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The Thunderhead

Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Alice S 
Arcing Arm Hairs S 
Deluge S 
Derecho S 
Drizzle S 
Dust Devil S 
F5 S 
Flash Flood S 
G.A.S. S 
Gale Force S 
Golden Showers S 
In On The Killtaker S 
Jack Twister S 
Katabatic Cataclysm S 
Monsoon S 
Nimbostratus S 
Rainbows in the Dark S 
Reigning Pussies and Bitches S 
Ripsnorter S 
Smoke and Mirrors S 
Spring Showers Bring May Flowers S 
Squall, The S 
Stormchaser S 
Tempest, The S 
Virga S 
Zephyr II S 

The Thunderhead Rock Climbing 

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Administrators: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Andy Busse, Mike Madsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Greg Parker on Nov 13, 2002
This Afternoon

48° | 32°

54° | 43°

72° | 33°

36° | 22°

42° | 31°

54° | 38°
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Sick New Routes That Are Not In Cronin's New Guide...


The Thunderhead is the place to go for the biggest concentration of hard routes in Spearfish Canyon. The wall is very steep and most of the routes are bouldery. Expect difficult starts on sidepulls, underclings and pockets followed by sustained pocket pulling. A stick-clip is required to clip the first bolt on most of the routes. You'll understand why when you see the wall. Often times, you are in the crux at the first bolt and there is no stopping to clip. So, if you're feeling burly, come prove yourself on these Spearfish Canyon testpieces.

Getting There 

To get to the Thunderhead, turn right at Cheyenne Crossing (toward Newcastle) and park at the Sunshine Wall parking area, which is the large pullout on the left about two miles up the road. There is a sign at the back of the pullout that reads "Saunterer's Solitude". Walk up the road about 200 yards until you come to a residence. Directly across the road from their driveway is a faint climber's trail that meanders up the steep hill. A short five minute hike takes you right to the center of the wall.

Climbing Season

Weather station 2.9 miles from here

26 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',8],['3 Stars',10],['2 Stars',6],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in The Thunderhead

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for The Thunderhead:
Nimbostratus   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport, 70'   
Monsoon   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   
Ripsnorter   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 50'   
Zephyr II   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a     Sport, 60'   
The Tempest   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   
Alice   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 60'   
Virga   5.13a 7c+ 29 IX+ 29 E6 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   
In On The Killtaker   5.13b 8a 29 IX+ 30 E7 6c     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   
Deluge   5.13b 8a 29 IX+ 30 E7 6c     Sport, 60'   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in The Thunderhead

Featured Route For The Thunderhead
Rock Climbing Photo: Beta photo. The climber is on Alice.

Deluge 5.13b 8a 29 IX+ 30 E7 6c  South Dakota : Spearfish Canyon : The Thunderhead
This incredible route climbs up the faint black streak to the left of Virga. Like most routes at the Thunderhead, the beginning is the business. A steep, strenuous start leads to a jug but no feet. Leaving the jug is a series of deadpoints between small, flat pockets where you could easily blow it. You'll get a decent rest with an awesome thread pocket before tackling the final sequential 5.12 headwall on beautiful stone. ...[more]   Browse More Classics in South Dakota

Photos of The Thunderhead Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: the wall straight on
the wall straight on
Rock Climbing Photo: Joel on Alice, 5.13a.
Joel on Alice, 5.13a.
Rock Climbing Photo: A view from the left hand most side of Thunderhead...
A view from the left hand most side of Thunderhead...

Comments on The Thunderhead Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 18, 2013
By Mike Cronin
Mar 25, 2004
Five new routes at the Thunderhead. Far left is Mesocyclone 5.11c/d 13 bolts, Spring Shower Brings May Flowers 5.9- 5 bolts, Lee's Route name unknown 5.10b/c 10 bolts. The other two are right of the next five routes. They go up the arete left of In on the Kill Taker.The left one is Dust Devil (project), other is Bear's Cage5.11c. It shares the first bolt with Ripsnorter 12b. Stick clip the first two on Bear's Cage. ENJOY
By Mikel Cronin
Nov 15, 2006
Saw Blake try it again two summers ago and he could not do the moves. He was rethinking the grade.
By Greg Parker
From: Cardiff, CA
Nov 16, 2006
Speaking of possibly upgrading F5, I think the majority of the routes at the Thunderhead need their grades solidified. Not necessarily upgraded, but solidified. I know that comes with time and more ascents. However, Jeremiah once told me that Stormchaser was the "hardest" 13a he's ever done. What does that mean, 13b? And recently Lee said he thought The Tempest was 13a!! And I think In On The Killtaker is on the hard side of 13b, a sentiment echoed by Dale Snyder, who got the 2nd ascent. He said it could be called 13c and he wouldn't argue. And that's his favorite angle to climb! I do think Gale Force and Alice are right on at 13a.
Anyway, I'm just rambling about my daydreams because it's 45 degrees and raining out in Utah and I'd much rather be climbing these awesome routes.
By Joshua Dreher
From: Bremerton, WA
Nov 20, 2006
I personally think Alice is more like 12c. I thought it was easier than some of the twelves at the Shadowlands.
By Greg Parker
From: Cardiff, CA
Nov 20, 2006
Ha. That's funny. I argued with people for a long time that it was 12d and not 13a. Sounds like you would agree. Apparently we are the only two that think that though, and it's been repeated many times. I finally gave in. I think 12c is pushing it. What routes are you comparing it to at the Shadowlands?
By Joshua Dreher
From: Bremerton, WA
Nov 21, 2006
I'm thinking of Cronin's route called Sweet or Ya or something of that note. It has a huge reach off an undercling pocket. Alice took me two tries but this route took me like six! Who know's? Grades are confusing!!!
By Greg Parker
From: Cardiff, CA
Nov 21, 2006
Yeah, I hear you. Grades are obviously very subjective. Sometimes certain routes just flow for you. Master Blaster (12c) at the Mohican took me forever to do, but I did Mephistopheles (13a/b) on my 2nd try. Who knows. But I do know that Master Blaster isn't harder than Mephistopheles. I guess you have to take your strengths and weaknesses into consideration.
By Mikel Cronin
Jan 3, 2007
The guy who sent Witness Protection was Matt Wendling from Ten Sleep. He is Alli Rainey's husband. He tried a few other routes and thought they were hard (Mechanical Animals, Lee's route on The Hole in the Wall, Sting). The hard routes are still waiting for you to come back and send them Miah.
By Reedrombo
From: Home is where you park it
May 18, 2011
So what is the route that runs right up the huge overhanging prow to the left. Literally the largest roof at Thunderhead, but I don't see the line on here, but it's obviously bolted.
By Greg Parker
From: Cardiff, CA
May 21, 2011
I believe the line you're looking at is an old project bolted by Blake Workman. He called it The Zonal Flow and I'm pretty sure it has never been redpointed. It goes straight out the steep roof to the left of Ripsnorter (and the other two 5.11s right there), followed by a shorter black vertical headwall. Is that the one you're thinking of?
Sep 15, 2013
Thunderhead receives some positive press. Congrats, Greg. Louder Than Eleven 100 days trip
By Greg Parker
From: Cardiff, CA
Sep 18, 2013
Thanks for the link Brent. That was cool! Too bad they got the name of the 2nd route wrong... It actually looks like he climbs a hybrid of Derecho and Deluge. I'm not sure how Chris ended up doing Derecho, so that could be the way I guess. Very cool regardless.

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