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A Search of the Minarets 9-10 to 9-14

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Re: A Search of the Minarets 9-10 to 9-14

Postby maverick » Tue Sep 23, 2014 3:09 pm

Hi Brenda,

Thanks for coming and joining HST! Had a great time meeting you, and looking
forward to hiking with you and Art again. Semper Fi
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: A Search of the Minarets 9-10 to 9-14

Postby oleander » Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:08 pm

On Saturday, while yesterday’s search partner (Russ) joined Art and Brenda in the Minarets, I was assigned to help Maverick and Jim with the investigation of the Ritter-Banner Saddle. Of the six of us, I was the only one who would not hike high into the Minarets this week – fine by me, as the Minarets have earned a reputation for very loose rock.

So I led Jim and Maverick – Jimerick? – to the wide use trail that Russ and I had found yesterday. I was a little self-conscious, as Jimerick, if you haven’t heard, is a very fast walker indeed. Not wanting to hold anyone up, I walked as fast as my little legs could carry me. Soon enough we had gained the valley just southeast of Ritter-Banner.

Ritter and Banner fall colors compressed.jpg
Fall colors in the valley leading to Ritter-Banner

We climbed most of the route to Nydiver Lakes so as to gain a high-up view opposite the Ritter-Banner Saddle and glacier. Sat quietly and trained our binoculars first on the glacier area, then scanned Ritter and Banner from top to bottom. (A climber ascending the ridge of either peak could have fallen hundreds of feet off-route along the mountain face.) I never realized how much concentration a binocular search requires. I felt almost cross-eyed when done. Here is a photo of that saddle from a bit lower down:

Saddle compressed.jpg
Glacier on the southeast side of the Ritter-Banner Saddle

I had wondered how we would spend the day. Up to the foot of the glacier? Mav had other plans for us. We were to travel to the southernmost of the Ritter Lakes – via Nydiver, Whitebark Pass, upper Garnet, the Garnet-Thousand Island Pass, North Glacier Pass, Catherine Lake, the northernmost Ritter Lakes, and fields and fields of talus - to fix our binoculars on the western approach up Ritter. Mav being the kidder he is, I was certain he was just messing with us. Ediza to the last Ritter Lake and back in one day?? Were we cross-country hiking superheroes? Jim knew better: Mav was absolutely serious.

So I bucked up and followed Jimerick up Whitebark Pass, which has a lovely view back to one of the Nydiver Lakes:

Nydiver Lakes Compressed.jpg
Nydiver Lakes, with the Minarets in the background

We made quick work of Whitebark and the Garnet-TI passes, after which Mav decided we would shortcut the roundabout North Glacier Pass by heading up a chute that gains the northeast side of Banner Peak. We rested on some glacial slabs:

Jimerick compressed.jpg
Jimerick, resting at the foot of Banner Peak

…and headed up along the left side of a waterfall on top of the chute:

Waterfall on chute on NE side of Banner Peak

We were off-route, of course. But Matthew has not been found by the dozens (possibly hundreds) of summer travelers, including Sierra High Route hikers, who have followed the “official” off-trail routes through this region. As Russ said up-thread: There is really no wrong place to look, up here. Any alternate route that a climber might have been tempted to follow, should be investigated thoroughly.

Mav had been adamant that no one should tackle anything we are not comfortable with. Soon Jim and I had reached our upper comfort threshold. Mav continued alone to the top of the chute and along the ridge to a perch high above Lake Catherine, where he could train his binoculars on the length of the north side of the Ritter-Banner Saddle approach.

So I didn’t see Catherine Lake this year, but here is a shot of the saddle taken two years ago, similarly in a low-snow year:

Catherine Lake compressed.jpg
Catherine Lake and the Ritter-Banner Saddle from the north side

We had reached the day’s turn-around point, well short of Ritter Lakes. Jim and I waited for Mav at one of the little lakes west of Thousand Island Lake. On the way down, Jim patiently taught me some useful things about safely traversing Class 3 terrain.

Today amounted to a lot of walking for not much binocular time. And I felt bad that I'd surely slowed down the guys a bit. But we’d done our best.

As the sun moved west, we enjoyed some beautiful lighting on the return.

Above Garnet.jpg
Traversing the little basin above Garnet Lake

To make it back to camp by 5:45, we had no time to waste.

Descending Whitebark.jpg
Jimerick can descend talus at 99 mph. Whitebark Pass

Ritter Lakes, and the Class 2 West Slope route up to Ritter from there, are well worth further investigation. Those areas have been searched very little, as far as we know. Although that is not a snow route and it might not be considered "challenging" enough for someone with Matthew's skills, it is possible he went up that way for the scenic tour, with the intention of descending Ritter via a snow route.
Last edited by oleander on Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A Search of the Minarets 9-10 to 9-14

Postby oleander » Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:07 pm

Russ already wrote up our Friday search of the Clyde Variation of the Southeast Glacier Route. I wanted to add a few photos and notes.

Here’s what the Clyde approach to the glacier looks like. This time of year, it’s a pretty straightforward walk-up:

Clyde route binocs.jpg
Russ searches the Clyde Route

The initial climb brings you to a fabulous view of the Minarets and Cecile Lake:

Cecile Lake compressed.jpg
Cecile Lake, viewed from the Clyde Route

After this viewpoint, the route turns sharply north, traversing a ridge and then a moraine before reaching a little glacier that is to the south of, and on the (Clyde) route to, the huge Southeast Glacier. Here is the little glacier:

Glacier compressed.jpg
Glacier along the Clyde Variation

There is an advantage to exploring the glaciers very late in the season: The melt-off along the bottom and the edges of the glacier might expose any items that had been hidden under snow or ice earlier in the season during former searches. It would not be a bad idea for a few more people to come up here and look around the glaciers before the first snows imminently fall. Watch your footing, as it’s an ice-skating rink up here, with extremely unstable rocks.

In our estimation, the Clyde Variation in general is a worthwhile place to return in the search for Matthew. He loved snow routes; he was outfitted for some serious snow that day; and the Clyde route features some of the greatest amount of snow crossing of any routes in the Ritter/Banner and Minarets areas.

Here is a telephoto of the Clyde Variation, taken from Shadow Lake. The first half of the route is what looks like a long sand slog on the far left side of this photo. (It’s actually easily navigable, small talus.) From the top of the slog, the route traverses right, ultimately to reach the huge Southeast Glacier (middle-right of photo). The photo above is of the little glacier halfway in between.

Clyde route close-up.jpg
Clyde Variation of the Southeast Glacier Route

On our return, Russ and I considered directly descending along the outlet of the small midroute glacier, all the way down. We decided against it because we didn’t know what the terrain near the bottom would look like. It would be good to investigate the length of that outlet. Items could be washed down there by the water.

Here’s our camp:

Camp compressed.jpg
HST camp above Lake Ediza

Every night we got to soak our tired tootsies in this beguiling stream originating in the Minarets.

Minarets from camp compressed.jpg
Stream and view from camp

Rest in peace, Matthew.
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Re: A Search of the Minarets 9-10 to 9-14

Postby Jimr » Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:41 am

Excellent TR Lisa.
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Re: A Search of the Minarets 9-10 to 9-14

Postby bluefintu » Fri Sep 26, 2014 5:28 pm

You guys and gals are AWESOME !!! Thank you !!!
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