American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Mt. Ritter, West Arête

United States, California, Sierra Nevada

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Claude Fiddler, AAC
  • Climb Year: 2009
  • Publication Year: 2010

The west escarpment of Mt. Ritter (13,157') stretches over the headwaters of the San Joaquin River. This impressive wall is steep and the rock suspect, but an arête leading from Ritter Lakes basin to the summit too hard to resist, especially since there weren’t any climbing routes on this side of the peak. I mobilized the smarter-with-age squad of Mort Testerman and Jim Keating. As we planned the trip, the days of living our lives out of our cars seemed a hundred years ago, but divvying up the gear at the trailhead we stepped back into a like-yesterday routine. Who gets the rack, who gets the rope, did you bring matches? No, but I brought film for the Brownie. We camped at the west end of Thousand Island Lake, ahead of the Labor Day backpacker invasion. The next morning we hiked past Lake Catherine and over to Ritter Lakes. Hiking time: two ibuprofen.

The obvious arête looked great from the lakes. From the inlet of the middle Ritter Lake we gained a couple of hundred feet to the toe of the arête. We stayed either on the arête or on the north side to the summit. Two thousand vertical feet of class five, up to 5.7, with some easier scrambling, brought us to the summit.

We made it back to camp by 6 p.m., twelve non-stop hours after we’d started. It was great to dust off the hardware of the rack and the software of our minds.

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