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Mount Ritter

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Mount Ritter

Postby Vaca Russ » Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:34 am

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TITLE: Mount Ritter

GENERAL OVERVIEW: John Muir is the first person recorded to have summited Mount Ritter. He wrote in The Mountains of California (Chapter 4) ….. “Mount Ritter is king of the mountains of the middle portion of the High Sierra, as Shasta of the north and Whitney of the south sections. Moreover, as far as I know, it had never been climbed. I had explored the adjacent wilderness summer after summer, but my studies thus far had never drawn me to the top of it. Its height above sea-level is about 13,300 feet, and it is fenced round by steeply inclined glaciers, and cañons of tremendous depth and ruggedness, which render it almost inaccessible. But difficulties of this kind only exhilarate the mountaineer.”
Mt. Ritter is the tallest peak in the Ritter range.

CLASS/DIFFICULTY: Class 2, 3, 4 or 5 depending on the route.

LOCATION: Ansel Adams Wilderness, just east of Yosemite NP.

ELEVATION: 13,143 Feet

USGS TOPO MAP (7.5'): Mount Ritter

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: There are four traditional routes used to climb Mt. Ritter. The West Slope, the North Face, the Southeast Glacier and the Clyde Variation.

TR: I successfully summited this peak on 8/11/2016 by following a “Russ Variation” of the Clyde Variation Route.
Having completed the climb “solo” and being a lover of life, safety rated quite high on my list of priorities. I believe the Clyde Variation to be the safest route (YMMV). This hike is long and tiring and your judgment could be impaired during the descent due to exhaustion. Avoiding the class 3 cliffs below the SE glacier is a good safety tip to consider, especially on the descent.
Although which route to take may be the most important thing to determine prior to a summit attempt, I also think it is very important to take into consideration the snow conditions during your attempt.
I prefer traveling on snow. I find snow travel much easier and safer than the tedious, soul crushing talus hopping on loose rock that is quite prevalent on this climb during low snow conditions. If I ever endeavor to complete this climb again I would want to do it in June or early July when most of the route is covered in snow and ice.


I didn’t start my climb up the gulley on the traditional Clyde Variation climb. There is a nice vegetation covered ramp just to the south of the gulley. Follow this ramp up to the middle of the gulley.

1 Ramp.jpg

This is the ramp looking north.

2 End Ramp.jpg

This is the end of the ramp, just before joining the snow in the gulley.

In both August (and 4 weeks earlier in July) the gulley had snow on the bottom, talus in the middle and snow on top.

3 Lower Snow in Gulley.jpg

4 Talus in Gulley.jpg

Once you reach (just almost) the top of the gulley, look to the north (your right). Look for a Cairned pathway through the rocks.

5 Clyde Cutoff.jpg

6 Clyde Duck.jpg

This is a nice and level pathway leading to just below the moraine of the lower snow bowl.

The lower snow bowl is just over that hump (the moraine).

7 Lower Bowl Moraine.jpg

The lower snow bowl is easy to cross until you come to the couloir. This is (IMHO) the crux of the climb. In early season the couloir is covered in snow and, although steep, it is very negotiable with an ice ax and crampons. I managed to climb this col with no problem on July 16, 2016. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture. This is what the col looked like on August 11.

8 SE Col.jpg

9 Loose Rocks.jpg

These rocks were very loose and very difficult to climb. Coming back down the col was even worst. I had to struggle to keep from sliding into the crack beneath the ice and snow. I STRONGLY recommend climbing this col when it is covered in snow (YMMV).
This is a picture of Oleander at the bottom of the col in September 2014.

10 Oleander on SE Snowbowl.jpg

Notice the dangerous rock situation. I really do prefer climbing on snow!
"Shred the gnar!"- Bobby Blaine

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Vaca Russ
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Re: Mount Ritter

Postby Vaca Russ » Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:40 am

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Once you summit the couloir, you will enter the south end on the SE glacier. The snow in the glacier is easily passable in early season. It does become quite icy later in August.

11 SE Glacier.jpg

That rock formation in the middle of the picture is sometimes called the “Three Toed Buttress”. You want to climb up and to the left around this formation to the Owens Chute.

Be careful! Late season this glacier will be slippery ice. Take the time to put on your crampons.

12 Ice on SE glacier.jpg

Owens Chute is just a big jumble of rocks.

13 Owens Chute.jpg

Be sure you avoid taking the wrong chute. This chute is going up in a westerly direction.

14 Chute to Nowhere.jpg

Do not take this chute! It is very steep and leads to nowhere!

15 Do Not Take This Chute!.jpg

Continue the arduous climb up the class 2 Owens chute.

16 Upper Owens Chute.jpg

There is a summit plateau (or bowl) above Owens Chute.

17 Summit Bowl.jpg

Now you are finally approaching the summit.

There is somewhat discernable path among the talus. Stay to the left of the snow field.

18 Path to Summit.jpg

There was an ammo box on the summit.

19 Register.jpg

The north face is a little steep.

20 Summit View Down.jpg

Good luck on your climb!

"Shred the gnar!"- Bobby Blaine
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Re: Mount Ritter

Postby Jimr » Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:55 am

Nice report Russ!
Nothing good ever came from should.
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Re: Mount Ritter

Postby rayfound » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:26 am

I was enjoying this until I looked at the last picture from the summit, now I feel uncomfortable.

Congrats on making it.
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Re: Mount Ritter

Postby chrwell » Fri Oct 07, 2016 1:29 am

Great report! The pictures illustrate the route really well. It's on my list.

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