Backcountry Trip Report: Mt. Ritter

Written by Paz Mendelevitch
Photography by Paz Mendelevitch & Danny Sandoval

Mammoth Lakes resident Paz Mendelevitch and his buddy Danny Sandoval embarked on a multi-day splitboard adventure into the Ritter Range with the goal of summiting and snowboarding down Mt Ritter.

The Ritter Range as seen from Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

The Ritter Range as seen from Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort



Walking on a dry trail with full backpacking packs, splitboards on our backs and Muir gels lining every pocket on my snow pant bibs, we could feel our legs getting heavier with every step. We were hoping to splitboard from the trailhead but underestimated what the warm weather had done to the snowpack in the Eastern Sierra.

Danny and I decided to greet Spring by snowboarding off the top of an Eastern Sierra classic, Mt. Ritter.

 With Mammoth Mountain in the distance, this was our last sign of civilization before going off the grid for a few days

With Mammoth Mountain in the distance, this was our last sign of civilization before going off the grid for a few days


 

It was a warm spring day with the sun high in the sky beating down on us. We had made it through our third river crossing when we finally came across consistent snow to splitboard on.

The snow is melting quickly so the water was plentiful but moving fast and ice cold! Danny seen here finding the route to cross one of many raging rivers we came across

The snow is melting quickly so the water was plentiful but moving fast and ice cold! Danny seen here finding the route to cross one of many raging rivers we came across


 

Knowing the snowpack was funky this year, and the tedious journey it took to get out to our basecamp at Ediza Lake, our expectations weren't too high. We were in it for the adventure of wandering into unknown conditions - snowboarding off the top of Ritter would be a bonus.

 Danny brought a 'mid style' tent to keep our packs lightweight. A floorless tent has its advantages being held up by trekking poles, but by not having a floor the wind can rip through underneath so it's always a good idea to construct walls around the tent

Danny brought a 'mid style' tent to keep our packs lightweight. A floorless tent has its advantages being held up by trekking poles, but by not having a floor the wind can rip through underneath so it's always a good idea to construct walls around the tent


 

After a good night's sleep we packed our water and food for the day and began the trek to 13,143 feet. We had brought our boot and splitboard crampons just in case we found firm conditions and needed extra traction, but the snow was feeling soft and forgiving, which got us really excited for the ride down. 

 Approaching our objective in the distance, we knew we had a long way to go, but with every step we took I couldn't help but feel giddy knowing how fun our turns are going to be on the way down

Approaching our objective in the distance, we knew we had a long way to go, but with every step we took I couldn't help but feel giddy knowing how fun our turns are going to be on the way down


 

Mt. Ritter is the highest peak in the Ritter Range, a volcanic ridge just outside Yosemite's southeast boundary. The Minarets, a set of more than a dozen sharp pinnacles in this range, together with Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak make for a striking skyline when viewed from the town of Mammoth Lakes CA

Mt. Ritter is the highest peak in the Ritter Range, a volcanic ridge just outside Yosemite's southeast boundary. The Minarets, a set of more than a dozen sharp pinnacles in this range, together with Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak make for a striking skyline when viewed from the town of Mammoth Lakes CA


 

MUIR Energy hiking healthy fuel

I was more than excited to be back on Ritter with great snow conditions. Everyone who lives in or visits Mammoth Lakes CA and Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort sees the Ritter Range and the more prominent Minarets on a daily basis. I've climbed Ritter once before in the summer time and attempted a winter ascent a few months prior to this trip, with dangerously icy conditions we decided to not summit that time. This go-around was different and we were ready to rip!

Obligatory summit selfie. My Muir gels have been with me through thick and thin, from every base camp to peak. They keep me nourished, focused and feeling good; crucial for performance and health in the backcountry!

Obligatory summit selfie. My MUIR gels have been with me through thick and thin, from every base camp to peak. They keep me nourished, focused and feeling good; crucial for performance and health in the backcountry!


 

After hootin' and hollerin' all the way back to camp, we both stuck our feet in the ice cold river reflecting on some of the most fun spring skiing we've both ever experienced. 

It was time to relax our worn bodies and have a mellow evening with good food and epic views!

I'll still look at the Ritter Range on a daily basis and reflect about how privileged we are to be able to do these things that test our mind and body in the mountains we love.

Mammoth Mountain pictured in the upper left corner of this photo, this is a perspective not many get to experience. Long walks and hard work pays off - this is a view I will not forget

Mammoth Mountain pictured in the upper left corner of this photo, this is a perspective not many get to experience. Long walks and hard work pays off - this is a view I will not forget


 

With access to some of the most beautiful terrain in the world, the Eastern Sierra is a special place that I am fortunate enough to call home.