Peak(s):  "Thunder Pyramid"  -  13,932 feet
Date Posted:  08/17/2010
Date Climbed:   08/15/2010
Author:  piper14er
 Thunder Pyramid - Standard West Face Route  

Thunder Pryamid 13,932 - Centennial Peak - ranked 65 on the list.
9 miles roundtrip from the parking at Maroon Lake.
4332 vertical feet.

I ran into Mark (YOG) and KeithK in the parking lot. They were just back from North Maroon and I was getting ready to head up to camp. Mark was talking about all the rescue activity going on with the hiker on South Maroon. Sorry to hear about the outcome.

Picture of the rescue Blackhawk Helicopter with the Bells as backdrop.

You will have to excuse some of the pictures. I borrowed a camera since I have yet to replace my broken one. The camera wasn't too good, hard to see the screen and low megapixels.

Keith did not seem to think that climbing Thunder was a great idea and asked if I really "needed" that peak.

Roach describes the route as "a dangerous climb up steep gullies and poised blocks".

So I was thinking "what was I getting into".

Well I have been trying for as many Centennial Peaks as I can get this year and so I thought well yes I "need" the peak.

It sort of reminded me of the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" when the hero Balian (Orlando Bloom) is turning over the rule of Jerusalem after a great battle to "Saladin" (his chivalrous behavior was noted by Christian chroniclers so Balian and company had safe passage). Balian asked Saladin what Jerusalem meant to him and he answered "nothing" but as "Saladin" walks away he turns back and says "everything".

The peaks are not "nothing" and they are not "everything", it is not a need but it is a strong desire. Climbing is exercise, once in awhile social, a challenge and for me something of a renewal each time you get out.


It seems June was a good month for trip reports on this mountain. One reporting on just Thunder Pyramid and a couple others include other peaks and traverses. Well they had some snow then and now the slopes are snow free, of course that means the rocks are there for the falling so I figured I would go ahead and add another report.

Thunder Pyramid is not a high volume peak. There were only about 20 signed in for this year, including myself. There looks to have been less than 190 or so people signed in since 2002 and one dog (Cooper).

I did not make the traverse to Point 13,722, would have wanted someone along for that, but did not.


I hiked up past Crater Lake to the crossing of Maroon Creek. Just on the other side of the creek is two cairns, one larger one and then 25 feet or so past a small cairn on the left side of the main trail. This is not the trail to Thunder but a faint trail that will take you to a nice and level camp spot several hundred feet off the main trail and nicely located in the trees.


The actual cairn that marks the trail to Thunder is 1100 feet past the creek and on the left side of the main trail. Finding this turnoff is the key to an easier approach to the slopes above.


This picture shows the rock filled gully, in the center of the photo, that splits the ledges. This gully is what you are heading for and climbing up.

Gully and slopes above from the main trail.

The gully up close. There are some cairns along this portion of the route.

Top of first gully that splits the ledges looking up at white gully.

Mix of rock and grass on the way up with cairn (picture is a bit fuzzy).

Morning light on the Bells.

Now at 11,800 and before you drop down to cross the creek that flows out below the Len Shoemaker Ridge to the south, you are looking at the grassy access to the white gully.

Cross the creek and ascend either of the two grass areas in the center of the last picture. I went up the right where you can see the line of rocks heading towards the grass.

Above the ledges closer to the white gully. You are now at about 11,800 again and have 2100 feet to go in about a half mile to the summit.

Heading up.

Looking at the white gully at about 13,000 feet. I would recommend staying on the white rocks to the north side of the actual gully. You can go right up the gully but it is more solid to the north side.

Looking at the last photo you can see a large block at the end of the white rock. The loose rock was not too bad to this point. It got a little worse crossing the gully. This is at about 13,400. I exited the gully to the south and moved to the right side and found good rock for the most part.

Mother goat and baby as seen from about 13,400 from the south side of the gully.

Some rock heading to the ridge, with the ridge to the left.

Looking at Pyramid from just below the ridge. I found the ridge to be solid for the last 0.2 mile or so. Not too bad with only a little exposure.

Closer to the summit.

Looking back down the ridge at Point 13,722.

Summit and register.

The Bells.

The small white speck in the middle of this picture, just to the left of the snow is a helicopter. Don't know if this was training, a follow up to the fallen hiker or a tour. Close to the side of the mountain. The helicopter sure looks tiny compared to the mountain.

All and all a good day. I did not have any trouble with falling rocks, goats looking for salt or kicking rocks and really by being careful I did not knock anything loose either. I did not have to worry about other people above or below. I thought it was maybe not really quite as bad as some described.

It took me a little under 3 hours from camp to the summit and 2 1/2 hours back down. It was a little more of a challenge getting back down and not slipping on the loose rock I thought.

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

 Comments or Questions

08/17/2010 14:51
It was nice to run into you again, congrats on a great summit! The views of the area are stellar from up there. I too did not think Thunder in itself was too bad. The traverse definitely grabs your attention though! Well done on another Centennial!

Layne Bracy

Very helpful
08/17/2010 15:46
I'll definitely be using your report when I attempt this peak!


That looks easy...
08/17/2010 15:51
Nice job, and it was nice to meet you. Glad you got up and down, and it really does look intriguing... maybe someday when I'm missing that wonderful Elk rock!


SP Description
08/17/2010 16:01
The SummitPost description of Thunder is even more discouraging than Roach's... The author's first statement is: ”I do not recommend a climb of this mountain to anyone.”

I always thought this peak would be horrifying without snow, but your account makes it seem pretty reasonable. Glad you had a good experience! Great report.

Chicago Transplant

08/17/2010 20:22
I was one of those springtime snow climbers for this peak, but I have to say after reading your account, it doesn't sound like its too bad of a summer ascent either!


Nice ...
08/17/2010 21:21
I must say that your ascent route makes me want to do this peak again ... we, like Chicago Transplant, did it in the spring via a gulley. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


I remember....
08/17/2010 21:38
being thankful I had soloed the peak when I first climbed it several years ago in fall conditions. I was certain that I'd have kicked rocks on anyone around as I ascended between Lightning and Thunder. when Cooper insisted that he ”needed” the peak, I told him it would have to be in snow season. We had a great team of 5 (4 +1), on June 6 and the ”white gully” descent actually made for a good glissade. Lostsheep5 finished his 14ers across the valley on Maroon Peak while you were climbing Thunder. Cooper wanted to join, but I told him ”No snow, no go.” You have to lay down the law with him. Talk about PITA.



No Lightning
08/17/2010 22:41
I was a little disappointed in not trying for Lightning but I woosed out on that solo. Someday if I can tag along with someone on the 4th class route to the ridge I would give it a go.

All in all I did not think it was as bad as some reports made it sound. I like the seldom climbed peak part of it especially.


Nice effort...
08/18/2010 00:59
Anyone who solos Thunder Pyramid is hardly a wuss, in my opinion. And it is always encouraging to see the 13ers getting some love, especially this time of year. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.


Well done.
08/18/2010 02:36
Looks like an entirely different animal without snow but still doable. Nice work!
You must be getting closer on those centennials?


thanks and Centennials
08/18/2010 12:28
getting closer but (ahem) some harder ones to go


08/19/2010 04:57
that peak looks like it's disintegrating as I read your report. On a night of great report reading, this is definitely another one. I'm sure that one day I'll realize Thunder Pyramid is a place that I must see and feel, but until then, this vicarious living is just fine by me. Nicely done!


Needful things
01/19/2011 03:38
Nice job seizing the day.
It looks like you had a great time.
Thanks for your TR. I don't "need" this peak either, but look forward to it, and what you've shared provides good beta for a summer ascent.

Ridge runner

Just missed you...
02/01/2011 00:24
Kiefer and I were up there on the 13th. I couldn't help but think that any descent off of Thunder looked like a PITA. But maybe it's not that bad as long as there aren't a bunch of people or goats above you. Beautiful peak, in a chaotic chossy sorta way.

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