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Ascent of Thunder Butte on 2019-05-18

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:HC Liang
Dan Connors
Date:Saturday, May 18, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Thunder Butte
    Location:USA-Colorado
    Elevation:9836 ft / 2998 m

Ascent Trip Report

Thunder Butte is a county HP and thus sees quite a bit of traffic. Most show they park at the dog leg in FR 523 and there is a one to two car parking area there with forest Parking Sign. Heading north through the downed dead trees one picks up a use trail and it might head you all the way up. Not sure as we followed it about 1.5 miles before we saw a more attractive meadow shoulder with better views and large rock outcropping to climb so we began bushwhacking at that point. Dan wanted some rock to play on and most of the early scrambles were simple class 2+ and 3. We found a nice large slab of class 3 and Dan had his approach shoes so tried a class 4/5 steep slab walk to warm up. HC and I stayed with class 2+ and 3 for the time. Heading up the obvious easier gully, we split into the 3 lines. HC stayed right on class 2 and 2+, I went up the middle of wall of rock that was class 3 and 3+ and Dan did his thing going up class 4 pushing 5 as usual.

Near the top of the large gully there is a very interesting rock formation on the left that is full of rock climbing routes and we kept Dan to the right of it so he could still all break up the monotony of stepping over downed burned trees, and scramble up some class 3 through 4 features without us worrying about him going to crazy early in the hike. The final approach hiking is very easy material class 2 to 2+ to the summit. Even though it was mid May, clouds came in and we got a few brief snow showers - some graupel and some that off cottony-bubbly type snow that is dry and wispy like bubbles.

Tired of bushwhacking through downed trees and us all wanting to go over and see sheep's nose, we took a route down the spine of the entire Thunder Butte ridgeline. I highly recommend this route over anything else we saw all day. First of all there are far fewer trees down and actually much of the trees were spared from the fire. Secondly, the views are outstanding as you can see off in both directions just how high up you are. Finally, there are a lot of fine hard rock pinnacles down on the south end that allow for extra credit climbs that are superior to anything we encountered coming up to the western side - where frankly many of the extra credit scrambles we played on where loose dangerous granite with feldspar weathered and rolling out. On one such loose pinnacle that Dan scrambled rocks broke lose and cut his finger.

Heading south we took note of the obvious hard capped feature south of the true peak. This formation on the aerial stands out and has sheer walls of harder granite that has not eroded like the feldspar laden features all around. We hiked over to the wall and all agreed it was extra credit to hike up to the summit of this feature. I measured over 160 feet of rise and the topo shows around 180 feet but it had not been entered in either LOJ or Peakbagger. What a shame. This subpeak is far more interesting that the butte and everyone comes to tag the county HP but this secondary feature has more unobstructed views and better rock to climb on! Dan and I climbed up to the wall and it was all class 5 and not easy class 5. Sliding to the right (west) it gets easier and we found some weaknesses in the rock and we each selected a different route up the wall. HC was having an issue with his Achilles heel so we needed to find him some easier routes. I found him a seam in the rock that was an easy class 2+/3 up; while I found a fun class 3+; and Dan, of course had to find himself a class 4 but we all made our way to the summit of this fine secondary formation that I entered provisionally as Thunder Butte South

Coming down can be very easy if you work your way west but each of us looked for something fun and challenging in our wheel house. I found another spectacular fault in a wall and HC and I made it down a very interesting steep chute. We continued to the USGS saddle that is labeled 9287. From there you see a very impressive huge block of rock on the end of the southern ridge and a nice scramble all the way to it. HC headed down into the valley to circumnavigate the feature. I warned Dan that the southern face of the block was a sheer cliff according to the topo but he wanted to see if there was a way up the block feature. The short trip to the block feature is just good safe class 2+/3 scrambles and the block itself looks very intimidating once you get to it. All sides are walls of class 5. But there is a beautiful weakness on the west side that presents itself to those that don't mind a bit of chimney -fracture scramble. TR on that feature separate.

We then headed to the Sheep's Nose which was the summit of the day in terms of fun route finding
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1486 ft / 452 m
    Total Elevation Loss:686 ft / 208 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    Grade/Class:1,2,3
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Snowing, Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1486 ft / 452 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1336 ft / 408 m; Extra: 150 ft / 45m
    Loss on way in:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:2.7 mi / 4.3 km
    Route:see GPS track
    Start Trailhead:forest parking area at dog leg in road  8500 ft / 2590 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:536 ft / 163 m
    Distance:0.7 mi / 1.1 km
    Route:see GPS track
    End Trailhead:saddle between peaks  9300 ft / 2834 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Thunder Trip

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDateGain
1Thunder Butte2019-05-18 a1486 ft / 453 m
2Thunder Butte South Peak2019-05-18 b255 ft / 78 m
3Thunder Butte Block2019-05-18 c53 ft / 16 m
4Sheep Nose2019-05-18 d744 ft / 227 m
Total Trip Gain: 2538 ft / 774 m    Total Trip Loss: 1039 ft / 317 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file




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