Banner Peak, Mount Ritter

16-Sep-95 (California Mountaineering Club)

By: Scott Sullivan


This trip started on a sour note when I had two no-shows at the trailhead. Both are people I have hiked with before and should know better. After a brief wait, Elena Sherman, Craig Haeussler, Pat McKusky, Edward Nunez, Steve Eckert, Carl Stammerjohn, Rich Gnagy, and 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, when Elena, Craig, Pat, Steve, Carl, and I 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.

The rest of the return to camp was spent debating tomorrow’s route for Ritter. We’d stop and read route descriptions and try to pick out the landmarks. Several times we changed our minds about the route as a new perspective made our chosen route less palatable. Finally we ran into another group that pointed out the true southeast glacier route, our chosen route. We were back in camp at 7pm.

At 7am, Elena, Craig, Steve, Edward, Rich and I left for Ritter. Like Banner the day before, 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.

After enjoying the spectacular view and eating our lunch, we headed down. Steve treated us all to glissade lessons on the way down. We reached camp at 2:30pm, and were back at the cars at 6:30pm. Thanks to all participants for making this a wonderful trip.


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