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[TR] Mount Thompson (Thomson) - West Ridge 7/28/2007


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Trip: Mount Thompson (Thomson) - West Ridge


Date: 7/28/2007


Trip Report:

This being the political season, I set out with three friends to try to answer the burning question of, "Will Fred run?" Although none of us especially cared about this central objective, we did want to pay a visit to the oracle that would be sure to have the answer. If anyone had the answer, you see, it would have to be Fred's namesake peak. That the mountain was named well before Fred was born didn't dissuade us. Nor did the fact that the mountain is actually spelled Thomson, not Thompson. Waking up at 3 am almost stopped me, but the alure of gas station coffee at my favorite Union 76 forced me out of bed. The dude behind the counter was shaving when I bought 20 oz of House Special Blend. It was going to be a long day.





Mount Thompson is one of the prettiest peaks in the Alpine Lakes, but is a bit of a grunt in. The 7 miles along the PCT to Ridge Lake went quickly in the cool early morning air. Not sure of the water situation on the other side of Bumblebee Pass, we filtered a few liters before traipsing another 1/2 mile to the drainage gully leading to the pass. The correct gully is easily spotted (just before a sharp right bend in the trail) and there is a good climbers path up it. The others had elected to go old school and hike and climb in boots, but I am enough of a sissy that I was shod in trail runners and would later switch into rock shoes for the climb. The off trail travel had worried me (in trail runners), but the climb over Bumblebee Pass was easy.




The West Ridge is the left sky line of the above photo. The scree and talus slope leading up to proved more stable than it looked from the pass, although it was better on the left. After stashing gear in the basin, which had a nice flowing stream in it, we headed up the slope to left of the small dogtooth in the notch. We scrambled over and around (on the left) a few obstacles (easy, but exposed class 3) and up to a cramped platform where we could set up an anchor and go. The first pitch goes up a narrow ramp without much protection and into a gully with some loose rock. Bill got the first pitch, which he seemed pretty happy with.




The first pitch goes up 30 meters to a bushy tree that we could spot from the belay station, just after exiting the chimney. I took the second pitch and rumbled directly up the ridge, zigzagging and building in my usual rope drag. I passed a stuck #1.5 tricam on the lower portion, clipping it, of course, and a stuck metolius curved hex higher up. The climbing was generally fun and straightforward, and very exposed. About 35-40 meters gets you to a solid, scenic, and very airy belay ledge with a big boulder slung with recent tat. After spennding 14.5 minutes working on the stuck hex, Bill came up for pitch 3. Bill stretched out 50 meters of rope in short order, taking a right trending route up the ridge crest and to a big slab, which he motored across to a small island of trees. It seems this is the normal pitch 3 and 4 run together. There were some run out spots, but the climbing is pretty easy. Just don't fall. Below is a photo from the top of the false summit showing Jayson in the center right at the island of trees belay spot, with Joel coming across the slabs in the center left.




I took pitch 4, which featured fun, though provoking climbing (at times). There was a bit more slab to take care of, and then some face climbing up and around some overhangs. I stretched out all 60 meters and made it to some big boulders on the false summit to sling for an anchor and brought Bill up. In the below photo he is exiting the ridge proper and gaining the slabby stuff on top of the false summit.




We chilled on top of the false summit for a while to shout beta down to the others, and then proceeded up to the true summit. There is a short, very exposed class 4 section that I belayed Bill up, and then he set a handline for me and the others to use.


View to the false summit from the true summit.




Here is Joel coming up the handline to the true summit. The gully below him drops several hundred feet mostly straight down.




The view from the summit was pretty staggering.




From left to right on the ridgecrest we have, I think, Overcoat, Summit Chief, Chimney Rock, Lemah, and Chikamin. In the far distance you have Mount Stuart. We lounged for a while before setting down the east ridge scramble route.A very short distance down, and to the left, we found a solid rap station. One short rap gets to another station, and that gets you to scramble land. There is a well defined scrambling path to follow and the terrain eases as you lose elevation.


Thompson is one of the very best climbs that I've done: Moderate, very airy, and solid rock. As a one day climb it is excellent, but tiring. A two day climb would involve hauling overnight gear, and it isn't clear that you actually gain anything by doing so. Here are some times for those interested.


5:40 AM: Leave trailhead.

10:15 AM: First climber sets off.

1:45 PM: First team summits.

3:15 PM: Begin descent.

5:15 PM: Reach PCT again.

8:00 PM: Reach trailhead again.


So, 14 hours and 20 minutes car-to-car. An excellent way to spend a Saturday. Of course, we didn't find out, and still don't care, if Fred will run or not.


Gear Notes:

A set of nuts and some medium cams is sufficient. We put in a #3 BD and #3.5 Friend, but only once. Joel and Jayson used more cams than nuts. Bring three or four double runners to ease rope drag. Clip the two fixed pieces on pitch 2. A 50 m rope would be fine for the descent, though you'd have to use shorter pitches or simulclimb on the ascent. A 70 m rope would let you run pitches 1 and 2 together.


Approach Notes:

Take the PCT and don't bother with short cuts. The commonwealth basin trail can cut off 1.1 miles, but is slower than the big PCT. You might save 10 minutes, but you gain annoyance. Bumblebee Pass is accessed by a significant drainage just before a sharp right bend in the trail, 1/2 mile past Ridge Lake.

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Nice pics.


The ambience makes up for the mediocre rock climbing quality on this one.


I don't have my map handy, but we drove on an old logging road up the canyon to the East for the approach. From the car you have about 20-30 minutes of easy off trail travel to reach the PCT on the crest of the ridge. This shaves off about 2.5 miles and possibly 1500 feet of elevation on either end of your day, saving the knees. Perhaps somebody more handy than me can post a map with lines to illustrate.


My Topo disc #3 is AWOL :cry:


Definitely doable as a day trip.

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Nice pics.


The ambience makes up for the mediocre rock climbing quality on this one.



I thought the rock was pretty good, and the climbing was fun, if not terribly challenging. Lots of exposure gives it a solid alpine feel.

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