Peak(s):  "Thunder Pyramid"  -  13,932 feet
Date Posted:  06/26/2016
Modified:  06/28/2016
Date Climbed:   06/25/2016
Author:  Jon Frohlich
Additional Members:   JChitwood, fepic1
 If at first you don't succeed try again  

Image


When I started climbing peaks a long time ago I honestly never thought I'd attempt something like Thunder Pyramid. I probably didn't even know that mountains like Thunder existed. Or if I did they were so far removed from what I thought I could do that I never even considered them as a possibility. As I've narrowed down my list of remaining centennials I was left with a choice. Either decide that I was done with the list and call it good or take on the hard ones. Last year I attempted Thunder and had to turn around at 13,500. After that climb I was filled with conflicted emotions about whether I wanted to even try it again. As winter went by and summer approached I decided that I was willing to take another shot at it. At least this time I knew what I was facing and hopefully as a snow climb it would make it easier. Not that Thunder could ever be called easy.

Fepic1 and JChitwood agreed to join for the second attempt. We parked our cars at the West Maroon parking lot to get some sleep and got a nice visit from the rangers before we went to bed. They advised us of the regulations and told us they probably wouldn't be visiting again that night and to "do what we felt like". Ok then. After waking up and driving over to the day use lot we all got packed up and started up the trail just before 5am. We made good time to the bent tree and the stream crossing. We'd been worried that the stream crossing would be difficult but there was a snow bridge still intact about a tenth of a mile up that solved that problem easily. After crossing the snow bridge we doubled back to find the trail again and headed for the turn off to Thunder. Having done this route before helped immensely with knowing exactly where to go. We stopped in the trees for some gear changes and headed towards the first gully.

Image

Looking up towards the first gully

Image

Coming out of the trees

The first gully had some snow still remaining but not much. The second gully had some nice snow to climb. It was nice that we could skip quite a bit of the boulder hopping. Going up the snow was far more pleasant.

Image

In the first gully

Image

Early morning on the Bells

Image

Back towards Buckskin Pass

Image

Up we go

Image

Second gully snow

As we came up into the basin we got a better look at the remaining route. It looked like the white gully still had some good snow in it and the ledges leading to it were dry. Having been here before the route finding up the ledges went easily and we found ourselves at the base of the white gully with a nice place to switch into crampons.

Image


Image

Coming up the ledges

Image


I think we reached the white gully about 9am but I might be off. I wasn't keeping very good track of the time. The snow was in good shape as we headed up the gully. Not long after I started up the sun came over the ridge and climbing directly into the sun was a bit harsh. I kept my head down and focused on what I was doing instead.

Image

First part of the white gully

About 13,000 feet the gully branched and we decided that right was the way to go. I couldn't quite see how far up the snow went but it looked like it would take us pretty close to the ridge. In some places the angle was fairly shallow but it did steepen in a few places. There were also some nice ledges to jump off the snow and take a rest break occasionally as well. Considering the calf burn going up that was rather nice. I was enjoying the fact that I wasn't climbing this dry. I remembered how unpleasant it was the year before and kept thinking how much better it was doing it this way.

Image

Up the right branch

Image

Over towards the other branch

Image

Bells from a little over 13,000

Image

Looking down the right branch

Image


About 13,500 the snow ended and I headed left and ditched the crampons. There was a few hundred feet left of the infamous terrible rock but considering how much of that we had been able to skip by climbing the snow it wasn't that bad. I think most of this route really is Class 2 even when dry. There aren't that many real Class 3 or 4 moves. However, that's sort of like saying a tornado is a minor bit of wind. This is not normal Class 2. Even if you do find solid rock it's usually covered in dinner plate sized loose stuff that is precariously balanced. Every step has to be debated and considered. There are very few if any cairns. They wouldn't survive long in this terrain anyway. Lower down if you choose the grass like we did last year it's at a 40 degree angle and potentially slippery. Your options just aren't very good. Doing this with snow is far and away the better choice.

I weaved my way through the remaining ledges and found myself staring at the short remaining climb. As I looked down and my GPS said I was higher than I was last time I felt confident that this time we were going to make the summit without any problems.

Image

Looking down at the end of the snow from near the ridge

Image

The last section

Image

Closeup of the tower. We felt like this was really the only Class 3/4 move on the whole route.

Image

Looking back down the ridge

I made my way up towards the tower and ditched my ice axe figuring at this point it wasn't necessary. I traversed a narrow ledge around the side of the tower and saw a cairn on the edge. I headed that way and made my way up. Topping out I realized that I wasn't quite on the summit but it was a short walk over and at 11:45 I topped out. John followed behind a few minutes later and we enjoyed the windless and warm summit for a while snapping pictures and signing the register before starting back down. I went down the Class 3 section first and then John dropped me his pack and he followed me down. Bill was still headed up as we made our way back to the saddle.

Image

Some 14ers from the summit

Image

Closeup of Pyramid

Image


Image

Looking down the summit ridge

Image

It's a long way down

Image

Summit!

Image

John on the summit

Image

Castle

Bill caught up to us and John offered to go back to the summit with him. I took some pictures as they climbed up the tower again and then carefully made my way down to the top of the snow. I waited a while to make sure they were on the way back down and then started a few glissades down. The snow had softened but I still had to be very careful not to get going too fast. I made my way back to one of the rest ledges to take a break and make sure Bill and John were doing ok.

Image

John and Bill head up the tower

Image

A wider shot of them climbing the tower

Image

Glissade track

Image

This never gets old

I waited a few more times and watched a storm developing over the Bells. I eventually was able to glissade to the bottom of the white gully and took a long 45 minute break to make sure Bill and John were on their way down. As I hung out I heard thunder a few times and got pelted with sleet. Eventually the storm dissipated but it was interesting that on a day that was forecasting 10% chance of storms we actually did get hit briefly. I eventually saw John and Bill make their way past the branch of the gully.

Image

From below the ledges

Image


Image


Image

GPS track

Amazing climb and a big accomplishment for all 3 of us. I have no need to do this again though. I think twice on that mountain is more than enough. I never thought I'd progress to the point where I'd be doing things like this. I think after this I can happily go to Maroon Lake as a tourist and not feel the need to climb anything. I think I'll leave the climbing gear at home the next time I go.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38


 Comments or Questions
XterraRob

Good Job
06/26/2016 14:28
Jon


Doug Shaw
Congrats
06/26/2016 18:43
Nice work Jon (& co). Now I'm feeling like I should have gone for that while it had snow on it this year...


bethtrombone

Congrats!
06/26/2016 20:45
I'm sure you feel pretty proud. Thunder is one that makes me nervous. Maybe one day.


Marmot72

Happy
06/27/2016 08:43
Glad you got it! Looks like pretty decent conditions - enjoyed the report!


CarpeDM

Congrats!
06/27/2016 10:01
Congratulations on getting that monkey off your back. It's still on mine.


rob runkle

Glad to be done with...
06/27/2016 13:15
When I did Thunder, I was sure glad to be done with that one...


PaliKona
Amazing
06/27/2016 15:36
Great TR and climb of a very incredible peak.


SnowAlien

Congrats
06/27/2016 18:32
on TP! You must be relieved. Now you got really fun Cents left.


Jon Frohlich

Relief
06/27/2016 18:49
Thanks for the comments everyone. It feels very good to have this one done.

Dave - Definitely nice to have that (huge) monkey gone. I think it's well within your ability.

Natalie - Yeah, most of the rest sound pretty good now! Ice, Thunder, and Gladstone got the terrible loose trio out of the way.

Doug - Absolutely go with snow. It's so much better.

Beth - I think it makes everyone nervous. If you need advice and ever feel like going for it I'm happy to provide tips.


Monster5

Congrats
06/28/2016 12:09
That is quite the accomplishment. Nice pics of the Bells, too.

And special kudos to John for sticking with the last partner! Not that I'd expect any different, but it shows some character to turn around, re-summit, and stick with him on the way down! Good seeing you a couple weeks ago.


JChitwood

Great Report
06/28/2016 22:03
Fantastic pictures and to think you didn't even bring the good camera. It was great climbing with you guys. Jon, your focus was contagious right out of the parking lot. From equipment issues to injury it was not my best day but we all made it up and back. John, thanks for sticking with me when my spirits were down. I'd buy you the best beer in Colorado but you don't drink! And Jon, my thoughts at the end of the day were the same as yours. I turned around and looked at The Bells and thought I really have no desire to hike any of the loose steep piles of rock in that valley again. That I will come back and walk through the aspens and enjoy the view from the trail like the other tourists.


Brad Snider

Nice!
06/29/2016 06:53
Enjoyed the report and pics and I share a lot of your sentiments Jon. Amazing to see how much snow has melted in the past couple weeks. Congrats on a safe, successful climb. You've earned the right to be a tourist next time!


Bill Stafford

I missed a good chance to climb with you guys.
07/01/2016 11:44
Jon, I'm so glad to hear you guys made it up and back without incident. I was really hoping to climb this one with you all, but alas, it was not meant to be. It appears I may have to wait till next year, given your strong feelings towards climbing TP as a snow-climb. I don't know... maybe I'll try in September when the storms have passed. I had really hoped to finish the Centennials this year.



   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here


Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.




© 2020 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.