Route Type: ScrambleTime Required: One to two daysDifficulty: Class 3
Page By: Bob Burd Created/Edited: Aug 23, 2003 / Aug 23, 2003
Route Type: ScrambleTime Required: One to two daysDifficulty: Class 3
Page By: Bob Burd Created/Edited: Aug 23, 2003 / Aug 23, 2003
Climb to the Ritter-Banner saddle - Banner Peak is an easy 30-45 minute scramble from the saddle.
There are several routes that can be followed up the North Face. Two will be described here, the classic Muir route, and the easier Right Hand Chute, well described in Jim Ramaker's excellent trip report on Climber.org. From the Banner-Ritter saddle, head south onto the North Glacier. In mid to late summer the top portion of the Glacier can be quite icy - extra caution advised. I found this the most difficult challenge of the entire route.
The classic route goes up the central chute directly above the apex of the Glacier. This chute is steeper than the alternative, but still class 3. Near the top of the chute, but before reaching the ridge above, traverse left into the next chute on an uneven ledge. Climb a narrow, steep ramp about 5 ft wide that rises diagonally up to the left, intersecting the NE Ridge. This ramp may be filled with snow, but the rock edge to the left of the ramp can be climbed to avoid it. Scramble the remaining 100ft or so of the NE Ridge to the summit.
The easiest route climbs the Right Hand Chute. From about 20 feet below the apex of the Norht Glacier, head right for a ramp that leads to the Right Hand Chute. This is mostly a steep class 2 climb which can easily be made into class 3 by the many choices you encounter in climbing the chute. At the top of the chute, follow the NW Ridge up for several hundred feet until progress is blocked by gendarmes. You can then drop down to the classic route for the finish to the NE Ridge, or bypass the gendarmes on the right and find a broad class 2-3 chute on the west side. Follow the chute to the summit.
Mt. Ritter, North Face Jim Ramaker For anyone who has read John Muir's account of the first ascent, or the accident report from the 1969 climb on which four Sierra Club climbers lost their lives, the north face of Mt. Ritter has a serious reputation. We left Agnew Meadows at 8:30, hiked down into the aspen-clad valley of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, then up the beautiful trail past Shadow Lake to Ediza Lake, where we arrived about noon. Our group of eight gathered back in camp around 5 p.m. for an early supper, and by 7 we were all in our sleeping bags. But things were different on Sunday morning -- David had us up in pitch darkness at 5:30, and rolling by 6:30. We strolled up the valley toward Ritter as dawn flamed the east faces of Banner, Ritter, and the Minarets, and by 8:30 we were at the cliffs leading up to the Banner-Ritter saddle. David and Nicolai zig-zagged up the rocks in the center of the cliff band, while the rest of us climbed the easy snow couloir at the right end, which was frozen neve but pitted with sun cups and no more than 35 degrees steep. David straightened out our confusion about the left- and right-hand gullies described in Secor -- the left-hand gully heads up from the highest snow of the North Ritter Glacier, while you enter the right-hand gully via a 30-foot long ledge leading right from about 100 feet below the highest snow. The glacier leading up to the gullies was icy, but again pitted with suncups and no more than 35 degrees steep, so a self-arrest would've been pretty easy. I led up the right-hand gully, which gave us fun class 2-3 climbing on solid rock and rubble-covered ledges. With a bit of care, it was possible to climb without knocking anything down. At the top of the right-hand gully an arete leads left, and on the other side of it we were surprised to find a class-1 scree terrace. We strolled up that until it and the arete were blocked by a large tower. I climbed past the tower to the left and came to the top of the classic north face route, with its class 3-4 headwall and an ice-covered ramp leading up and left. Paul checked to the right of the tower and found a broad class 2-3 gully leading up to the apparent summit. Could this be it? We scrambled up the gully and topped out at 11:30, just 20 feet left (east) of the summit. We were amazed at how easy the climb had been -- about 80% of the rock was really class 2, and there was not a single move I'd call exposed. Obviously, we went a different way from John Muir, approximately following the "Starr Variation" to the north face described in Secor. After an hour or so, it was down the scree slope to the southeast and down the loose but easy gully onto the Southeast Glacier. I had a nice hike out in the late afternoon, getting back to camp at 4 and out to the cars just after dark at 7:30. Cora took a short fall in the gully above the southeast glacier, bruising her hip so severely that she later started going into shock. Cora, in a lot of pain, recovered enough to hike out carrying all of her gear. The five of them got to the cars at 10:30 p.m., then went to the hospital in Mammoth to have Cora looked at.
Banner Peak, Mount Ritter 16-Sep-95 (California
Mountaineering Club) By: Scott Sullivan I left Agnew Meadows at
7:30am. The hike in was uneventful, we reached Ediza Lake just after 11am. Camp
was established above the northwest corner of the lake and lunch eaten by
12:15, and we set off for Banner. We followed a use trail west from Lake Ediza
for the first half hour, then donned ice axe and crampons for the snow climb to
the Ritter/Banner saddle. From the saddle, it was class 2 talus to the top,
which was reached at 4pm. There was some trepidation in the group about the
return down the snow from the saddle. It was steep and a little slick, but we
decided it would be better without crampons. Steve walked out to the edge of
the chute, compass in hand to measure the steepness. He reported 40 degrees at
the top, tapering down to 35 degrees lower down. That said, he put the compass
in his pocket and jumped off the edge, doing a textbook standing glissade
complete with turns. Its one of the more amazing things I’ve seen in the
Sierra. In less than a minute he was way below us looking up with a “what’s
everyone waiting for?” expression. The rest of the group was more cautious,
carefully stepping down the steep part. Some glissaded from partway down,
others walked the whole way.
At 7am we left for Ritter. This was almost entirely an ice axe and crampon affair. From the outlet of the small unnamed lake (which was still under snow) in the drainage west of Ediza Lake, we climbed straight up the slope of Ritter to two clumps of small trees. Here we put on crampons and went straight up the snow until the angle of the slope lessened. Here we contoured up and north into the bowl below the south face of Ritter. We took the first possible exit chute north to the talus slopes on the southwest side of the peak. From here it was class 2 talus to the top, which was reached at 11:30am. We reached camp at 2:30pm, and were back at the cars at 6:30pm.
Mt Ritter - Mt Banner - Sid Rao July 4th Start 11:30pm - Agnew Meadows (Shadow Lake trailhead) hike-in (7 miles) 3:30pm reach base camp at 9700', above Ediza lake . July 5th Start up Mt Ritter (13,140') 5:35am, Peak at 9:45am, Glissade down and reach base (500 ft above base camp) at 12:00 noon Start up Mt Banner 12:30pm, Peak at 3:30pm, Scramble/Glissade down to base camp 5:15pm. July 6th hike out.Mt Ritter - The route I took was different, instead of traverse that they mentioned on the SE glacier and snowbowl to reach the chute (Owens/Secor), I did the traverse at the bottom and went straight up to the chute. I took the Secor chute instead of Owens since it was closer. There was snow all the way to top except for the top half of Secor chute and the last 100ft to the peak. The angle varied from 30-45 degree. Once you are above the chute on the saddle you could go up the 35degree snow slope or if you prefer talus move right to the ridge follow that to the peak. Snow was firm almost all the way. Mt. Banner - By now the snow was getting soft so it took a lot more effort. There is snow all the way to Ritter-Banner saddle. The chute the leads to the saddle is about 50degree and with soft snow it took a lot of energy. From the saddle its about 1000ft of talus walk to the peak. Couldn't find a register on top of Banner. There was one on Ritter.
Notes: 1) There is a class 4 route from Ritter to Ritter-Banner saddle, it was too risky to solo. I think it would be easier to go from the saddle to the Ritter peak since you can chalk out the route. It was easier for me come down and go up again. 2) Banner peak cannot be seen from the saddle, it is behind the false peak, so while going up keep to the left of the false peak. Apprantely there is a trail with ducks leading to the peak, but I found it easier to go up straight. 3) You can come up from Thousand island lake to Ritter-Banner saddle, I believe its longer but the slope is gradual 15-20deg. There was a group which started at 5 am from that lake and were coming down from Banner talus at 3pm. They did not need crampons/ice-axe.
We were off toward Ediza Lake at 8:00 a.m. We made good time, pausing at the bridge across the San Joaquin River and again at Shadow Lake, there to take our first look at Mt. Ritter.We arrived at Ediza Lake about noon, and made our way around the north side of Ediza, scrambling over a hundred yards of boulders rather than walking around the south side, which is a half-mile longer, involves a couple of stream crossings and meandering through a large swampy meadow that is a perfect breeding ground for the clouds of mosquitoes which infest the area immediately around Ediza. Jason stopped to sink a food cache in a hidden spot near the shore, since he will be doing a through hike of the John Muir Trail in August. Hopefully, his waterproof packaging really will be waterproof and his cache will remain hidden from both four-and two-footed raiders.
We made our way along the use trail up the first gully past the boulder field and encountered our first snowdrift in a sheltered pocket on the north side of a large granite outcrop at about 9,300'. Shortly, we found a suitable campsite, complete with Yehuda-approved bear-hang tree, at about 9560', per my Casio altimeter .
We were on our way about 4:15 a.m., following the use trail up to a point level with the start of our climb, then turning left across the valley to the grass slopes leading up to the lower gully. By first light at 5:00 a.m., we were poised to start climbing for real.
We made good progress up the lower gully on snow firmed by overnight temperatures in the 40s. We passed the scrub trees where Yehuda and I had made our time-consuming mistake last year, and continued up to the top of the gully to make our right turn toward the snow bowl and Southeast Glacier. With six feet less snow, and three weeks' more summer melt, the scene was markedly different from 1998. The route from the top of the gully to the snow bowl was over pleasant solid 2nd-class rock.
The snow bowl was still mostly snow-filled, and there was the usual trail over the drifted ridge and onto the glacier. The ridge this year had been wind-sculpted into a more severe peak, pushing us onto 3rd-class snow conditions, as expected. We were on the glacier by 8:00 and took a short break on the large rock outcrop near the bottom of the glacier. Pat moaned over the amount of the climb that would be on snow, as he is not as comfortable on snow as on rock, and slows down a bit out of caution.
By 9:00, we had reached the third toe of the three-toed buttress and made our U-turn into Owen's Chute. It was totally devoid of snow, and presented a jumbled slope of talus and scree. Yehuda and I headed up the left side of the chute, as this was the easier area when snow-filled, as it was last year. Jason paralleled us perhaps 50 feet to the right and, as it turns out, picked a better line, as Yehuda and I ended up with 20 or 30 feet of 3rd-class climbing to reach the top of the chute. With Jason already waiting for us and giving pointers, we wasted fewer than 5 minutes on the 3rd-class pitch, and reached the upper bowl by 10:00.
From there, we could see a relatively flat snowfield which we crossed without crampons and the talus slope leading up to the summit ridge. A second, steeper, snowfield stretched part-way along the upper slope, and we skirted the left edge of this snow, since it was faster and easier to stay on the rock. There are actually the traces of a use trail visible in the gravelly areas amidst the talus, so route-finding is easy at that point. We passed the false summit which looks so tempting from below, going to the right of this rather steep outcrop. I was lagging just a bit behind Jason and Yehuda when they reached the summit ridge. A minute or two later, I spotted them sitting on the ridge, motioning me on and saying that the summit was mine to lead. There are two bumps on the west end of the ridge, the second one being a few feet higher, and it was a simple, but exciting scramble those last 100 or so feet along the ridge to the summit log in its cast-aluminum box.
10:45 a.m., July 27, 1999, was the culmination of a 14-year, seven-attempt odyssey. Yehuda snapped a first photo of me standing triumphant on "my" mountain. Then he and Jason scrambled over to join me and sign in the log. Pat caught up with us perhaps five minutes later after a few pointed remarks about the last scramble and the exposure to the north side of the ridge, which is extreme, to say the least.
We retraced our route down noting Jason's easier, all-2nd-class path through Owen's Chute, back down the Southeast glacier on softening afternoon snow.
The hop back over the snow ridge and into the snow bowl was a bit tenuous on the sloppy snow, and each of us slipped enough once or twice to remind us how to self-arrest. Pat was the only one to take a more serious slide, which he arrested safely, but not quickly enough to avoid giving himself a good fright in the process. Once again, over the rocky ridge and into our gully, which seemed a bit steeper by virtue of its softer surface. Here, Jason could build up a fair head of steam on his glissades and beat us down the 500' of the gully by a large margin. As we scrambled down the grassy slopes, I spotted the interesting rock formation in the photo to the left. It appeared that an ancient climber had fallen and remained face-down in the brush, turned into granite by some chance of fate. A casual walk across the streams to the use trail, and we were safely back in camp by 5:30 p.m. It had taken us 6-1/2 hours to reach the summit, and about 5-1/2 to return.
On the hike in, we had discussed the possibility of attempting Ritter that afternoon, but after lunch, the group drifted into listlessness, setting up tents and taking naps. Later on, most of the group took an easy hike south to Iceberg Lake at the foot of the Minarets, while I strolled north into one of my favorite places in the Sierras -- the wonderful alpine Valley between Ediza and the foot of Mt. Ritter.
But things were different on Sunday morning -- David had us up in pitch darkness at 5:30, and rolling by 6:30. We strolled up the valley toward Ritter as dawn flamed the east faces of Banner, Ritter, and the Minarets, and by 8:30 we were at the cliffs leading up to the Banner-Ritter saddle. David and Nicolai zig-zagged up the rocks in the center of the cliff band, while the rest of us climbed the easy snow couloir at the right end, which was frozen neve but pitted with sun cups and no more than 35 degrees steep.
David straightened out our confusion about the left- and right-hand gullies described in Secor -- the left-hand gully heads up from the highest snow of the North Ritter Glacier, while you enter the right-hand gully via a 30-foot long ledge leading right from about 100 feet below the highest snow. The glacier leading up to the gullies was icy, but again pitted with suncups and no more than 35 degrees steep, so a self-arrest would've been pretty easy.
I led up the right-hand gully, which gave us fun class 2-3 climbing on solid rock and rubble-covered ledges. With a bit of care, it was possible to climb without knocking anything down. It was a warm, clear day with a light breeze, and except for Alfred's sickness, the climb was going great and proving much easier than expected. At the top of the right-hand gully an arete leads left, and on the other side of it we were surprised to find a class-1 scree terrace. We strolled up that until it and the arete were blocked by a large tower. I climbed past the tower to the left and came to the top of the classic north face route, with its class 3-4 headwall and an ice-covered ramp leading up and left.
Paul checked to the right of the tower and found a broad class 2-3 gully leading up to the apparent summit. Could this be it? He, Zander, Nicolai, and I scrambled up the gully and topped out at 11:30, just 20 feet left (east) of the summit. We were amazed at how easy the climb had been -- about 80% of the rock was really class 2, and there was not a single move I'd call exposed. Obviously, we went a different way from John Muir, approximately following the "Starr Variation" to the north face described in Secor.
After an hour or so on top, it was down the scree slope to the southeast and down the loose but easy gully onto the Southeast Glacier. I waited for them for an hour on the rock island in the middle of the southeast glacier, decided to hike out, I had a nice hike out in the late afternoon, getting back to camp at 4
Meanwhile Cora had taken a short fall in the gully above the southeast glacier, bruising her hip so severely that she later started going into shock. David, Paul, and Roy rallied the team, and Cora, in a lot of pain, recovered enough to hike out carrying all of her gear. The five of them hiked out by headlamp and got to the cars at 10:30 p.m., then went to the hospital in Mammoth to have Cora looked at.
Our climb started on the 18th at 7 o'clock. We climbed a talus field that took us to a chute just below the upper lake. We ran into a lot of snow but we were able to climb around it to the exit stream that led to the lower lake which goes under the glacier. The lakes had ice in them, but nothing like 97'. At this point we could see that there was very little snow, and we would not need the ice axes or the crampons. We started up the talus slope to the south and west,and it was really steep. Most of the time it was hands on climbing.We kept the snow field that's in the middle of the slope to our left and kept telling ourselves to stay right (south) on the slope. We just couldn't do it. We saw Ritter right there up this steep narrow chute to the left and of course we said we can climb that. Wrong! At this point we cut across the slope on scree that was on top of frozen scree.Really slippery. We got into the chute that's just south and west of the summit which we could see above us. The climb at this point became hands on all the time. We got about 200ft up in this chute and it became apparent that we could'nt safely go any further. I got hit in the chin and in the back by rocks that just randomly broke and fell and Ryan was finding boulder size rocks that were loose and moving. We deciced at this point to back down. We went on belay and backed out of this chute which took about 2 hours. When we got back to the scree field we had lost about 3 hours and all of our adrenaline. I don't mind saying and I think Ryan agrees(although he'd never admit it), that we were both a " little nervous" in that chute. We were pretty discouraged at this point and time was running out, it was now 12:30, but we decided to go to the right side of the slope and and "just see". We found a slab of granite that led up to a spring and when we looked up we saw the route. We climbed straight up a steep, but really nice talus field that led to the ridge to the south of Ritter. At the top we went to far south and popped up on top of the glaciers in between Ritter and the Minerets. We back tracked a short way and had to do some hands on, but we knew we were going to make it. We climbed north and came out on the ridge, and there was Ritter right in front of us to the north. We were pumped. We followed the ridge above the snow field and got to the south edge of the summit and found a "trail" that led west up to some cairns,( we call them ducks). We followed them up to the summit of Mt Ritter. What a feeling! It was 2:15 when we made the summit so we didn't stay long. The wind was blowing sorta hard so it was really cold. We signed one of the books and got a kick out of the old photos of the guys that climbed it in the 40's, I think. We ate lunch did the photo thing and then headed carefully back to camp. The round trip took 11 hours
The four of us set out to hop over the low ridge between Thousand Island Lake and the valley leading up to North Glacier Pass. There were only occasional patches of snow around Thousand Island, but the snow in the valley started about 10,500' and was continuous up to the pass itself at about 11,200'.
The valley itself is an easy snow climb...possible in boots, but certainly easier for us with crampons. The view of Thousand Island Lake from the upper reaches of the glacier is spectacular.
Upon reaching the pass proper, we were presented with a striking view of the west side of Ritter and Banner towering over Lake Catherine. At 11,000', Lake Catherine was still over 75% frozen, and the snowdrifts in the lee of the granite domes to the west and south of Catherine extended from lake level nearly to the tops of the domes.
We made slow but steady progress down the steep boulderfield between the pass and the lake, and worked our way around to the west of the domes. From there, the view out over the canyons is dramatic, especially when you realize that the bottoms of the canyons drop from the 11,000' level of the lake to less than 9,000' in a fraction of a mile. As is evidenced by the photo, Mother Nature has contracted with Walt Disney for exterior decorating...we spotted this incredibly balanced rock on the west side of the domes...hard to believe a melting glacier could so delicately balance several tons of rock in an isolated point like that.
We intended to camp near the southernmost of the Ritter Lakes. However, this
proved to be a more aggressive plan than we were able to achieve...class 2
boulder hopping gave way to class 2 and occasional class 3 rock scrambling on
the margins of the domes, and at one point, we reached a chute down the
southwest side of the southern dome which required lowering our packs and a 50'
pitch of solid but exciting scrambling down to the next broad ledge below.
From there, we could look down to one of the Ritter Lakes, nearly totally frozen, a couple of hundred feet below us. We continued around the second dome and found a dry spot to camp between the dome and the flanks of Mt. Ritter. The moon shone brightly as we settled down for the night, planning our assault for the next day.
We dallied until about 7:30 a.m. before finally accepting that the clouds were there to stay, packed up camp, and headed back to Thousand Island Lake. Rather than repeat the previous day's steep scramble, we opted to take to the snow piled up in the lee of the dome. This proved better, although the last few feet to the top of the drift were steep enough that Ed resorted to cutting steps rather than trust kicking our crampons into a 50-degree-plus slope. We made it safely, surveyed the crack (drifted over) where the cornice would eventually fail, and scurried down the rock on the other side of the dome.
The climb from there up past Lake Catherine to North Glacier Pass was familiar but no more comfortable...the boulder field has just enough loose, tippy, rocks to make for nervous boulder hopping with full packs. By the time we reached the pass, the overcast had become solid, although it had not lowered to the peaks. We stopped and talked to several other climbers who were either planning on doing Banner Peak that day or thinking about heading to the back side of Ritter, so we gave them what intelligence we could about finding their way to the appropriate point on Ritter Lakes. The walk down the snow from North Glacier Pass was a comfortable slog with crampons. With the cloud cover, the snow did not soften too much, and we reached the rocks near the waterfall which marks the headwaters of the San Joaquin River without incident.
sierra-challenge: headed up the North Face. The icy snowfield at the base proved the most difficult part of the route, after which we enjoyed an exciting class 3 scramble on good rock all the way to the summit.