Trip Report
Thunderbolt to Sill Traverse, Palisades July 2008
Friday February 12, 2010 7:44am
Thunderbolt to Sill Traverse, Palisades July 2008
E had wanted to do this traverse forever, it was on the wishlist he had written when he was eight years old just behind the tobbogan descent of Mt Everest. As I was relaxing in the car in Camp 4, checking what gear we would need to climb the Nose, E came around the corner, ecstatic. I knew what had happened... they had changed the weather forecast, no thunderstorm for 3 days, which meant no NIAD attempt, but the Thunderbolt to Sill traverse was to be tried... he confirmed my guess. I was psyched too, of course. So we put the bags back in the car and drove down to bishop, for our "last meal"... mexican! :-) We slept in the front yard of E's friends, and left the next morning. Because we had no ice axes etc, we decided to approach by Bishop Pass.



Credit: freerider


We anyways would not be trying to break CTC records... The approach was fairly uneventful, the landscape is the most awesome I could imagine, and finding Thunderbolt pass was easy. We bivied on a flat spot, near some water in the middle of a talus field, a few hundred feet below Thunderbolt pass. We put our food on top of a bloc only reachable by a 5.7 mantle, not sure if that would keep the bears away. ;-) As we tried to identify the gully we would scramble up first to reach Thunderbolt we encountered the first little problem... which mountain was thunderbolt.



Credit: freerider


Smart as we were, we had brought a shitty black and white picture showing three mountains. After looking closer we figured that thunderbolt was the middle one.Already feeling the altitude a little bit, we went to bed early. Waking up at 1.30am we were bursting with psych! We had some caldo di pollo or whatever this wierd chicken taste soup is called and at 2.30 pm we started moving towards our first goal, Thunderbolt. We reached the little pass on the crest before dawn, and waited there, astonished by the beautiful sunrise. Climbing thunderbolt is a pretty mellow, but sort of scary boulder problem. The bolts on top make at least the descent easy.



Credit: freerider


E had made a bet, he would "make it rain" from the top of thunderbolt...I didn't even know what that meant before that day, but I offered him 2 dollars so he could fulfill his dream. We even found the dollars back after looking for them.



Credit: freerider




Credit: freerider


We decided that rapping would be the fastest way to get down Thunderbolt, which was a mistake. As we pulled our rope after the second rappel, it got stuck. I climbed the easy fifth to where it was stuck, belayed by a prussik. The rope was wedged deep in a crack so I got inside to when suddenly I was stuck with my helmet. Sh#t, Major deal to get out. Jacket a little wasted too... Arrgh I cut the rope, leaving a metre up there in the crack and asked E to pull the rope, Not my surprise it was stuck again. When it rains, it pours. Downclimbing was scary... at least I got the rope out this time. Having lost a fair amount of time we quickly reached the Milk Bottle, the 5.5 summit block of Starlight.




Credit: freerider



After climbing it, we reached the little notch between Starlight and North Pal, and changed backpacks... So I put my slings around a horn and got rid of the backpack. First E jumped across notch, than me, just to see the slings still hanging o the horn. Getting back seemed complicated so we left our slings and a draw, and continued to North Pal.E was leading and going the wrong way, ending up in a terrible, loose corner with no pro. We managed to get up, albeit slowly. From North Pal 2 Abseils got us into the U Notch, from where an easy scramble leads up Polemonium. Here we met someone hiking and got a few pictures.




Credit: freerider





Credit: freerider





Credit: freerider






We quickly reached Sill afterwards, but after a few mishaps and taking our time for fotos etc it was already 4pm... As we were both feeling the altitude a little bit, we decided to rest for half an hour. A couple was up there, there was a wind blowing, and just like in the movies the wind blew the lady's hat off down the steeper side of the mountain. And just like in the movies the hero that was needed to save the hat, and the lady, was there, and her companion took the risk of scrambling down 20 feet of third class to give the lady her hat back. E and I had other problems...




E's wrestling mask pic

E's wrestling mask pic
E's wrestling mask pic
Credit: freerider

... gettig this picture

On 4.30pm we made our way down. Once we were in the little valley we walked on the extreme right to enjoy some shade. We then had to cross the whole valley to get down into the next one. There was snow slowing us down too, until we finally arrived on the foot of Potluck Pass. The guys on Sill had told us there was a trail going up they'd seen. I don'T doubt they were right but we couldn't find it. But why are we climbers? ;-) So we scrambled up some 4th class terrain until 100ft before the top, a short steep wall above a large ledge stopped us. While E went for a poo I bouldered up it, which felt like smeary 5.9, and waited for E, now relieved because I saw the end of Odyssey was near. As E tried to grab the last sloper, his foot slipped and he was unable to hold my hand as I tried to pull him up...
He fell of, landed straight on his back and "chopper time..." went trough my mind. Luckily he just had a few bruises and he quickly got up climbing an athletic steep flake instead of the smearing. Whooo.
According to the map, we would get right back to our bivy by not losing, nor gaining any height. The plan of walking straight accross the talus field was a good one on the map, but a bad one in reality... We encountered the first liitle gorge we could not cross after no more than 300 ft... It was 7 pm by now, and we were getting hungry and tired. We walked up and down, up and down, up and down... forever... At some point it was 8.40 pm and we still hadn't found our bivy. I was getting pretty pissed at the idea of not finding our bivy because it was dark. A slight aggression arose in me, or maybe it could be called a ferocious determination. Anyways I pretty much stormed up as high as I thought the bivy was, encountered another "gorge" , jumped-climbed down, up the other side and was just 50ft from the bivy. I sat down... happy. I called E, and when he had arrived 5 minutes later it was pitch dark. I had my spicy chicken jamaika paella lots of drinks and we slept like babies until the mosquitos woke us up around noon...
the next few days we spent eating and drinking for several hours a day...
good times!




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freerider
About the Author
freerider is a big wall climber from Luxembourg - Europe currently in Innsbruck, and psyched to be back in the States soon!

Comments
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rhyang

climber
SJC
  Feb 12, 2010 - 11:27am PT
Nice work ! I've wanted to do this one for some time.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Feb 12, 2010 - 04:35pm PT

Good stuff, thanks for sharing. How would you return to your bivy if you were to do it again?
freerider

climber
Author's Reply  Feb 13, 2010 - 05:37am PT
you are welcome.
I figured that going down reversing from Sill to Polemonium and downclimbing back into the notch between Polemonium and North Pal would be the smartest, and then descend the Gully. You would have a pretty direct way back down... then I would descend all the way down(to the lakes) over the talus not trying to cross it, and go straight up. I also would bivy at Thunderbolt Pass because it is so much easier to find and way less mosquito infested then closer to the water... you just walk up the talus even in the dark and find your bivy spot...
BUT I have not tried going down that gully ... but it seems to me that if it is not filled with snow, it should be ok.
I can only recommend this climb, no matter what way you descend...
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Feb 16, 2010 - 03:28am PT
Thanks, freerider, for the response. Maybe this summer if I get the chance.
freerider

climber
Author's Reply  Feb 17, 2010 - 11:46am PT
one more thing that would have made our hiking alot easier...
avoid the talus fields, even they seem to be nice shortcuts. You easily fall when one of the bigger boulders moves, and it is a waste of energy, all the jumping.
you will have the time of your life, so get on it!
cheers.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Mar 17, 2010 - 01:27am PT
Bravo. Proud stuff. I always see Joe Simpson in my minds eye when I'm thirsty and lost in big talus.
nopantsben

climber
  May 21, 2013 - 11:48am PT
just reread a few of my tr's, and sort of like this one..
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  May 21, 2013 - 01:15pm PT
Good report & stellar route! We ended up camping under mt gayley cuz we left too late in the afternoon & dicked around on the approach. At first we were bummed cuz we had to pick our way all the way across the basin/talus field on the approach in the am, which felt like it took forever- when we summitted sill though we were stoked to be back at camp in about 1.5 hrs from the top. I may have climbed the same corner as u guys too on north pal. So pretty up there......
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