I also find that compacted snow makes for a great tent platform (or bivy site). This is because it is easy to level out snow with an ice ax. It is also free of sharp little rocks and roots that seem to jab you in the back while trying to get comfortable in the night (they can also poke holes in your tent or sleeping gear). If you opt for this setup, always remember to have a good piece of insulation between you and the ground. This is necessary no matter where you camp, but it is even more vital when sleeping on a frozen section of the mountain. In the photo above, you can see an overview of our high camp on Mt Ritter. Eddie and I choose to use a tent as seen above. Setting up on the snow is easy to do, but make sure to use a good insulating pad between you and the snow base. Also nice, is if you have a rock outcropping available. It makes for a great place to set up your stove to cook dinner or just hang out.
Dawn, high up on a snowfield in the Ritter range is spectacular. In the image to your left, you see Mt Ritter on the left and Banner Peak on the right, in all their glory. Our summit day, our route involved gaining the saddle between the peaks mentioned above, and then completing the climb by via the north face route. We found it to be an excellent climb.
I find early mornings in the mountains to be the most opportunistic time for taking photographs. Long shadows and contrasting light are a formula for great images. Late day photos are also fantastic. The magic lighting of sunrise and sunset do not last long, however, so if you enjoy photography and you want to get the best from you hobby, don't let the early morning light find you napping.
Mike, in the photo to the right above is sorting out his gear to get ready for the next days summit attempt. It is always best to get an early start when going for any summit. This tactic is important because it will maximize the amount of sunlight available later in the day when one is tired and more prone to error.
Both Mike and Sean choose to use the traditional bivy bag for shelter on the mountain. The bivy bag uses minimal space, and they are fast and easy to set up. A good bivy bag is also a great piece of equipment to have along if you think there is a chance of not making it back to camp on a long summit day and are forced into an unplanned night out in the open. A bivy bag will provide excellent weather proofing in all sorts of varying weather conditions. Lastly, make sure you protect your food and scented items from critters who will be more than happy to lighten your load by eating some or all of your food. Bear canisters work great. They not only protect your food from bears, but I find that marmots (shown to the left above ) are very capable of eating holes through your pack or tent to help themselves. They typically live in burrows and hibernate during the winter, but they are very active at other times of the year.
They are highly social, and use loud whistles to communicate with one another, especially when alarmed. They are common visitors to camp sites in the mountains. This particular critter decided to spend some time with us during our visit to Mt Ritter. They have no problem at altitude, and I have even had them follow me to the top of 14,000 foot summits in hopes of a hand out.
Well, that's about it for our high camp experience on our Mt Ritter High Camp experience. For much more on this beautiful peak and the surrounding Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, please click on the above Ritter Menu for more adventure on the Mt Ritter/Ansel Adams Wilderness area of the Sierra Nevada.
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