There are fifteen peaks in California that exceed fourteen thousand feet in height, and most of them are in our backyard. This trip ascends a couple of the Palisade 14ers. We will choose between Thunderbolt, Sill, Starlight, North Palisade, or Polemonium peaks and ascend two or three of these peaks during this trip.

We’ll establish our high-altitude base camp, strategically perched above the breathtaking Palisade and Dusy Basins, nestled at Thunderbolt Col. Here, we’ll immerse ourselves in the wilderness for three nights, dedicating the next two days to ascending the towering peaks. While the climbing is not technically difficult it does require stamina and fitness. The technical crux of several of these mountains is the tiny summit block, but with a pair of rock shoes, you will be standing on the very top of the Sierra’s most spectacular peaks.

For North Palisade we generally choose the Le Conte route, first ascended by Joseph Le Conte in 1903. This involves a spectacular and exciting traverse across a steep slab. From North Palisade we can traverse to Polemonium, which from the top of the U-Notch offers low fifth class climbing for two hundred feet to the summit and a rappel descent. The climb of Thunderbolt starts directly from camp at Thunderbolt Col and ascends a steep snow gully to the crest before tackling the summit block via a well-protected fifth class face.

Starlight is perhaps the most involved with a devious climb of the west chute to the “Milkbottle” summit and the various rope shenanigans necessary to reach this. From camp, Mount Sill is perhaps the easiest peak to climb in the technical sense, but involves a long approach around the head of Palisade Basin to the low angle class two slopes of the west side, making for a very long day.

All peaks require roped travel and possibly the use of crampons and ice axes. Summit blocks include 5th class climbing.


Technical climbing skills are not required but prior backpacking experience is required as is experience at altitudes above 12,000’. This is a physically demanding trip and you should be in good condition and have the ability to traverse broken, uneven slopes with a moderately heavy pack. Prior rock climbing experience will enhance your comfort level.


Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, and dinners (you bring lunches, hot/cold drinks, and snack items).

Acclimatization & Physical Training

For proper acclimatization, we suggest spending at least one night at a moderate altitude, higher than 8,000 feet, just prior to the start of the journey. See our detailed tips on acclimatizing an physical training in the “Resources” tab.

This is our video description of what it is like to climb Thunderbolt from the west side with SMC.