Type: Trad, Snow, Alpine, 5280 ft (1600 m), Grade IV
FA: John Ohrenschall & John Mathias - 1958
Page Views: 35,625 total · 229/month
Shared By: Cory Harelson on Aug 10, 2009
Admins: Chris Owen, Lurker -, Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

86 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick


This super classic route takes you on a tour of five 14,000ft summits. Start by climbing Thunderbolt Peak. Many options exist; we climbed Southwest Chute #1, which went at 4th class. This deposits you at the base of the summit block. Gaining the top of the summit block involves a few exposed moves of 5.9, and is the crux of the entire route. There are ample places to build an anchor for your belayer, but there is no pro until you get to the top (only about 15 feet). A fall would either be factor 2, or (more likely) you would land you in a pile of boulders before the rope came taught. Either way it wouldn't be good. Belay from bolts on top.

From Thunderbolt, downclimb and then follow the ridge to a small tower. Pass the tower by downclimbing to the left, cutting right eventually to gain some slabs (some exposed class 4), and then climb up to the summit of Starlight. The summit block of Starlight was the only other place where we belayed (although many may feel a belay is justified at other places along the traverse). The summit block is called the "Milk Bottle" for obvious reasons, and goes at 5.4. Great photo opportunity here.

From Starlight, some more exposed downclimbing leads to a small gap in the ridge. We rappelled into the gap and then pendulumed across to the ledge on the other side. After this follow exposed ledges out right, which supposedly lead to a class 4 climb to the summit of North Palisade. We didn't find the class 4 route, and ended up on terrain that felt 5.5 or 5.6 and very exposed.

From North Palisade a short scramble leads to the top of the chimney above the U-Notch. One double rope, or two single rope rappels lead to the top of the U-Notch. Cross the U-Notch, and once again follow exposed ledges (class 4) out right, and then some exciting class 4 straight up to the summit of Polemonium.

From Polemonium, a class 4 downclimb leads to the boulder field on the back side of Sill. Follow the boulders to a notch in the ridge a couple hundred feet below Sill's summit. Drop your packs here and scramble up to tag Sill's summit. Don't forget to admire the view while you're there, it's quite impressive.

Head back to your packs, and head down the last class 4 downclimb of the day. At the bottom of the downclimb, head right on ledges to Apex Notch. From the notch head down the L-shaped Couloir to the Palisade Glacier, then through Galey camp to the Sam Mack Meadow Trail. It's all trail and mostly downhill from here all the way back to Glacier Lodge.

Finally, at Glacier Lodge exchange high fives and have yourself a victory beer, you just summited one-third of California's fourteeners in a day!

A couple of thoughts:

-We shuttled by dropping a car at glacier lodge and then driving to South Lake to start the hike.

-After reaching the summit block of Thunderbolt it took us 9 hours to reach the summit of Sill. Granted we had 6 people so belaying at the two technical summit blocks, and the rappels, took awhile. I'm sure this can be climbed much faster by a competent party of two.

-The last for-sure place to fill up water is at a lake just after Bishop Pass. The next place to get water was Sam Mack Meadow, which we reached about 14 hours later. So bring plenty of containers to fill up at Bishop Pass!

-Locating the trail from Gayley camp to Sam Mack Meadow can be tricky, especially in the dark. Make every effort to be on the good trail before sundown.


Park one car at Glacier Lodge, outside of Big Pine. Then Drive to South Lake, outside of Bishop ~55 miles. Start early and hike up the good trail to Bishop Pass. From Bishop Pass cross country to Thunderbolt Pass. From here, Southwest Chute #1 starts just around the corner to the left.

After you reach Sam Mack Meadow, follow the good trail for about 8 miles past 3rd, 2nd and 1st lakes down to Glacier Lodge where your car will be waiting.


A few nuts and cams to build anchors at Thunderbolt and Starlight. A light rope. Ice axe and/or crampons for the L-shaped Couloir. Approach shoes, and rock shoes for whoever gets to lead the summit block of Thunderbolt. A few slings in case you need to beef up rappel anchors.