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Mount Ritter - Ansel Adams Wilderness timberlinetrails.net
Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the
mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He
will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths."
Mt. Ritter is the highest peak in the Ritter Range (13,143 feet). It is a volcanic ridge west of the Sierra Crest, just
outside Yosemite's southeast boundary. The Minarets, a set of more than a dozen fantastically sharp pinnacles in this
range, together with Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak make for a striking skyline when viewed from the Ediza Lake area.
According to Secor, "Mount Ritter is perhaps the most prominent peak in the High Sierra, and can even be seen from
certain summits in the southern portion of the range." It is easily recognizable (in conjunction with its neighbor Banner
Peak) from as far north as the peaks around Sonora Pass, and far into the southern parts of the range, from the
Palisades to Mt. Goddard, and some points even further. For high point seekers, Mt. Ritter is also the high point of
Madera County, one of the more arduous of the 58 county high points in California.
Having spent many years in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I have to say that the Mount Ritter/Banner peaks and
surrounding areas, are some of the most beautiful terrain in all the range.
It is of little wonder that John Muir placed this section
high on his list of places to visit. He considered Ediza
Lake (image to the right) with it's spectacular views of
the rugged Minarets to be the most beautiful lake in the
Sierra Nevada Mountains.
But Mt Ritter and Ediza Lake are just the beginning
of the story, because this area of the Ansel Adams
wilderness is chalk full of things to do, and there are
many forks along the shadow lake trail that lead to all
sorts of adventures for climbers, fishermen,
backpackers, hikers, and every other outdoor activity
you can think of.
Shadow Creek that runs along most of the shadow lake
trail, is more than just a meandering creek, for it produces some of the most beautiful cascades in all the Sierra Nevada.
The Creek is a reliable source of water and beauty all year round due to the fact that it receives plenty of snow during
the winter months. There are permanent snow fields and glaciers that keep the area lush and green during the warmer
Shadow Lake Creek (shown in the above two images) is much more than your
ordinary creek, it is more like a beautiful river of cascading water in my book!
If you don't feel like putting in all the hard work that it takes
to explore the back country, you can always hire a pack train
to do the job. Dan in the image to the right is on his way to
retrieve the gear of a party we saw latter on hiking down the
mountain carrying practically nothing. They told us that they
were able to enjoy the wilderness for a week (up at Ediza
Lake) with luxuries such as gourmet food, lawn chairs with
umbrellas, and every other type of amenity you can think of.
Things that would be prohibitive to carry are made possible
by taking advantage of this type of service. And if you don't
feel like hiking at all, the mules can take both you and your
gear to just about any destination in the Sierra. The pack
station for the Ansel Adams Wilderness is located near the
base of the Shadow Lake Trailhead.
As mentioned in other areas of Timberline Trails, the Sierra
Nevada sports a trail system that takes a back seat to none,
and the Ansel Adams Wilderness area of the Sierra is no
exception. The John Muir Trail, the River Trail, and the
Pacific Crest Trail, run parallel through the above wilderness
areas , and each (in it's own way), show off unique beauties of
this most special of regions in the Sierra Nevada. To the left
you see an image of Garnet Lake with Mount Ritter and
Banner Peak looming in the background.
Along with the beautiful scenery are cool split log
walkways that allow hikers to easily negotiate water
crossings and have a bit of fun while doing it. The
images to the right and the one just below are a couple of
examples of these structures along the John Muir Trail.
The Ansel Adams wilderness was originally established
as the Minarets Wilderness in 1964. The Minarets are
a jagged ridge of peaks that some consider as the most
spectacular massifs in all the Sierra. The minarets (shown in
the image to the right) are part of the Ritter range, and make
up an exposed roof pendant of metavolcanic rock that
provide a spectacular skyline from both the east and west
side of the Sierra. In 1984, with the California Wilderness
Act, the area was enlarged and the name of this wilderness
was changed to Ansel Adams, honoring the famous
Plenty of fantastic camp sites along the various trails, but
there are areas that are restricted to camping. Sites around
Shadow Lake is one of them. Also be sure to follow the
rules such as keeping your site at least a hundred feet from
water sources. You also need to stay at least 100 feet from
any trail. Make every effort to camp in spot that is free of
vegetation or in an established site. That way you do not
trample down fragile plants or wildflowers. Try and get
setup before sundown so you will be able to find a nice flat
spot. There is nothing worse than groping around in the
dark and ending up getting a rotten nights sleep because
you had to settle for a sloping campsite.
The lakes that line the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness region are fantastically beautiful. Ruby Lake
shown in the above left hand image is both wonderfully remote and peaceful. In the above right hand photo you see
backpackers descending to gorgeous Emerald Lake. It is located just southeast of Thousand Island Lake.
If you are a fisherman, I hear that spectacular
Thousand Island Lake area (photo to the right)
has some of the finest fishing in the Sierra
Nevada. Located near the intersection of the
John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, it is hard
to imagine a more beautiful place. You can see
majestic Banner Peak at dawn in the left upper
portion of the image.
So in conclusion, I would consider Mt Ritter,
Banner Peak, and the surrounding Ansel Adams
Wilderness region as one of the finest
landscapes in all the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
No wonder John Muir loved this area so much.
It is all part of God's wondrous creation.