Thunderbolt Peak is probably the most difficult of all the California 14ers. While there are several routes up to the summit monolith, including a beautiful ridge line and various alpine couloirs, reaching the actual summit requires technical rock climbing rated 5.9.
The name of Thunderbolt Peak comes from the first ascent, when a bolt of lightning hit the monolith that makes up the summit just as one of the first ascensionists was descending, barely missing him. Thunderbolt Peak is also part of the Palisade Traverse.
THE PALISADE TRAVERSE
The Palisade Traverse is a route that incorporates the summits of Thunderbolt Peak, Starlight Peak, North Palisade, Polemonium Peak, and Mount Sill so you can check off five 14ers in one push.
This can be done car-to-car in one day for ambitious and experienced mountaineers, but it’s also often done as a backpacking trip over the course of a few days.
All of these peaks, with the exception of Mount Sill, are Class 4 or 5, so you should only attempt the Palisade Traverse after you have built up your mountaineering experience. This is NOT something beginners should attempt. Even experienced climbers are challenged in this terrain due to complicated route finding, loose blocks of granite rock, and the technical terrain.