Thunderbolt Peak Northeast Couloir

Big Pine, California

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Thunderbolt Peak was the last 14,000-foot peak in the Sierra to be climbed. The first ascent was made during the Sierra Club’s Underhill Camp of 1931 with a team that included Robert Underhill, Norman Clyde, Francis Farquhar, Bestor Robinson, Lewis Clark, Glen Dawson, and Jules Eichorn. Their route up the Underhill Couloirs from the Palisade Glacier is a popular climbing route but not nearly as good as their chosen descent route down the northeast glacier. On the first ascent, an intense thunderstorm almost ended the climb in tragedy and was responsible for the naming of the peak. Jules Eichorn later recalled, “At the summit, I may have climbed the monolith first or it might have been Glen [Dawson]. Anything I could climb, Dawson could, too. We climbed it free, which the others weren’t agile enough to do. Within five minutes or so, the storm moved north and suddenly enveloped the whole peak. Norman [Clyde], being much more aware and experienced, didn’t think it could happen so soon. There were sparks coming off my fingers and ice axe. I had never experienced this before, and Norman felt we should get off the damn thing immediately.”
Climbing California's High Sierra

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Climbing California's High Sierra

by John Moynier & Claude Fiddler (Falcon Guides)

Thunderbolt Peak was the last 14,000-foot peak in the Sierra to be climbed. The first ascent was made during the Sierra Club’s Underhill Camp of 1931 with a team that included Robert Underhill, Norman Clyde, Francis Farquhar, Bestor Robinson, Lewis Clark, Glen Dawson, and Jules Eichorn. Their route up the Underhill Couloirs from the Palisade Glacier is a popular climbing route but not nearly as good as their chosen descent route down the northeast glacier. On the first ascent, an intense thunderstorm almost ended the climb in tragedy and was responsible for the naming of the peak. Jules Eichorn later recalled, “At the summit, I may have climbed the monolith first or it might have been Glen [Dawson]. Anything I could climb, Dawson could, too. We climbed it free, which the others weren’t agile enough to do. Within five minutes or so, the storm moved north and suddenly enveloped the whole peak. Norman [Clyde], being much more aware and experienced, didn’t think it could happen so soon. There were sparks coming off my fingers and ice axe. I had never experienced this before, and Norman felt we should get off the damn thing immediately.”

©  John Moynier & Claude Fiddler/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Climbing
Nearby City: Big Pine
Class: Class 5 - 5.5
Local Contacts: John Muir Wilderness; Kings Canyon National Park
Local Maps: USGS North Palisade, Mt. Thompson
Driving Directions: Directions to Thunderbolt Peak: Northeast Couloir

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