American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Contiguous United States, California, Sierra Nevada, Mt. Ritter, South Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Mt. Ritter, South Ridge. As we climbed the Southwest Ridge of Mt. Ritter, Ben Craft and I were amazed at the dramatic ridges dropping off to the west and south from the summit. After doing some research, it appeared that the section from Ritter Pass to the summit of Mt. Ritter—i.e., the south ridge—had not yet been traversed. On October 2, 6 a.m. found us at Ritter Pass just as it was light enough to climb without headlamps. Four hours of simul-climbing over fourth- and fifth-class rock on the crest of the ridge got us to the prominent tower that looms over the Southeast Glacier. After this, the ridge doglegs west and hooks up with the last part of the southwest ridge. Most of this first part of the ridge was classic Sierra ridge climbing, with long exposed fourth-class catwalks broken up by steep steps and gendarmes.

The technical crux of the route came with the high tower that connects the south ridge and the southwest ridge. The climbing was typical of the area: smooth (sometimes slick) rock with many razor-cut edges, and a bit runout in places because of the lack of continuous crack systems. After climbing the tower, we downclimbed its west side (fourth class) to the site of our bivy a few weeks earlier on the southwest ridge, then continued over familiar ground to the summit of Mt. Ritter. We summitted at 4:30 p.m. and got back to camp just as it was getting dark.

The South Ridge (V 5.8) of Mt. Ritter is a less serious climb than the Southwest Ridge, with less continuous exposure and more third-class terrain. Still, it was long enough that we thought it deserved a grade V, as we climbed almost non-stop for ten and a half hours simul-climbing most the way. A party using standard pitch-by-pitch climbing techniques would be hard pressed to complete the route in a day.

Craig Clarence

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