REI Community
Thunderbolt Peak
Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Austrian Arete T 
North Couloir T 
Southwest Buttress T 
Southwest Chute 1 T 
Thunderbolt to Sill Traverse T 
Underhill Couloir T 

Southwest Buttress 

YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

Type:  Trad, Alpine, 7 pitches, 2100', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: 28 August 1964 by Sten Hedberg, Alan Jedlicka, and Kim Tucker
Page Views: 1,296
Submitted By: Chris S on Nov 18, 2009

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (2)
Your todo list:
Your stars:
Your rating: -none- [change]
Your ticklist: [add new tick]
Your opinion of this PAGE:    [0 people like this page.]
last bit of the ridge proper


The Southwest Buttress is the compelling line rising from the Thunderbolt Col (splitting Dusy and Palisade Basins). 7 pitches of 5.7 (1050' ca) on a knife-edge ridge with solid rock, decent gear, and incredible location leads to a single 100' rappel left into a chute. Stop just short of actually entering the middle of the chute to climb a 4th class step up. Follow the chute, mostly 3rd with a few 4th class steps, up and left for 1000+ feet until you reach the NW summit of Thunderbolt Peak. From here you can immediately start to descend or traverse around to the summits of the Lightning Rod or the main summit of Thunderbolt.

What's great about this route is that no one else will be there. Until you reach the main summit, of course.


Best way to access this route is from Dusy Basin - hike in from South Lake to Bishop Pass - drop down to 11700' elev., and then contour around the basin until you reach the far side underneath Mt. Winchel. Early in the summer you can camp at the Col, but later in the summer you need to camp at the highest Dusy Basin Lake on its east shore or climb up and over the Col to the small pond 300' below in Palisade Basin.

The route starts at the col at the obvious crack system splitting the headwall. Head up and left, up over the "guard tower" to the first notch, then continue straight up the knife-edge ridge. Trying to access this notch from the obvious chute seen in Dusy Basin (bypassing the guard tower) is extremely loose and dangerous!

From the NW Summit, you can either traverse around to the Lightning Rod/Thunderbolt main summit (4th/easy 5th) and descend the SW Chute #1, or begin descending down and skier's left (mostly 3rd with short 4th steps) until you can reach the SW Chute #1 aproximately 2/3 up the chute.


Bring a "standard" alpine Sierra rack - one set of med. stoppers, cams 0.4-3, optional doubles 0.75-2, lots of slings. If you decide to summit the Lightning Rod, be prepared to leave a few stoppers and cord/sling material behind to get down. A 60m is perfect for the few rappels.

Photos of Southwest Buttress Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: view toward Starlight after topping out on the rid...
view toward Starlight after topping out on the rid...
Rock Climbing Photo: view toward Winchell
view toward Winchell
Rock Climbing Photo: looking toward Dusy Basin
looking toward Dusy Basin
Rock Climbing Photo: passing one of the gendarmes to avoid crappier roc...
passing one of the gendarmes to avoid crappier roc...
Rock Climbing Photo: another tower
another tower
Rock Climbing Photo: view toward Starlight
view toward Starlight
Rock Climbing Photo: looking back toward Isosceles
looking back toward Isosceles
Rock Climbing Photo: gendarme after the "guard tower"
gendarme after the "guard tower"
Rock Climbing Photo: start of the route from Tbolt Pass
BETA PHOTO: start of the route from Tbolt Pass
Rock Climbing Photo: SW Buttress of Thunderbolt Peak, as seen while app...
BETA PHOTO: SW Buttress of Thunderbolt Peak, as seen while app...

Comments on Southwest Buttress Add Comment
Show which comments
By fossana
From: leeds, ut
Jun 24, 2013

I spent a fair amount of time zigzagging to avoid loose rock on the steeper sections (was soloing). Would give it more stars if it were longer and topped out closer to the actual summit ridge. Climbing is similar to the Temple routes in terms of not being sustained, but the approach is more of a haul. Not something I would repeat.

Mountain Project

The Definitive Climbing Resource

MTB Project

Next Generation MTB Trail Maps

Powder Project

Backcountry Ski Maps & Secret Stashes
FREE Stickers · Gyms · RSS · School of Rock · Contact · About