On Saturday ten Ski Mountaineers met at 7:30 am at the Rush Creek trailhead on the June Lake loop. We decided to start there instead of at Mammoth since the road to Agnew's Meadow was still closed. Our group consisted of Nancy Gordon, Owen Maloy, Reed Moore, Alvin Walters, Richard Contreras, Steven Turner, Dana Pearce, Wim Burmaister, Dane Cawthon, and Reiner Stenzel. At 8:30 am we hiked up toward Agnew Lake, crossed the dam at Gem Lake, and fmally skied up to the Clark Lakes where we had lunch at 1:30 p.m.. Owen's lingering cold prevented him from continuing with us and he stayed with Nancy at the Clark Lks while the rest of the group continued to Thousand Island Lke. We snow camped near the still frozen-over lake. Our expectation that the rest might catch up late in the evening or next morning did not materialize. In fact, they wisely skied out on Sunday.
On Sunday our ski tour started at 8 am. At the South end of 1000 Island Lke we ascended a saddle (3,100m) beyond which we dropped down to Genet Lke. Continuing south toward the Nydiver Lks we were confronted by a long ridge with impressive cornices. We chose the easiest looking chute (~40 degree slope) at the eastern end of the ridge which unfortunately created a significant detour to get back to Ritter and Banner. In retrospect we should have ascended just below Banner which would have saved time and energy. Around noon we were at the base of Mt. Ritter. The snow was getting soft, wet avalanches were running, and we were facing a challenging 3,000' climb without ice axes, and certainly a late return. Thus, we decided on a more realistic goal, i.e. to ski the Ritter-Banner saddle and to climb Banner Peak.
This turned out to be a very enjoyable tour, especially the telemarking out of the saddle to Lake Catherine and from North Glacier Pass down to 1000 Isld Lke. We thereby completed a circumnavigation of Banner Peak which looked impressive from all sides. By 6pm we were back at camp.
During the night the weather changed and on Monday, Memorial Day, we were in the midst of a significant snow storm. Route fmding in whiteout without tracks became a challenge. Lightning and thunder accompanied us near the Clark Lks, and a "short cut" from the Clark Lks to Gem Lke turned into a long struggle along the Southeastern shore of Gem Lke to the dam which we had to cross. In pouring rain we hiked out. Memories of such Memorial Days at Mt. Shasta came back. When I unpacked at the car, water dripped out of my camera, thus there are no pictures from this trip. Owen and Nancy made the right decision to get out on Sunday. But except for the last day it was a fine ski tour and there are plans to go back to ski Mt. Ritter next year.
Thanks to many leaders for their help, especially to Nancy who assisted in place of Howard and then took care of Owen, and our third assistant Alvin whose route finding skills were very helpful.
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