MT RITTER (13,143 ft.)

Named by Whitney Survey in 1864

Also Range, Lakes, Pass

"The Mountain was named by the Whitney Survey in 1864. 'Ritter is the name of the great German geographer, the founder of the science of modern comparative geography.' (Whitney, Yosemite Guide-Book, 1870, 101.) Karl Ritter (1779-1859) was a professor of history at the University of Berlin when Whitney was a student there during the 1840s.

John Muir made the first ascent in October 1872. 'I was suddenly brought to a dead stop, with arms outspread, clinging close to the face of the rock, unable to move hand or foot either up or down. My doom appeared fixed. I must fall. There would be a moment of bewilderment, and then a lifeless rumble down the one general precipice to the glacier below. When this final danger flashed upon me, I became nerve-shaken for the first time since setting foot on the mountain, and my mind seemed to fill with a stifling smoke. But ... life blazed forth again with preternatural clearness. I seemed suddenly to become possessed of a new sense. ... Then my trembling muscles became firm again, every rift and flaw in the rock was seen as through a microscope, and my limbs moved with a positiveness and precision with which I seemed to have nothing at all to do. Had I been borne aloft upon wings, my deliverance could not have been more complete. ... I found a way without effort, and soon stood upon the topmost crag in the blessed light.' (Muir, Mountains, 64-65.)

The mountain is named on Hoffmann and Gardiner's map, 1863-67. 'Ritter Range' appears on the fifth edition of the Mt. Lyell 30' map, 1922. Neither the lakes nor the pass are named on the 15-minute quad. There are four lakes, two large and two small, west of Mt. Ritter and south of Lake Catherine. The pass is over the range 1.2 miles south-southeast of Mt. Ritter."
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada

"From their base camp on Illilouette Creek they [Clarence King and James Gardiner] explored further among the Merced Peaks, then crossed to the San Joaquin and followed up the North Fork of the river. They made an attempt to climb Mount Ritter, but failed on account of unfavorable weather. King said that he 'climbed to a point about as high as Mt. Dana, and had still above him an inaccessible peak some 400 or 500 feet high.' Inaccessible, again! Whitney records that 'Messrs. King and Gardner discovered a bed of ice on the east slope of Mount Ritter. But it is doubtful,' he adds, 'whether these residual masses of ice can with propriety be called glaciers; they have no geological significance as such at the present time, however interesting they may be as possible relics of a once general glaciation of the highest part of the range.' Thus both the ascent of Mount Ritter and the identification of glaciers had to wait for John Muir."
- Francis P. Farquhar, History of the Sierra Nevada

[In 1892] Solomons and Peixotto teamed up with [Joseph N.] LeConte for an excursion south toward Mount Ritter, that dark beacon that looms immediately southeast of the present Yosemite National Park boundary. Following in the footsteps of John Muir, the three youths climbed the peak from the east; it was only the third time its 13,157-foot summit had been reached. Pleased with this conquest, the trio returned to Yosemite Valley."
- Steve Roper, Sierra High Route

  • Chapter 4 from The Mountains of California (This is the full text of Muir's climb of Mt. Ritter)
    Other Emblem Peaks named by Whitney Survey:
  • Mt. Abbot
  • Mt. Brewer
  • Mt. Clarence King
  • Mt. Goddard
  • Mt. Humphreys
  • Mt. Lyell
  • North Palisade
  • Mt. Whitney
  • Mt. Williamson