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Ritter / Banner Saddle

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Ritter / Banner Saddle

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:47 pm

TITLE: Ritter / Banner Saddle

GENERAL OVERVIEW: This Pass crosses the saddle between the upper North branch of Shadow Creek & Ediza Lake and Lake Catherine at one of the upper most heads of the North Fork San Joaquin.

CLASS/DIFFICULTY: Class 2 - Subject to change based on snow and ice conditions. Ice axe and crampons may or may not be required at any given time.

LOCATION: Ansel Adams Wilderness / Inyo Nation Forest. The saddle branching Mt. Ritter & Banner. HST Map

ELEVATION: 12,020

USGS TOPO MAP (7.5'): Mt. Ritter

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: My knowledge of this pass is based off conditions of early September on an above average snow year and is limited to climbing and descending the East side.

From Ediza Lake take the NW branch of Shadow Creek where some of a use trail can be used to take you into the cirque below the pass. The route I took was a bit to the right where I stayed on grassy slopes as long as I could before I had to cross a rather steep and loose scree slope. This is the only time I have ever fallen and spun my body completely 360 sideways in the air before I hit the ground. Kind of comical considering on my way down the snow I tripped and did a full front flip onto my ass on the snow.

When you cross this scree you'll finally reach granite slabs that will take you to the snow slope. Areas of this snow had solid ice sticking out but I never required the use of crampons although I wore them anyway. Nothing here is an issue until you approach the final narrow push to the top. Here the snow was so steep and soft I just had to crawl my way to the top. Allot of caution is needed though as the snow was melted away from the cliff walls and were quite deep drop offs where if you fell you would likely fall into one of these wells and if you were not seriously injured it could still be quite difficult to get out.

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Re: Ritter / Banner Saddle

Postby alpinemike » Tue Dec 22, 2015 6:15 pm

I took the West Side of this pass in early June of 2014. My route was likely a non-standard one but I'll describe it anyways.

Since Lake Catherine was frozen over around the edges but also had a lot of poor coverage I had to navigate up a rock rib that descends the West Side of Banner Peak. I followed this rib for as long as I could at which point I found a very difficult Class 3 way down into the main Glacier chute that descends from the saddle itself. Once on the glacier I traversed all the way up to the saddle with no major issues. The slope was never greater than about 30 degrees and the snow was in good condition. But ice ax and crampons/micro-spikes were definitely necessary and are probably necessary most of the year.

I would avoid taking the route I took since getting back onto the rib posed a challenge and thus I think the best route is to get into the main chute as soon as possible.

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The rib is directly in the center with the top of the saddle just barely visible.

photo 5.jpg
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
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