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The Southwest Buttress is the compelling line rising from the Thunderbolt Col (splitting Dusy and Palisade Basins). 7 pitches of 5.7 (1050' ca) on a knife-edge ridge with solid rock, decent gear, and incredible location leads to a single 100' rappel left into a chute. Stop just short of actually entering the middle of the chute to climb a 4th class step up. Follow the chute, mostly 3rd with a few 4th class steps, up and left for 1000+ feet until you reach the NW summit of Thunderbolt Peak. From here you can immediately start to descend or traverse around to the summits of the Lightning Rod or the main summit of Thunderbolt.
What's great about this route is that no one else will be there. Until you reach the main summit, of course.
Best way to access this route is from Dusy Basin - hike in from South Lake to Bishop Pass - drop down to 11700' elev., and then contour around the basin until you reach the far side underneath Mt. Winchel. Early in the summer you can camp at the Col, but later in the summer you need to camp at the highest Dusy Basin Lake on its east shore or climb up and over the Col to the small pond 300' below in Palisade Basin.
The route starts at the col at the obvious crack system splitting the headwall. Head up and left, up over the "guard tower" to the first notch, then continue straight up the knife-edge ridge. Trying to access this notch from the obvious chute seen in Dusy Basin (bypassing the guard tower) is extremely loose and dangerous!
From the NW Summit, you can either traverse around to the Lightning Rod/Thunderbolt main summit (4th/easy 5th) and descend the SW Chute #1, or begin descending down and skier's left (mostly 3rd with short 4th steps) until you can reach the SW Chute #1 aproximately 2/3 up the chute.
Bring a "standard" alpine Sierra rack - one set of med. stoppers, cams 0.4-3, optional doubles 0.75-2, lots of slings. If you decide to summit the Lightning Rod, be prepared to leave a few stoppers and cord/sling material behind to get down. A 60m is perfect for the few rappels.
BETA PHOTO: start of the route from Tbolt Pass
BETA PHOTO: SW Buttress of Thunderbolt Peak, as seen while app...
gendarme after the "guard tower"
last bit of the ridge proper
looking back toward Isosceles
view toward Starlight
looking toward Dusy Basin
passing one of the gendarmes to avoid crappier roc...
view toward Starlight after topping out on the rid...
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 24, 2013
I spent a fair amount of time zigzagging to avoid loose rock on the steeper sections (was soloing). Would give it more stars if it were longer and topped out closer to the actual summit ridge. Climbing is similar to the Temple routes in terms of not being sustained, but the approach is more of a haul. Not something I would repeat.