Thunderbolt Peak


By: Patty Kline

Jane Edginton, an SPS Senior Emblem holder, and I hired a guide to take us up this beautiful peak, rated the 3rd hardest on the SPS list by RJ. Secor. I was to become a senior Emblem holder the following month, this Mountaineer Peak" being one in my count. Originally Donn Cook and Ron Young were to come along but they had to cancel. We did it from the west, the easy side. I met John Fischer, our guide, at 6:00 am on Saturday morning July 9th at the South Lake parking lot. We hiked out together, meeting Jane en route just north and below the top of the 11,972' Bishop Pass. She had come in a day earlier. The three of us then hiked over Bishop Pass, leaving the trail down just a little from the top of the pass. We proceeded cross country to the east end of Dusy Basin, where we set up camp that afternoon. Our 12,000' campsite had everything. It was in a large, pat, sandy area above an alpine meadow near a swiftly flowing stream. My day hike in was an easy 8 miles with 2000'of gain.

We set out early the next morning about 5:30 am to go over Thunderbolt Pass (12,3201 located less than a mile to the southeast. After Thunderbolt Pass we were right in line for the southwest chute #1 as described in RJ.'s book "The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails." This was an ideal day for the climb. The temperature was the best the Sierra can offer in the summer. There was no wind and no clouds. In fact, I don't remember any clouds to speak of the entire day.

Our guide had us on belay about one-third of the way up the chute on a traverse over narrow scree covered ledges to avoid the large chockstones blocking the main chute. Near the top and on our second belay consisting of a 50' class 4-5, a man appeared out of nowhere. He was "walking up" to the top of the wall to give a belay to his climbing friend. The 2 men beat us to the summit. The guy who walked up the wall proceeded to lasso the summit block with their rope in order to climb that famous, awkward, short and steep monolith of the 14,003' T-Bolt summit block. What was amazing was that these two men were day hiking T-Bolt from South Lake. They were from Carson City, Nevada. I didn't get their names, but one of them was day hiking all the 14,000 footers of California. John used their rope to get himself up the summit block, then set up a rope for us.

Jane and I used etriers on the 59 side (according to RJ.) on the summit block. Roper rates this as 5.8. When ones uses etriers it doesn't really matter. It was a great moment for me to sit on top of the summit block on the first try of a peak I have wanted to do for the last 7 years. I hammed it up while Jane took pictures on my camera. Just as Jane got on the tip top, another party arrived. They were from San Diego and included our friend and Senior Emblem holder, Judi Richardson. They used our rope to get to the top, and set up their own equipment. I spent about 1 hour at the summit area, climbing, snacking, watching others climb and taking over a roll of pictures. Way to go, only the first of three parties needed to do the sometimes problematical lasso of the top.

Judi's group later joined us below the 50 wall for lunch before heading our separate ways. We got back to our camp in the late day sun to enjoy the views of beautiful rounded granite rocks and many lakes of Dusy Basin. John left for South Lake that day and Jane and I packed up the following day. I said goodbye to Jane at Bishop Pass because she was climbing Mt. Goode, and I hiked out and drove home I had a great 3 day trip, and got another 14,000 footer.

SPS Trip Report Index | Sierra Peaks Section