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Ritter from the West?

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Ritter from the West?

Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 04, 2007 8:11 am

Has anyone climbed Ritter from the west (from the Ritter Lakes)? Secor lists it as Class 2, but has his usual confusing route description. Also, I'd be interested in impressions of the eastern routes -- the Ritter/Banner saddle and the S.E. glacier. Although I have crampons and an axe, I don't have a lot of snow climbing experience, so don't want to push the envelope on a solo climb. (I've seen some descriptions on Climber.org, but for most of those people I think the climb was pretty trivial, and I'm not at their level! :( )



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Postby KathyW » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:13 am

See Harry's Trip Report:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?t=923&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=ritter&start=15

It was too much for me to attempt in 2-days. I'd like to go do Banner and maybe Ritter from Lake Catherine eventually - but I'll just go up the Glacier and Banner should be fairly straight forward, but I hear that Ritter is loose Class 3 from the Banner/Ritter Saddle.
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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:44 am

I climbed Ritter from the west in 1973. In those days the existing climber's guide simply said something like "west slope: class 2", which was sort of the standard level of detail of that era. Given what my dad and I saw on the topo, we brought rope, correctly surmising that it would a complex route with the possibility of really messing up and getting into difficult terrain. We did in fact get off the route on the ascent and ended up doing several hundred feet of mixed class 4 and 3 climbing on rather nasty loose rock. I was so scared I ended up not bagging a peak all of the next year. While climbing, I realized where I had gone wrong, and I applied the knowledge returning from the summit: I did lead us down the entire way on 100 percent class 2 terrain.

The advantage of the west side route on Ritter, in my view, is the outrageously great scenery passing by Lake Catherine and the Ritter Lakes, plus the continuous views into the remote headwaters of the San Joaquin. These are some of the most sublime sapphire gems of lakes you'll ever see. The disadvantage is that this route requires more hiking to reach from the typical east side kickoff points. We did it from Thousand Island Lake as part of a 4 day trip. Day 1 to the lake, day 2 to do Banner, day 3 Ritter, and day 4 out. As a frightened 14 year old, the Ritter day was incredibly long: something like 13 hours gone from our camp at the lake. The one marked and multiple unmarked graves along the route (I recall the marked one is going up to Glacier Pass and the unmarked ones were around the Ritter Lakes) added an additional sinister spooky element to the enterprise (this plus the fact that 3 Loma Prieta Sierra Club peak climbers were killed on Ritter 3 years before our climb).

Unlike many of the routes of my past, I do not have a totally photographic memory of this one, but I recall you ascend a talus-filled broad gully from the Ritter Lakes. The key move is where you must exit right (south) out of the gully via a series of benches to reach a big talus slope that is followed to the crest. I believe you can stand at the Ritter Lakes and it is pretty clear that this is the one line of weakness on the west face (I recall it shows up reasonably well in the photo in Secor, too). Once over the crest you ascend on easy talus (and/or snow) to the summit. My big error on the ascent was not exiting the gully, which steepens progressively and transforms from talus-bottomed to a broken cliff, which became hairy and exposed enough so that I asked my dad for a belay on about 3 pitches--I was a very relieved and happy guy when we crested out.
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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Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:05 pm

Thanks Kathy and GB.
Yeah, reading about all the fatalities on Ritter makes me wonder if I should just stick to Mt. Davis instead.:) Anyway, I'll probably try finding the Class 2 chute on the west side. I'll be out for a week, and would want to tour the Ritter Lakes in any event.
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Postby langenbacher » Fri Sep 07, 2007 1:47 pm

Hi quentinc - probably too late for your trip, but I agree with giantbrookie on the beauty of the Ritter Lakes, and the difficulty of finding the route up the west slope. When we did it, there was steep frozen snow, which scared me, so I ended up climbing steep, loose rock wearing crampons, which scared me so much I swore I wouldn't return that way. Yes, the key is to find the proper exit to the right out of the initial chute, then it's easy.

We ended up going down the north face to the ritter/banner saddle. The class 3 stuff was pretty solid with good handholds, and a little loose rock on the class 2 parts. I was a lot more comfortable with that than going up the bad part of the west slope.

Davis was totally unchallenging, but a very pleasant hike and view. see http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2668148540014892585IbiUDm

I'm a total sucker for that secluded granite and water scenery.
http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2459826110014892585dDxFKq
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Postby quentinc » Mon Sep 17, 2007 8:06 pm

Thanks Lagenbacher. Alas, a dislocated shoulder made sure that I didn't attempt Ritter from any direction. But it didn't stop me from having a terrific 8 day trip on both sides of the Ritter Range.
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