The Ritter Range Circumnavigation

Anyone who has driven Highway 395 towards Mammoth has seen the Ritter Range on the skyline with the large bulky peaks of Ritter and Banner alongside the serrated spires of the Minarets. Even better is the view from up on Mammoth Mountain where the range and its peaks dominates the skyline and in winter the snow covered slopes and valleys just ask to be skied. This is a new trip for us and one that is not traveled at all by others despite the proximity to Mammoth and the ease of access into this area.

Our goal is a loop starting in Mammoth and along the way hopefully summiting the main peaks of the range. The travel itself is not particularly difficult and so this trip will appeal to all levels of skier. If you want to explore the area and travel through one of the most beautiful areas of the Sierra this is an ideal trip. If you also want to ski a couple of the most spectacular peaks in the range as well then this opportunity is yours as well and not to be missed. This is a fast paced tour but with straightforward skiing and only one steep pass crossing, it is not as extreme as some of our longer trips. Packs will also be as light as we can make them so we can travel smoothly and efficiently.

Here is video of the Minarets Circumnavigation trip that SP and Jen did just for fun.


We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000 feet) just prior to the trip. Spending a night or two in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground would do the trick.

SMC does not rent ski equipment, but we work with Mammoth Mountaineering (760-934-4191) to get you set up on the correct equipment. MMS has a very wide range of rental equipment that is probably the best you will find anywhere in California. All gear is current state of the art, well tuned and rental fees are deductible if you buy a set up from them. (We highly recommend renting before you buy so as to find what suits you best, since a full setup is pretty pricey). We can coordinate the rental and suggest that if you can you arrive Mammoth the night before and get fully set up since boot fitting can take some time.

Return to Backcountry Spring Tours

After meeting and sorting gear and equipment we travel to Mammoth Mountain and park in the backcountry parking at the Mammoth Inn.

We take the snow covered road to Minaret Vista and then start our long descent down towards Agnew Meadows heading up the San Joaquin River, turning up the steep (and probably melted out) Shadow Lake Trail.

Day Two sees us taking a spectacular shortcut across Volcanic Ridge and then climbing beneath the steep south face of Clyde Minaret into the heart of the Minarets.

A short steep pass takes us to the little visited west side of the range and to camp at Amphitheater Lake. From here we link together small passes and head to camp at Lake Catherine. We ski across Thousand Island Lake visiting a few of the islands and then drop into the head of the San Joaquin River near Agnew Pass. We could ski straight down the Rush Creek drainage, but to keep things interesting and the views expansive we cut over San Joaquin ridge and drop down Fern Creek to our shuttle pick up at on the June Lake Loop.

Program Prerequisites:

You need SMC Intermediate Ski Skills or better for this tour. You should be able to ski intermediate ski area runs confidently and be proficient at kick turns, traversing on 30 degree slopes, side slipping and Christie turns all while carrying a pack of about 35 pounds. Prior winter camping and mountaineering skills are advised. You will be traveling up to seven miles a day and gaining up to 3000 feet a day so a very good level of aerobic fitness is required.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, van shuttle, permits, all necessary group gear, avalanche beacons, tents, kitchen gear and dinners, lunches and breakfasts (you bring snack items).

We do not include accommodation in the pricing but can make local suggestions for you.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details and itinerary
    Equipment list
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

Ritter Range tour map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.