This was Joe and Candy’s third trip this year. They are in line for “client of the year” award!
But we are starting to run out of the known classics so we are digging deeper to find the lesser known routes of the Sierra. We have done Banner via the easy route from the Ritter-Banner col but the east face is big so there has to be something good there. The East Corner is described as being longer and harder than the east Buttress on whitney so we opted for the NE Buttress which is a little shorter and allegedly easier.
We talked our way past the inquisitors at the entrance to the Devils Postpile road and hiked in via the Shadow Lake trail on Saturday. This is a longer way to get to Garnet Lake and involves more ascent and descent but it is very scenic and if you have not been in the area before gives great views of the Minarets. We arrived in the evening at Garnet Lake and camped on the North side of this stunningly beautiful lake. We left camp at dawn, about 5.00am and continued around the lake and ascended grassy ledges around the lower cliffs. The guide indicated two 4th class pitches here but we easily got onto the small snowfield at the base of the east face. The route description in Secor’s book and Moynier and Fiddlers “Sierra Classic’s” paraphrase each other and it seems that one cribbed from the other. The line on the photo in Sierra Classics is way wrong and no way does the route go to the right of the main buttress as shown. So we decided to trust Secor’s description and started to the left of the main buttress. Two pitches of 5.6 to 5.7 led up some water smoothed rock in a gully that turned out to be pretty solid. Above this the angle kicked back and became grassy and ledgy for 400 feet to the base of a headwall that cuts across the whole face. At this point the route description said to gain the crest of the buttress and go up to the summit ridge. We decided to go left into uncharted territory since it looked easier. The crux was a overhanging 5.8 corner with great protection for Sp. A few strenuous stemming moves were involved, but the holds were great and the ledge at the top perfect. One pitch above led to the summit ridge and we traversed this to the top, getting there at about 2.00pm. To descend we had two options; to Lake Katherine and then 1000 Island Lake, back over a pass to Garnet Lake. This seemed too much work so we went back towards Lake Ediza and then cut over a small saddle on the east side of Ritter to a small hanging glacier which led to slabs and grass directly back to Garnet Lake. By far the best way to go!
We had hoped to hike out that night, but we were back too late so we got up early and left at sunup, hiking in the cool of the morning and were back in Mammoth in time for breakfast at the Breakfast Club.
All in all the trip could not have gone better.

Ritter and Banner from the outlet of Garnet Lake The NE Buttress from the approach Ascending the snowfield at the base of the NE Buttress The easy section midway up the route Candy climbing with 1000 Island Lake behind Candy looking aprehensive below the crux 5.8 corner Joe looking a little happier above the crux On the summit of Banner