Finding Mojo on Mount Ritter and Banner Peak

Mountains for me. ~Tarma Designs
Mountains for me.
~ by Tarma Designs
I just love my new earrings for summer hiking. How fitting that this quote is stamped on the back of each earring.

The Ritter Range, an iconic backdrop for Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, CA has been a family tradition for many a family portrait through the years. As I was planning summer trips last winter, I looked into climbing Banner Peak and Mount Ritter early season to take advantage of glacier and snow travel. I knew snow and ice equipment would be necessary and it would be difficult with some teamwork required. After talking to my husband, Dan and son, Grant, they were all in! Grant agreed to fly in from Nashville, TN to complete our team. The timing to climb the peaks even fit perfectly into our Mammoth vacation in early June.

Some of you just might be wondering why would I decide to go on another climb that required marching up and down steep, icy terrain, especially after I had such a close call a couple of years ago. Boy howdy, I did question my sanity many a time during the trip.

Day 1 – Minaret Summit to Ediza Lake

TRIP DATE June 9 , 2016
LENGTH 11.3 miles one way (this includes 3 mile road walk from Minaret Summit)
ELEVATION GAIN 1,575 feet
TRAIL HEAD Minaret Summit parking area or Agnew Meadows Trail Head when road is open
DIFFICULTY Easy on maintained trail
BEST TIME TO HIKE Summer when snow has melted and road is open
RESOURCES Tahoe Backcountry
Piero Scaruffi
Timberline Trails

Day 1 – Our packs were heavy with boots, full-size crampons, helmets, and ice axes. Grant purchased a new camera, the Sony a6000. Many of the featured photos with Dan and I in them are taken by Grant. They are pretty special.

With the Sierra snow levels at normal, the road and shuttle bus to Agnew Meadows Trail Head, the beginning of the hike was closed until June 18th. We decided to go ahead with the trip and hike 3 miles in on the road. Snow levels were at about 9,500 and it was gorgeous.

 

Gear for Mount Ritter and Banner Peak
Gear for Mount Ritter and Banner Peak


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Mount Ritter and Banner Peak
Mount Ritter and Banner Peak (on right)

 

Day 2 – Ediza Lake to Mount Ritter Summit

TRIP DATE June 10, 2016
LENGTH about 5.2 miles round trip from Ediza Lake
ELEVATION GAIN 3,723 feet
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 13,093 feet
DIFFICULTY Strenuous on glacier, loose talus, cross-country travel, and class 2 and 3 climbing
NAVIGATION GPS and/or good map skills required
EQUIPMENT helmet, full crampons, and ice axe
BEST TIME TO HIKE Spring, Summer, Fall
RESOURCES Tahoe Backcountry
Piero Scaruffi
Timberline Trails

We headed out of camp at 6:00 am to climb Mount Ritter. We were armed with lots of maps, directions, and a GPS track I created. As we climbed, it seemed to work better to look at the conditions and plan a route together and go. As I climbed, I struggled with bad thoughts about the upcoming scary descent of the steep snowy terrain. It didn’t go away.

After celebrating on the top, Grant and Dan gleefully and quickly started down. I stepped painfully one step at a time. Grant and Dan were very kind to stomp some pretty helpful steps in. At one point, Grant even said, “Mom, I am so used to you being so comfortable on snow, you need to get your mojo back.” Well, that got me thinking. #1  I really didn’t trust my equipment anymore (it had failed me before) #2 Sliding down on snow scares the crap out of me #3 I needed a plan to fix it.

Back at camp all of us were happy to be safe and very tired.


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Mount Ritter Summit
Mount Ritter Summit

 

 

Day 3 – Ediza Lake to Summit of Banner Peak

TRIP DATE June 11, 2016
LENGTH about 4.3 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN 3,449 feet
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 12,917 feet
DIFFICULTY Strenuous on glacier, loose talus, cross-country travel, and class 2 and 3 climbing
NAVIGATION GPS and/or good map skills required
EQUIPMENT helmet, full crampons, and ice axe
BEST TIME TO HIKE Spring, Summer, Fall
RESOURCES Tahoe Backcountry
Piero Scaruffi
Timberline Trails

With a 6:00 am start again, the route up Banner Peak heads to the Banner/Ritter saddle. The approach from east is known to be difficult with a narrow and very vertical small chute to the top. Today, I felt better. I had a plan. I felt that I needed to actually use my equipment in a slide and get back trust. I needed to regain the joy of sliding down on snow. I needed to breath, relax, do the work, and take one step at a time in rhythm. It worked. Now, I do have to admit it was still scary, but better.

After reaching the saddle, the rock scramble to the top of Banner is one of my favorites. We again celebrated at the top with forever views. The weather was turning quickly with a pretty vicious storm rolling in from the east. We took the descent slowly, luckily the snow had softened a bit, but not too much.

After descending the steepest slopes, the boys decided I needed to simulate a self-arrest. After running, sliding and turning to dig my axe into the snow, they declared I needed to slide face first, turn and self-arrest. Now, that about took all the courage I had to head down in that position. It worked, my body turned, I pulled the axe in close, and I stopped. Magic.
After getting back to camp and packing up, we headed back out the way we came. It was fun to yap and reflect back over the climbs. As we walked, I felt so thankful for my men, their patience, kindness, skill, and the willingness to go along with all my crazy plans.


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Chute up to Banner/Ritter Saddle
Chute up to Banner/Ritter Saddle

 

Hey! I climbed these peaks. ~Hat by Ann Piersall
Hey! I climbed these peaks. ~Hat by Ann Piersall

13 Comments

  1. frank watts

    Was at Ediza this summer…nice to see it with snow…strong work to to conquer Ritter and Banner…thanks for sharing.

  2. Really nice photos. I think you timed it perfect. Just enough snow. Congratulations.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      I think we did too! I also think the snow makes it easier to navigate vs. talus and boulders. 😄

  3. Wow! What a trip! I am impressed with how brave you all are. And kudos to your photographer. His photographs are amazing. He captured the scenery beautifully, and I love all the fun angles and interesting perspectives of your team. Thanks for sharing!

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Ah thank you. We love taking photos and think it adds to our hiking experience. So fun to reflect back.

  4. Meant to say I liked your hat. I think Drop N Roll has one of a different scene?

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Very observant. The hats are made by Ann Piersall. She has lots of different screened Sierra landscapes. I think Drop n’ Roll’s is of Rock Creek. I saw this hat at the Mammoth Ranger Station and knew I needed it after I climbed the peaks.

  5. Wow, I’m amazed at how resilient you are. Like BeeKeeper above, I’m impressed with Grant’s comment to his mom. And I’m even more impressed at your reaction. I’m super stoked for you that you found your Mojo. Cause’ you certainly help us all with ours. You three are all truly badasses! I admire the family playing together, it must be an incredibly joyous thing for sure.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Yes, I could have told him to take a big leap and he didn’t know what he was talking about. Believe me there was a split second I thought that, but I took a deep breath and responded very differently. Thank you Warren for your thoughts.

  6. I am glad to see the new helmets in your recent photos, and I have been wondering how you were doing facing the inevitable fears after your icy fall last year. I’m sure Dan and Grant wanted to make sure you had your mojo back before heading out again on the HSR; practicing in real time situations is so crucial. I’m no mountaineer, but I imagine It will feel natural again, probably with just enough caution to be safe : )

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      Lynda,
      Those helmets are very light, protective, and comfortable. They are the Black Diamond Vapor. There are no excuses anymore that they are heavy and leave them home and you can hardly feel them on your head, so they won’t stay in the pack. A win. I like that you said “Feel natural again”. You pinpointed just what was missing. Very intuitive.

  7. BeeKeeper

    I really like Grant’s statement. I too need to jump back on my winter skills horse and grab my mojo before it forever haunts. I was invited back to Shasta in a couple weeks and my mind said hell no. After reading this maybe I’ll say hell yes.

    PS loving Grant’s new camera photos.

    • Christy "Rockin'" Rosander

      It was very wise. A woman would be very stupid to dismiss a caring bit of advice, no matter how hard it is to take. Go do Shasta, but take it at your own pace. Balls out craziness is not smart. His camera is very cool. I was tempted to get one for this summer, BUT it weights more than double of my LUMIX. The weight factor won!

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