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High Camp for the Northwest Approach to Starlight Peak - is most often at Thunderbolt Pass. It will give
prospective climbers a great start for climbs on the Palisade crest from the northwest. There are many campsites on ledges at
the pass, and it is obvious that previous climbers and backpackers have spent a good deal of time improving the sites. The
only problem with the "pass" as a high camp spot, can be water. In late season as shown here (September 2006), water had to
be obtained from water sources below. This can make for a lot of work in that you have to hike down though a maze of rocks,
and carry the water back up to camp. In earlier season, when there is more snow, it is possible you can get some melt off, or
you have to melt it with a stove. But all things considered, it is worth gaining the pass for climbing peaks such and Starlight or
Thunderbolt, because of the wonderful high start if affords you.
Starlight Peak - Thunderbolt Pass High Camp
Mike near the top of Thunderbolt Pass with Sean in the background. The "Pass" area is positively littered with boulders,
and the amount of work necessary to gain the pass can be ferocious with a pack. We met several climbers in the area,
and none reported having any fun negotiating the terrain. I guess it is sections like these that add to the sense of
accomplishment when climbers finally make the summit.
Sean (left) and Matt having a bite to eat at High Camp. The
rock wall behind them helps keep the wind at bay. Mountain
passes are notorious for high winds.
Above are some unmaintained camp sites on the ledges of
Thunderbolt Pass. It would certainly take a lot of hard work to
prepare a site here. Fortunately, previous climbers had
cleared several good sites in other areas of the pass (as
shown to the left). I have to say that clearing away heavy rocks
and debris after a hard days work on the mountain is not my
idea of a fun and games (even though sometimes it has to be
Mike working with the small lightweight poles of his bivy bag.
Note the bear canister to his left. They are required for Bishop
Pass Trail travel. I have never seen a bear on the eastern side
of the Sierra's, even though I have heard reports of them. It is
hard to imagine a bear having any interest in the Thunderbolt
Pass, but nevertheless, we carry the canisters and follow the
rules. They do make for good camp chairs.
A couple of wild flowers growing right out
of the rock in our camp area. It is always a
wonder to me how God can create such
beauty in such unlikely places.
Contrast of views. To the left, you see Palisade Basin from atop Thunderbolt Pass, and to the right, Dusy Basin. Both are very
barren and are obviously above timberline. Many times when in areas such as these, I feel like I am on the moon. But
nevertheless, they do have a stark beauty all their own.