Crossing Mt. Ritter

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Sebastian_A_K
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Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Sebastian_A_K » Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:23 pm

For mid-August, I am planning a 4-day trip to the West side of the Ritter range, with a partner. I'm thinking about crossing Mt. Ritter West to East on the way out. I've only found one mentioning of such a (near) summit crossing of Ritter here on HST, and that was a September trip. Since the west side is class 2 and the east side 2-3 it seems reasonable, if somewhat strenuous. However, I am concerned about how all the snow this year will impact this route. To be precise, I'm afraid the west side will still be hard snow in the morning, when climbing up, and then the east side will already be frozen over again when coming down in the afternoon. Hard snow is makes for fast travel, but also for very difficult self-arrest. Any thoughts on the route?

We are level 4 backpackers and know the general area well. Have spent many miles on snow, generally try to keep things to a rating below 3.








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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by giantbrookie » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:15 pm

The west side ascent route from the upper Ritter Lake is all class 2 if the correct route is done and this route is accurately described and nicely illustrated in Secor. There will almost certainly be some snow patches on the west face (see below) but I suspect you'll be able to hike around many of them. I botched this route ascending in 1973 (no description of route in '73, though), figured out my error during the ascent and corrected to a more optimal all class 2 route when descending (incorrect ascent route had several hundred feet of class 3 with one or two class 4 moves). Of note is that I messed up the route partly because of snow on the lower part of the face and I recall the trip was late August or even early September 1973 and '73 did not have the snowpack we had this year. I stayed in the lower snow chute too long and didn't "turn" off to reach the upper talus slope at the proper place. The snow we encountered was steep enough to require an ice axe. The snow was firm crisp snow without ice, so it was optimal for self arrest. However the angle was steep enough that my dad was sketched (he was far more comfortable on rock than snow), which is why he didn't like my suggestion to correct my route error by descending a bit (to pick up the correct route) and insisted on finishing straight up through the class 3 and 4 rock in order to hit the correct descent route on the way down. The bottom line is that I think the west side snow patches won't be icy late season. The Sierran snow patches that get icy in the late season are usually the glacial ones (including couloirs extending upward from glaciers). A notorious example of a non-technical bit of snow that gets icy late season (usually late August to September onward) is the NE couloir of Abbot. The vast majority of seasonal snow patches in the Sierra, which include the snow you'll encounter on the west slope of Ritter, do not have this ice core to them, so that in late season they are simply crisp and firm snow, on which it is easy to self arrest.

Note that the west face route crests out south of and below the summit but above the crux of the standard class 2-3 route from the Ediza area. I mention this because this means the hardest part of the standard route must be descended "blind".
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Harlen » Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:54 pm

Firstly, what a fine adventure you guys have chosen- we envy you, and may do the same, or a similar trip one fine day.
Secondly, great advice per usual from GB. My two cents of advice would be to consider either crampons, and or a rope to go with your ice axes. I don't know how heavy your packs already are, but I belayed my partner across the upper snow field on the way up the standard route from the east, and that made all the difference- turning a potentially scary climb into a fun romp. You might consider carrying a lightweight climbing rope to secure the descent. The alternative would be to try to time the climbing so that you guys are moving both up and down in the optimal snow conditions, i.e., avoiding the hard snow times. I think that GB is stating that you should be able to do that on these snow slopes. His advice on carefully following the route is perhaps the most important piece of advice.
Best of luck, and let us know how it goes.

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Sebastian_A_K » Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:28 am

Thanks for the detailed and super-fast advice! I have stood at the base of the west slope once (but didn't feel good and turned around) and I've read before that the route is difficult to find, so thanks for the advice on that. This was my main reason for planning the route W to E. Agreed, having the crux ahead as you stand on the summit (hopefully!) is not so relaxing. But if the gully above the SE glacier (which one is recommended, btw?) looks too steep and hard-frozen we could just retrace our steps down the W slope and suck up the long (but beautiful) haul out over L Cathrine pass.
We will try to hit the west slope not early in the morning, but early enough to be off the SE glacier before it gets in the shade. Not getting any younger, :) but that seems doable.
Crampons and ice axe are a given, probably a helmet, but I'd like to avoid rope and harness. We're planning on looping via Island pass over Clinch and through the N Fork basin.

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Harlen » Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:26 am

Hello Again Sebastian,

Re-reading the post, I realize now that you are going to descend the glacier (SE?) that heads toward Ediza. When I mentioned the rope belay, I was referring to an ascent via the "Ritter-Banner Saddle." So you may be fine with crampons and axes on your descent down the other route. Note: you call it the "SE glacier," and without looking at the map, I too think it is on the SE side of the Mtn., however, in The Climber's Guide by Roper, he calls that route the "Southwest Glacier." I believe he is describing your chosen descent route, and just got the direction wrong.
Does this sound familiar Sebastian? From Roper:

Route 4. Southwest Glacier. Class 2-3. (*here he's describing the ascent via this route, you'll reverse the directions for your descent) "Ascend slabs and talus until just below the snout of the glacier. Work around to the right and skirt the glacier until an easy chute leads up and right to talus slopes and the top. An ice axe should be carried in times of high snow."

It may be hard to discern the glacier from the snowfield this year, but sounds like you'll be hunting for easy ground down and left of the glacier. Giantbrookie can chime back in here with advice on how exactly to find a glacier, but if he tells you to bring a ice-core sampling drill rig, keep in mind that it will weigh far more than the wee piece of rope I mentioned bringing. Cheers.

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Sebastian_A_K » Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:59 am

With all due respect for Roper, SW doesn't sound right at all. SE glacier is what Secor calls this piece of frozen water and I think that fits. You got me a bit worried there with the rope suggestion but I think the route via the R-B saddle is harder and might warrant a rope.
I didn't know ice cores were a common form of paying back for good advice.:) I thought a trip report might suffice. I have been on the rock-covered glacier below Southfork Pass a few years ago and afterwards I read that one had been the target of some recent ice core sampling. I personally did not bring back any given that that was the first day of a week of backpacking...
actually, now that I read the posting on the trail closures out of June lake I have become more worried about getting a walk-in permit for one of the Agnew meadow trails more than anything. This will be ugly.

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Harlen » Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:52 pm

Unlike the good old days, when we would sleep in our cars, or on the dirt outside the wilderness offices in order to be the very first (and most aggressive!) at the front door- now they issue the walk in's for the following day at 11:00 AM the day before. Your issuing office would be Mammoth RS, and if you got there at what? 9:00-10:00 AM and camped in front of the wilderness permit desk- letting them know that you are formally in line for the first available wilderness permit, I would think that you would surely get one. Bring a book, and enjoy the wait.

You are right that Agnew Meadows is extremely popular. There is also the access from Silver Lake to the north, but it's a steep and weird route partly up some railroad tie steps, and past the damn facilities... and you'd have to cross "Spooky Meadows!" The good news is that your first night's camp could be above Clark Lakes in the Rush Cr. Drainage, which is a fantastic overview of the Ritter Range! You would then drop down Agnew Pass and into the Middle Fork of the SJ River.

We sure hope you make it Sebastien. The Harlens.

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by Dave_Ayers » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:12 pm

Unfortunately the Rush Creek trail that starts by Silver Lake is closed. See http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... 34&t=16118 .

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Re: Crossing Mt. Ritter

Post by rsm333 » Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:04 pm

The first few miles up from Silver lake are tough/steep, but once out of Spooky Meadows its easier going than the River Trail or High Trail out of Agnew.

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