Peak(s):  "Thunder Pyramid"  -  13,932 feet
Pyramid Peak  -  14,029 feet
Date Posted:  09/09/2022
Date Climbed:   09/04/2022
Author:  kyrawhitworth
 Thunder to Pyramid Traverse   

Stats: 11.5 miles, 5100 feet of gain. Hike in total took nearly 14 hours. Traverse took 3 hours.

I’ll start by saying this is my first full trip report so bear with me here. As Roach suggests all plans to hike the supposed hidden horror that is Thunder Pyramid begins in a living room on a couch so that is exactly what Ryan and I did. (Ryan is the local legend San Luis kegger for those who may know him and also my husband.) I had booked bells parking permits thinking ah yes maybe we’ll try Thunder and my husband suggested why not traverse over to Pyramid since Thunder is so nasty? We put it down tentatively and our much more experienced friend Joe texted us a few weeks before saying he and his climbing buddy Darren were in. So off we went…

Ryan decided that due to my very limited climbing experience that we would borrow some gear (ropes, anchor thingys sorry I don’t know) from Joe and he would carry it all. We figured that it was likely we wouldn’t need it because the rock is so loose and it shouldn’t get above 5.4. Both were true. I was glad to know worst case we could engineer a way to help me up if it was beyond my climbing ability but thankfully I managed just fine.

Anyways, onto the trip itself!
Terrible sleep the night before since we had to sleep in the Buttermilk parking lot. Holiday weekend, crowded campgrounds, should have known better. We got to the trailhead at 3:45am and were off. We stopped at the first set of dispersed campsite for Joe and his climbing buddy Darren to drop off their tents and such before heading on with day packs.
The trail was nice and we all were trying to be attentive so as not to miss the turn off spot for Thunder. Ryan’s headlamp wasn’t working I’ll note and then Joe's did the same. Sure enough we missed it. We backtracked to what we thought was a clear enough spot to start ascending. I had the gpx file from climb13ers to assist but honestly it did not provide quite enough to guide us through. There was so much avy debris which made this so insanely slow and tedious to get above treeline.
Picture 1: our path which likely was not correct and perhaps if we had cut off the main trail earlier some misery could have been avoided.

Picture 1: Avy debris nightmare getting above treeline

Next we navigated through rocks (one steep bit we climbed through in Picture 2) and grassy spots picking a line to ascend to a more open meadow.
Pictures 3 and 4: some helpful cairns in this area. Picture 5: more views of the area we ascended

Picture 2: A steep rocky bit we went through Here
Picture 3: helpful cairn Here
Picture 4: more rocky and grassy areas Here
Picture 5: more rocky and grassy areas we ascended Here

At some point we decided to ascend a steep cliff band after growing weary off all the rocks and grassy spots. Picture 6 is where we headed up. Pretty sure this is not required but they wanted some spice early on.

Picture 6: We headed up this a bit technical cliff band Here

We at long last could see the white gulley after reaching a flat grassy area. We crossed over some small rocks and decided for a more direct route. Picture 7. Others have gone around up a different gulley then connected but we wanted to be on the white rock as soon as possible.

Picture 7: Finally the white gulley comes into view, we decided to head directly there from here

The white rock was actually great! Not too loose and pretty grippy. We climbed in pairs so as not to kick rocks down (admittedly I had to call out rock a few times). We stayed close to or on the white rock (Picture 8).

Picture 8: Stayed on the white rock as much as possible once in the gulley

Once we got to 13,400’ we knew we needed to cross over to our right and ascend to the ridge crest. We decided to go just under the white band of rock (Picture 9) and then head for the ridge. This worked out pretty well. It was then a short little ridge walk to the summit (Picture 10)! Hooray—my first Elks centennial! Same for Ryan and Joe. For Darren it was number 92!

Picture 9: crossing above 13,400' just below the white band of rock before heading pretty much straight up to the ridge e
Picture 10: The final bit up to the summit of Thunder and a great view of the traverse ahead

And now for challenge! The traverse over to Pyramid (Picture 11). We headed down off of the summit and honestly the downclimbing directly off of the summit until we got a small flat spot of dirt was not so bad. Here’s a section of upclimbing near the start after the initial descent (Picture 12).

Picture 11: Our general route descending off of Thunder to get up to the catwalk e
Picture 12: Ascending a section after the initial downclimb

We bypassed the first two towers on the left before heading up to the catwalk. So far it was all 3/4 and we were able to talk through which lines we wanted to take.
The catwalk was amazing! Awesome views, solid, and just plain fun. Picture 13 is looking at the catwalk and Picture 14 is looking back at Thunder.

Picture 13 On the catwalk
Picture 14: Looking back at Thunder from the catwalk

The short downclimb from the catwalk was no trouble but the crux of the route lay ahead. Somewhere ahead lay a steep chimney, a 5.4 dihedral, and the final up climb to Pyramid. Picture 15 shows our estimated route through the technical difficulties.

Picture 15: The crux of the route, showing our approximate route (Ryan helped draw the lines in from what we remembered.)

We stayed slightly left at first and were able to find a low class 5 chimney that looked familiar enough from other images (Picture 16).

Picture 16: The first chimney, low class 5

After topping out on this we navigated through some varying loose rock and more solid terrain (Picture 17) and found the 5.4 dihedral which thankfully was recognizable due to the rock jutting out above it on the left (Picture 18). The rock here was pretty solid and we briefly discussed roping up but there still wasn’t enough certainty in the rock and it seemed reasonable enough. I climbed up with some spotting from below just fine. We then headed around to the slopes on the right to reach the flat spot below the final up climb to Pyramid.

Picture 17: Some climbing through varying terrain e
Picture 18: The 5.4 dihedral, I needed some help spotting but was able to climb up just fine

There was a final airy section (Picture 19) getting up to the final section to Pyramid that caught me a little off guard. There were a few questionable small slabs here so caution was needed. The final challenge was negotiating with one of the infamous Pyramid goats to pass to the summit (Picture 20).

Picture 19: The final airy section that caught me a little by surprise. Some loose rocks Here so caution is needed.
Picture 20: Just below the summit of Pyramid negotiating with a goat

By now we all had either run out of water or only had a small bit left—it was so hot that day! This made coming down Pyramid a slog. The route was much looser than I remember from about ten years ago so it felt like ages before we were on good terrain again. Ryan had booked a hotel for us to stay in and thank goodness! We didn't make it back to the trailhead until 5:30 or so which was nearly 14 hours after we started. Other groups had completed the traverse in about half our time but we honestly didn't feel like we were moving that slow or had issues routefinding, it just took 3 hours for us. Overall, I don't think Thunder was as loose as I expected and descending it would not be too bad. The traverse going from Thunder to Pyramid makes the most sense to me direction-wise because you are going up all of the more technical sections vs trying to downclimb them. I hope the image quality is OK as they are from my phone (sorry I can't figure out how to crop that one screenshot after the fact). Thanks for reading and stay safe your adventures! Cheers!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

Comments or Questions
Nice pictures
09/11/2022 18:45
Great write up. Looks like a beautiful day.

Great work
09/12/2022 06:26
Nice job on the traverse and excellent trip report! Looking forward to giving this a go next season

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