Mount Ritter North Face

Mammoth Lakes, California

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The Whitney Survey named Mt. Ritter in 1864 for Karl Ritter, the noted German geographer. Josiah Whitney, the leader of the survey, had been a student of Ritter’s at the University of Berlin in the 1840s. Clarence King made an attempt on the peak in 1866 with his friend James Gardiner. After being turned back by foul weather, King described the peak as “inaccessible.” Unfortunately, this is just one more example of King’s poor sense of judgment in the mountains, as thousands of climbers have proved otherwise. John Muir made the first ascent of Mt. Ritter by way of the steep north face. While climbing the steep face, Muir reached a point where he could neither move up or down. With his arms and legs outstretched on tiny holds, Muir began to panic. “Suddenly my danger broke upon me. Faith and hope failed, suffered eclipse. Cold sweat broke out. My senses filled as with smoke. I was alone, cut off from all affinity. Would I fall to the glacier below? Well, no matter . . .” “Then as if my body, finding the ordinary dominion of mind insufficient, pushed it aside, I became possessed of a new sense. My eyes became preternaturally clear and every rift, flaw, niche and tablet in the cliff ahead were seen as through a microscope. At any rate the danger was safely passed, I scarce know how, and shortly after noon I leaped with wild freedom upon the highest crag of the summit. Had I been born aloft upon wings, my deliverance could not have been more complete.”

Mount Ritter: North Face Professional Review and Guide

"The Whitney Survey named Mt. Ritter in 1864 for Karl Ritter, the noted German geographer. Josiah Whitney, the leader of the survey, had been a student of Ritter’s at the University of Berlin in the 1840s. Clarence King made an attempt on the peak in 1866 with his friend James Gardiner. After being turned back by foul weather, King described the peak as “inaccessible.” Unfortunately, this is just one more example of King’s poor sense of judgment in the mountains, as thousands of climbers have proved otherwise. John Muir made the first ascent of Mt. Ritter by way of the steep north face. While climbing the steep face, Muir reached a point where he could neither move up or down. With his arms and legs outstretched on tiny holds, Muir began to panic. “Suddenly my danger broke upon me. Faith and hope failed, suffered eclipse. Cold sweat broke out. My senses filled as with smoke. I was alone, cut off from all affinity. Would I fall to the glacier below? Well, no matter . . .” “Then as if my body, finding the ordinary dominion of mind insufficient, pushed it aside, I became possessed of a new sense. My eyes became preternaturally clear and every rift, flaw, niche and tablet in the cliff ahead were seen as through a microscope. At any rate the danger was safely passed, I scarce know how, and shortly after noon I leaped with wild freedom upon the highest crag of the summit. Had I been born aloft upon wings, my deliverance could not have been more complete.”"

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Mammoth Lakes
Class: Class 3
Local Contacts: John Muir Wilderness
Local Maps: USGS Mt. Ritter, Mammoth Mountain
Driving Directions: Directions to Mount Ritter: North Face

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May 2018