This a description of the Thunderbolt to Sill Traverse (not the Palisade Traverse) which is also posted here
This is a ridge traverse from Thunderbolt Peak to Mt. Sill that encompasses five fourteeners, North Palisade being the highest. This is an incredible way to bag all of these summits in a long day of moderate climbing and scrambling. Most people will want to have a separate day for the approach and another for the exit.
Thunderbolt peak, Starlight Peak, North Palisade, Polemonium Peak, and Mt. Sill.
Thunderbolt can be approached from the East via the Palisade glacier
, or the West from Thunderbolt Pass. We approached from the West, so this description follows that. Once you've gained the T-bolt ridge, it's all the same.
The easiest way to gain the ridgeline from the west is by Southwest Chute no. 1 as described by the High Sierras book. It is the obvious couloir northwest of Thunderbolt, and the first couloir south of Thunderbolt Pass.
In early July the snow in the couloir was firm and steep enough that crampons would have been useful, but my partner and I were able to get by with just approach shoes and one set of YakTrax between the two of us. A mountaineering axe was almost essential, however.
Once a ways into the couloir, head right over some exposed 4th class rock and into a gully(LOOSE!) for a few hundred more feet until the ridge is gained and one can see east and into the Owens Valley.
Some easy 5th class rock leads to the base of Thunderbolt summit. 20 feet of exposed (you could hit a ledge and stop, you could bounce off and into the abyss) bouldery, unprotected moves gain the true summit. This can be bypassed. A safer way is to lasso the summit and batman your rope.
Continue along the ridge and either scramble down (4th) or make one rappel(less than 100'). Continue up 500 feet of 5.5, bypassing gendarmes to the Starlight Peak area. 20-30 feet of bouldery but less exposed 5.9 gains the Starlight true summit(bolted anchor).
Continue across a windy notch and around a gendarme to the North Palisade massif. We traversed to the East side and went up a somewhat scary and insecure snow-filled chimney (5.7) to some more scrambling to the North Pal summit.
More scrambling or rappelling into a notch, and then some 5.6/5.7 up to the summit of Polemonium Peak. This felt like an endurance crux, as it's the last technical section.
From the summit of Polemonium, do a last bit of scrambling and then a long 2nd/3rd class slog up Mt. Sill.
The descent from Sill back to Thunderbolt Pass is obvious but circuitous, long, and involves more uphill than one would imagine for a descent.
In July we needed minimal clothing -- I was comfortable with softshell pants, a light insulating baselayer for my torso, a light windproof/waterproof shell, a beanie and light insulating gloves. We had a beautiful day, but the ridge was relentlessly windy.
The climbing is moderate, just be prepared for a long and physical day of routefinding!