Trip Report
Thor Peak - Stemwinder TR
Tuesday September 29, 2009 1:14pm
Stemwinder is a route on Thor Peak in the Mt. Whitney region. Secor's listing is I, 5.4. I'd seen trip reports over the years and figured it might be a nice easy backcountry climb with a not too long approach.

My friend Laura was interested in climbing this one with me, so she secured us a dayhiking permit for the Mt. Whitney trail and we set out on Saturday morning around dawn.

Laura heading up
Laura heading up
Credit: rhyang

Me hiking up
Me hiking up
Credit: Laura Molnar

Approaching the south face of Thor Peak
Approaching the south face of Thor Peak
Credit: rhyang

Near Bighorn Park we cut across the marsh towards the slabs below Thor Peak's south face. Turns out the brush was covered in frost and the ground was marshier than we expected, so our approach shoes got a bit damp :) Next time we'll have to head further up the trail and cut right to avoid the swamp.

Bighorn Park
Bighorn Park
Credit: rhyang

An old snag marks the start of the route -

Dead tree near the start
Dead tree near the start
Credit: rhyang

The route heads left up a ledge. There is a 10-12' chimney near the beginning though. While Secor says this is third class, we roped up and I belayed Laura, since it was pretty awkward and sort of a grunt. Maybe it can be climbed around.

First part of route
First part of route
Credit: rhyang

Me heading up first chimney (class 3-4)
Me heading up first chimney (class 3-4)
Credit: Laura Molnar

We headed further left and found the crux of the route, a 5.4 chimney with a piton near the bottom. Various trip report authors seem to think this is kind of a sandbag, and it gave me some pause .. I decided to take my pack off and put my right side in, left foot in front, right foot in back. Wow, it really works ! I backed up the piton with a nut and found some more pro higher up. I think the thing is only about 12' high really, but it was kind of intimidating. Must be those old-school ratings again :)

Crux chimney - 5.4 ?
Crux chimney - 5.4 ?
Credit: Laura Molnar

I belayed on some mid-sized cams in a crack further up, then instructed Laura to tie in about 20' from the end of the rope so we could haul the packs up. On belay, climb on !

She wasn't having much fun with this thing, and in fact she flipped me the bird once she got within sight :) But she came through like a trooper and hauled the packs up.

We stayed tied in since we'd read that there might be some class 4-ish terrain for about a pitch, and the rock was pretty grainy in places. I think with the two chimneys I'd managed to unnerve poor Laura too :(

I found a nice horn to sling, then brought Laura up.

Laura on belay, above crux chimney
Laura on belay, above crux chimney
Credit: rhyang

We headed up another two pitches on my 50m x 8.5mm rope, the last of which was pretty much third class, with a lot of rope drag. Soon we were at a nice flat notch, near the pale red pinnacle noted in Secor's description -

Me dragging up the rope on some class 3-4
Me dragging up the rope on some class 3-4
Credit: Laura Molnar

Pale red pinnacle from Secor's description
Pale red pinnacle from Secor's description
Credit: rhyang

If I were doing this again I'd probably put the rope away after the chimney and not get it out again until the pinnacle.

Here we slung a horn and turned a corner to the fourth class slab traverse. It was not really hard, just unnerving. The holds were good, but lots of exposure. Exciting !

Fourth class traverse after pinnacle
Fourth class traverse after pinnacle
Credit: rhyang

Exposure !
Exposure !
Credit: rhyang

I headed up a crack and probably should have traversed right sooner, into an easier gully, but did so after finding another piton. This led to some unpleasant rope drag. I eventually lassoed another horn, then put Laura on belay. Oh man, she was not liking this at all ! I can't blame her.

I brought her up, and fortunately by now we were pretty much done with the route. No more rope work. Some third class got us into a sunny spot and we had a snack, then scrambled up to the summit plateau.

Me scrambling up to Thor Peak's summit plateau
Me scrambling up to Thor Peak's summit plateau
Credit: Laura Molnar

Summit plateau of Thor Peak
Summit plateau of Thor Peak
Credit: rhyang

It was getting a bit late, and we wanted to get down to the Portal for burgers & beer, so we decided not to tag the summit (Laura had been there multiple times anyway). We did have one last thing to take care of though ..

Me and Laura being silly on Thor Peak's summit plateau
Me and Laura being silly on Thor Peak's summit plateau
Credit: rhyang

Laura led us down the SE Couloir, which was a loose scree-fest but pretty much uneventful. It had been an enjoyable day, and we returned in time to chow down on Portal burgers and chat with Doug. We had a blast.

Sunday we headed up a fun third class route from Lone Pine Lake to Candlelight Peak with Laura's SO, Sean, who had come up from socal. From Candlelight we got a good view of the route we'd climbed -

Stemwinder (I, 5.4) on Thor Peak, as viewed from Candlelight Peak
Stemwinder (I, 5.4) on Thor Peak, as viewed from Candlelight Peak
Credit: Laura Molnar

  Trip Report Views: 3,247
rhyang
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Comments
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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Sep 29, 2009 - 02:00pm PT
Awesome TR. i Was talking with Doug at the Whitney Portal Store and he mentioned how that route used to be an old classic but didnt seem to get much traffic anymore. Now i want to check it out!
Karen

Trad climber
So Cal urban sprawl Hell
  Sep 29, 2009 - 04:56pm PT
rhyang, that was an interesting TR with great pictures. I went up Thor a few years ago but we went up one of those random scree areas up from Lone Pine lake-that was a slog. Your way seemed to be cleaner and more classic.
The summit plateau is a b*tch to me, argh...but is worth the view!!!!

Thanks for posting the TR :)


Karen
MooseTracks

Mountain climber
Bishop, CA
  Sep 30, 2009 - 07:34am PT
Yup, Laura did not have as much fun on this one, but now that I look back on it, I want another shot. Grrr... Brave, Brave Sir Robin, you were the best, and SO did not deserve the rating of #1. Can YOU forgive me?

Rack this one up to a bad day, I guess... :-(
rhyang

climber
SJC
Author's Reply  Sep 30, 2009 - 10:23am PT
My dear Princess Buttercup, I was thinking the same thing .. we should give this one another shot sometime !
BiletChick

Sport climber
Bishop, CA
  Sep 30, 2009 - 03:15pm PT
You guys are great! Nice TR Rob, thanks....very entertaining as always!!!

(not a climber...yet!?!)
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Jan 22, 2013 - 11:09am PT
Definitely gonna check this out this summer. Looks like fun in a great place.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jan 22, 2013 - 11:21am PT
How did you get down?
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Jan 22, 2013 - 11:32am PT
I've been hanging out with Myles & Amy -- who probably flipped your burgers that afternoon -- and mixed in with talking about all the badass stuff they've been doing, like the 11-day 5.12 FA on Keeler, they were raving about what a cool route Stemwinder is!

So it's on my list...
J. Werlin

Social climber
Cedaredge, CO
  Jan 22, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
Nice line. Cheers.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 22, 2013 - 12:30pm PT
Awesomeness!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jan 23, 2013 - 12:50pm PT
That boggy park looks like a beautiful spot to sped a few hours.

Where would we be w/o the Sierra.
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