Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Weekend on Mt. Ritter

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With a dry weather spell nearing a month in duration, motivation to head into the mountains was low.  Luckily, Jeb was inspired to head out on big mission to ski a mountain that promised to be super fun even without great skiing conditions.  Our destination was Mt. Ritter (2nd from right, above), described by John Muir, after reaching the summit for the first time, as "king of the mountains of the middle portion of the High Sierra, as Shasta of the north and Whitney of the south."

The weather was beautiful as we descended into the Joaquin River canyon, although warm, sticky snow frustrated our progress a bit.

Photo: Jeb Mirczak
Crossing the San Joaquin river would be a total hassle if the Forest Service hadn't built this handy bridge!  This little creek will eventually wind its way down into the central valley and provide water for thousands of square miles of California agriculture before joining the Sacramento river to the north.

We climbed a steep cleft in the canyon wall, eventually reaching Shadow Lake.

As we crossed Shadow Lake, the Ritter range loomed large above us!  Mt. Ritter on the left, Banner Peak to the right.

Home sweet home!  Our campsite on the shore of Lake Ediza had a great view of the Volcanic Ridge across the lake.  Ski-in ski-out accomodations!

As the morning sun provided a light show to the east, we climbed snow slopes on the east flank of the mountain.

Eventually, the angle steepened as we climbed a snow chute to reach the main cirque.  Powerful wind had hardened the snow under our feet into cool shapes and waves.  Not great for skiing, but neat to look at!

As we arrived at the top of the snow chute, the rest of the route came into view!  Jeb plans our route across the snowfield, up the right arm of the "Y" and to the summit in the background.

Photo: Jeb Mirczak
Crossing the snowfield and climbing into the final couloir.

6 hours after leaving the tent, two happy skiers with the high sierra laid out behind them!  

After a snack and a quick ski retrieval, we realized our day wasn't even halfway done yet.  Jeb makes challenging skiing look good, as we ski down to camp.  We stuffed the camping supplies into our backpacks and got on the road, tromping back towards our truck at the trailhead and arriving just after dark.

We'll be back to ski this one someday!