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Mt. Ritter Solo Ski Tour, March 2007




Part 2 of the Story -- Summit and Bail


(1) Yes, in case you were wondering, that is a Chevron cotton utility work shirt, found at a thrift shop on Valencia St. in 2001 complete with "Rich" name patch. I probably would've paid $700 for it, but only had to shell out $20.

(2) AT Anonymous, my alter ego, turned 38 on this day, so we're here to celebrate his birthday, just the two of us.

Went to bed with a righteous sunset, and woke to much of the same. The magic hour, ho hum....

Skied down from camp, past Nydiver Lakes, to the flat valley below the B/R-saddle. Here's the route up. Pretty steep and refrozen corn at this hour, so a mandatory switch to crampons.

Up the first 1,000', the views southward open up. Not even close to the summit yet, and can already see Abbot and Bear Creek Spire (in the middle), Gabb, Hilgard, and even Mr. Darwin on the far right.

Up the SE Glacier until I reach the two chutes leading to the summit snowfield. The left one is a no-go. With this weather, the right one looks like it has just a few days left, but is still climbable/skiable. I decide to check it out.

A pretty steep climb ("had to be like 70 degrees *minimum* bro-bra!!") and I'm in view of the summit. I'm dragging at this point: it is about 100 degrees cooking on the snowfield, and what keeps me going is the sight of perfect carpets of Anso IV grade-A California super-stylie corn all around me. I stagger to the summit.

And bask in the views...

Spinning around to the north...

Looking west towards Yosemite Valley and the backside of Half Dome.

Had to get a shot of Mono Lake over Banner, even though bcrider once told me (quite validly, I would add) that "Tufa shots are sooo played out dude."

First one to sign in this year. Looks like the last group had a birthday too. [In case you are wondering, AT Anonymous signed on the next page in the register, but in invisible ink]

I ponder busting out the cell phone to call Mitch, who is most certainly skiing Mammoth 10 miles away right now ("Hey Mitch, dude, look to your left! I'm waving at you dude!"). But it is 11:50am and I've got some birthday cake to get to. Time to drop. Grrr....

Cue the Sting tune!

You'll remember me when the west wind moves
When you are getting gnarly
Youll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As you shralp the fields of corn

Chute still goes. Quite thrilling, I might add!

Stoked but tired.

The lower half of the line. Had to bank hard right on the descent since in my hypoxia I nearly forgot the 800 foot cliff band.

After a lunch break in the sun, I skinned back up to camp and packed up. Headed back the way I came. Back at Garnet Lake. Sorry about the weather.

Stripped the skins above Thousand Island Lake and skied more corny goodness down to the lake. Here, conditions were simply perfect for speed skiing. Very tough to beat the feeling of being deep in the backcountry on a perfect day, in stellar surroundings, with no soul around, and just reeling off the miles. A great day to be alive indeed. Was able to kick and glide or ski downhill until below Agnew Pass. A quick skin up and had my last view of Ritter/Banner.

Pleasure turns to pain when I get down to Gem Lake. My fear was realized -- the nice solid lake I crossed the day before was now looking super suspect. Somehow I had to get my way back over to the dam without an epic. Oh well, at least there's an 800 foot corn field before I get there.


Fears realized as I get to the lake. It was like a lunar landscape. The entire south shore had "whoomphed" and collapsed on the hollow pockets underneath. Those things sticking out are tree stumps that popped out when the snow collapsed. Huge snowchunks were cracking and sliding into the lake. Hmmm... Starting to look very Type II-ish here.

My old tracks along the shore now disappear into a blueberry slurpee, requiring me to do some mixed climbing along the shore, alternatively scratching my way up rock or postholing up to my waist. If not for how stoked I was an hour ago at Thousand Island Lake, this would be a true Type III experience. All things considered, I rank it a solid 2.9 on the modified AT Anon stoke meter.

Several calamities ensue, most of which are more annoying than life threatening, and none of which I shall repeat here. Scaling of dams, negotiation of cables, much thrashing of limbs, waltzing with the sagebrush (a classic Sierra spring pastime) and some additional postholing, but at last I reach my cached sneakers and the snowline. Then it gets surreal as I am greeted with the sight of Big Thunder Mountain.

Which unceremoniously dumps me into a nuclear power plant (ok, I'm just kidding about that).

High fives and beers with AT Anonymous followed, then a drive back to Squaw Valley to see the family for my birthday cake. The Sierra Wave was rocking the sky over Antelope Valley as I banged a left over Monitor Pass. Sunset over the Central Sierra peaks was a fine conclusion to another successful quasi-solo trip with my alter ego.

Rock on.


Trip Map (click for full size)



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