July 7, 2005 myself and a great partner decidied to climb Sun Ribbon Arete in car to car fashion. Here are some recounts of the conditions and route.
We began hiking early from the North Fork trailhead about 3:15 a.m. The skeeters were in full control and thick, having swallowed one....The trail was free of snow and mud to third lake. On the approach we choose to cross between second and third lake over some natural logs trying to avoid the talus field to the south side of lake. All things considering it didn't save much time verse using the bridge near the hiker campsites at second lake. Total time to third lake wasn't that long, maybe 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
From the southern side of third lake the approach steepens and the snow became more of an issue. The snow mainly began near the start of Dark Star. Conditions were firm and steepening. Walking crampons proved valuable as the gully really steepens to the start of Sun Ribbon. I am not a fan of snow / ice walking and felt more comfortable with an axe in hand. However, I'm realitively sure most people would be fine without an axe.
We climbed high into the notch traversing right into a grey area of stone with a chimney to begin the route. The crack is clean with solid granite, of course some exception to small loose blocks as always in the Sierra. The first pitch is realatively steep and short, maybe 70 feet leading to third class terrian. We moved quickly simul-climbing all the 3rd - 5.7 pitches. After a few pitches you find yourself at the tyrolean.
The tyrolean slings look to be in good condition and have two steel quick links. The anchor consisted of natural, stoppers, and an old angle for pro. We went for the lasso technique putting our farm days to use. It took a few more attempts than ST suggestion to wrap the horn, but was entertaining for sure. Using a modified truckers hitch (for tension only) we were able to provide enough tension in the system to not drop far below the small ledge across the way. A couple of lockers and prusik safety and we're off.
The next section quickly brings you to a rap. Disregard the second tower raps slings using the first. you won't see where you are heading, but the rap is short and toward right of the arete. A simple traverse leads to the crux pitch. We choose to climb a wide crack, maybe 3", from the base to just over the horizon. The crack was left of the arete. We did not locate any face to crack with pitons. We suspect we did the Croft recc. with a 5.9 fist to 10a face, very thin. We cleaned two bail slings and biners....The rating was solid for 5.9 crack. Maybe it was the small pack and all, but it felt 5.10, like Donner Summit 5.9+ From here the routes travels quickly with one more rap. Be very cautious of loose boulders along the ridge. Some seem very tempting to hang onto, but are precariously balanced!
Descend towards the gully following the eastern edge of the climb. Many "looser" trails head down what seems direct, but has much more treacherous footing. You'll move quicker to the east then head south to the first rap. The first rap is short , 35' to another station. From here the rap is maybe 75-80'. I don't know because we had short line and wouldn't make it to the snow field. Rather we rap'd to a small ledge and downclimbed easy 5th class (5.2) to the notch of the gully. From here dreamy stable corn provided a soft and quick descent to third lake.
Rope: 100' of 10.2 Could have been maybe 75' and still made all raps. We think the shorter line aided with simul-climbing.
Rack: Standard Alpine rack of hexes, nuts and cams. BD purple - blue. One more Blue would have been nice for the 3" crack, but the larger hex worked in fine. Also Aliens blue-red. Six shoulder length slings folded into draws and four 1/2 shoulder length with one biner for cams.
The route is longer than we thought, esp. the approach with snow. My partner has been up Dark Star and we underestimated the approach, which is an hour past Dark Star. (Could just be out of shape in early season) Bring lots of DEET as usual. Plenty of water along approach and for after the climb. No need to carry too much water at any one time. I think this is a nice car to car route for ambitious persons.