Ascent of Thunderbolt Peak on 1947-08-11

Climber: Frederick Johnson

Others in Party:Oliver Kehrlein
Ian Mackinlay
Cricket (Ann) Strong
Jack Graham
Dick Kauffman
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, August 11, 1947
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Thunderbolt Peak
    Elevation:14003 ft / 4268 m

Ascent Trip Report

Thunderbolt Peak was the second 14,000' peak to be climbed by members of the Sierra Club Base Camp at Fifth Lake, Mt. Sill being the first on August 8. This morning, with Oliver Kehrlein in the lead, six of us set out for our challenging objective. We climbed to Sam Mack Lake. skirting the left shore to a point directly above Robin's Egg Lake. At first we had planned to follow the prominent western snow couloir, which we later learned had been climbed by a party on July 4. However, we decided instead to take the more interesting Underhill route, which was climbed on the first ascent of Thunderbolt in 1931. This latter route led up from the Palisade Glacier to the deep notch which separates Thunderbolt from the Northwest Peak of North Palisade, To reach it, it was necessary to traverse across the top of a solid rock crest which jutted out of the moraine above Robin's Egg Lake and thereby reach the Palisade Glacier. The change in climbing route cost us several hours, as it was by now 11:00AM. We donned crampons and continued to the bergschrund at the foot of the double couloir below the col.

Although the bergschrund had opened to a width of 25 feet at this point, Oliver succeeded in finding a firm ice bridge which took us to a nearby rock island. Here we left crampons and ice axes and, with Jack Graham leading, proceeded up the ice-covered left-hand branch of the couloir. Directly above the rock island, Jack did a neat piece of ice scrambling, using only his bare hands and nail boots. He found a good belay pint, straddling a large rock, and belayed up Oliver, who deepened the "steps" with his ice-axe, which he had wisely retained. Oliver led us to a point halfway up the couloir, where we turned and climbed over precipitous rock slabs to the top of the arete. From here the going became more difficult, as the rocks along the arete were loose and a slip on either side would send the climber several hundred feet straight down. We followed the knife edge with extreme care until finally reaching the col.

At the col we advanced up the large slabs to the west. They were very smooth, but numerous slanting cracks etched on them helped greatly. We traversed left to the top of the slabs and, after a false start up a blind chimney, arrived at the aptly named "Thin Man's Crack." Here it was necessary to wedge oneself up with the knees and hands against one side, and back against the other. The crack was about 50 feet long and opened out just below the summit ridge. From the crack the traverse along the jagged crest was accomplished without difficulty.

The summit is surmounted by a featureless monolith, which we did not attempt to scale. There was a tin-can register at its base placed by Dave Brower and Hervey Voge. There was also a record by the recent party of July 4. Cricket became the first girl to climb Thunderbolt Peak. After only a few minutes on top, we returned to the col for lunch, and then, with rappels down the rock, made a difficult descent faster and easier. It was a tired crew that trudged into camp, where spirits were revived with the hearty dinner of steak and fresh peaches and cream that had been saved for our late return. (Thanks again to Ian for the detailed TR.)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3216 ft / 980 m
    Route:Underhill Couloir
    Trailhead:Fifth Lake  10787 ft / 3287 m
    Grade/Class:Class 4
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope

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