollection is that most of the traverse prior to heading straight up (and we reversed the same route going down) was on loose scree and talus slightly above the snow, consistent with that photo. I remember this very well because my brother and I knocked some pretty good sized rocks down onto the glacier during the traverse part. This wasn't intentional, but we were amused for these were our best trundles, even if they were accidental. Perhaps the "traverse" was more or less an ascending diagonal line after clearing the bottom of the cliffs of the W Ridge . In any case the bottom line was that the climb was accomplished without dealing with any class 3 rock or any steep snow or ice. This was strictly a class 2 talus and scree climb.

I had a good point of comparison for the duration and degree of difficulty for this climb because the next day I did Ritter via the "back side" (W face) from Ritter Lakes with my dad (younger bro stayed in camp with my mom). As has been related before on earlier posts, I completely botched the route putting us first onto somewhat sketch steep snow and then onto several crummy class 4 (roped) moves, when I missed a series of class 2 exit ramps out of the first chute. That climb of Ritter with the rather slow going after I messed things up ended up being 13 hours out from camp at Thousand Island Lake which was significantly longer than we took to do the round trip to Banner (my guess is that we were out a total of 7-8 hours on Banner the day before).
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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