The last fourteener in the Sierra to be climbed, Thunderbolt Peak is the next peak northwest of North Palisade, it too is on the main Sierra crest. It's summit monolith if often the crux of the climb - a 5.9 move over and onto a slab. It's safer if the monolith is draped with a rope first. As such it's one of the hardest summits in the Sierra to get to.
The name "Thunderbolt Peak" commemorates an incident during the first descent, when a nearby lightning strike gave Jules Eichorn cause for concern.
The eastern approach:
From Big Pine on 395 drive up the road to Glacier Lodge; trailhead is signed on the right.
Hike up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek past Cienega Mirth, Lon Chaney's old cabin, and First, Second, and Third (spectacular views of Temple Crag) Lakes, then instead of continuing on to Fourth Lake turn south and up into Sam Mack Meadow. This is where I usually camp (6 miles, 3,400 ft of elevation gain). People staying more than a couple of days may want to cross the creek and head up the glacier trail to primitive sites either below the Palisade Glacier Moraine, or on the Moraine (1.25 miles, 1,100 more feet of gain).
Another posting of the Thunderbolt to Sill Traverse (but misnamed the Palisade Traverse) is posted here.This super classic route takes you on a tour of five 14,000ft summits. Start by climbing Thunderbolt Peak. Many options exist; we climbed Southwest Chute #1, which went at 4th class. This deposits you at the base of the summit block. Gaining the top of the summit block involves a few exposed moves of 5.9, and is the crux of the entire route. There are ample pl...[more]Browse More Classics in CA
You can also approach T-bolt from the west. Hike up over Bishop Pass, then boulder-hop southeast behind the Palisades. It's possible to camp at a prominent saddle a couple miles from Bishop Pass. I strongly recommend bringing a six-pack of the beverage of your choice and stashing it in a handy snowfield near camp.
Ascent is via an obvious scree gully (usually pretty dusty in the summer). One 5.easy pitch (rope optional) will put you at the foot of the summit boulder problem.
My friend and I did the traverse from Winchel Col to Mt.Sill 3 or 4 years ago climbing T-Bolt along the way. Probably one of the best climbs I've ever done in the Sierra. Climbing onto the summit pinnacle really only involves a move or two and is mellow for 5.9. Clip into the summit bolt with your daisy, stand up and......WhhooooooooWEEE!