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Mt. Ritter 13,143′ & Banner Peak 12,936′

Mt. Ritter – 13,143’
Banner Peak – 12,936’

In May of 2002 John and I skied Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak in a 3-day tour. We tried to go up the North side of Mt. Tom in the dark, behind some of his friends, and bailed due to the chaos of a big group and unknown conditions. We were hot to go get something done that same day, so John took us in search of his friend Powder Dan in Mammoth. Somehow John got Dan out of bed, convincing Dan to pack up his big backpack to join us on the mission. It went something like “we need you, we don’t have a map, get up”. He got up and we salvaged the day by moving forward into some sweet mountains. The gate to Agnew Meadows was closed at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Parking lot and we scraped our way down Red’s Meadow Road on patchy snow and ice.

After a really beautiful skin past raging snow melt creeks, we arrived at Shadow Lake with plenty of daylight to lounge around. We heard rumors of Glen Poulsen meeting us there at some point. We had Dan’s amazing Husky Malamute Wolf type dog, who had a mind of his own. He climbed the peaks with John and I, while Dan did them in a different order. We must have smelled better. And in the morning, we were woken up by Glen skinning past us at daybreak. He was going out to ski Ritter in a day and wasn’t waiting around for us. We tossed our stuff together and caught him at Ediza Lake for a minute, before he disappeared. I assume John could tell that his pace wasn’t going to be my pace. This was my first glimpse at an “every man for himself” ski tour. There was no avalanche danger, crevasses, or challenging weather. So, I got it.  Maybe stick together as a group if the members need that or expect that, but the four of us had different ski descent lines on our mind. And it’s kind of exciting to go up a peak by yourself. You might even play it safer.

Dan left Shadow Lake and skied the couloir off Volcanic Ridge right above us. It looked amazing. I don’t know where Glen went, probably up to Ritter, like John and I had pointed ourselves toward. And we all met back in a few hours at Ediza Lake. We didn’t have a map or the guidebook handy before choosing Ritter and Banner. John knew Ritter would go to the top on snow, so we did that one first. From that summit we could see enough snow on the southwest side of Banner to ski from that summit. Score! I could tell he wasn’t expecting that. I later read in the Moynier guidebook that he doesn’t expect that to be a common thing either. So the next morning we headed out from our camp at Shadow Lake to ski Mt. Banner and found the same great corn snow conditions right from the top. This was one of the few High Sierra Peaks where John telemark skied with me. His skis were those yellow K2 AK Launchers, which were huge looking at the time. They were super soft and floppy, and only 90mm at the waist. The name was cool, but the skis sucked. Next K2 came out with the Jerry Launcher graphic, which I sold every pair I could get in the shop. I saw a pair on eBay for a million dollars years later when Jerry Died. I’m sure they sold maybe a thousand tops.

After skiing the second peak on day three, we packed up from Shadow Lake and skied down to Agnew Meadow to find the Red’s Lake Road. There was barely any snow on the road three days earlier, and it was totally snow free by now. We were out of food and started the uphill schlog, walking the road up to the car. At one point John fished around in his pack and found an unopened 1lb bag of skittles. It was a score for both of us, but also a bummer for him to think he had skied 3 days with that at the bottom of his pack. I should have put some rocks in his pack too back then. I wonder If I could go his speed now that we are old and broken. Or how many pounds of Skittles he would have to carry for me to match him.

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