Trip ReportThunderbolt to Sill Traverse, Palisades July 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
... 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...
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