The Palisade Traverse


This classic traverse covers the most mountainous terrain in the Sierra Nevada.  With a high point of 14,248 feet and rock climbing up to 5.7 in difficulty, this climb is a good choice for fit and experienced alpine climbers.

The traverse tags the summits of five of the most spectacular of California's fourteeners:

  • Thunderbolt Peak
  • Starlight Peak
  • North Palisade
  • Polemonium Peak
  • Mount Sill

Depending on conditions, the traverse may require snow and ice climbing skills in addition to the ability to move confidently on fourth and fifth class rock. Though the hardest pitch is normally rated 5.9, an assist from the guide or a point of aid at the crux can make the route effectively a 5.7.

Because we bivy high on the route, you must be prepared to travel light and climb technical terrain with a pack on. If you have previous experience with rock and alpine climbing and are in great physical shape, this will be one of the most rewarding routes of your climbing career.

Click on these links if you are interested in learning more about climbing California's fourteeners or AAI's 50 classic climbs.

The Palisade Traverse

Itinerary & Route

Because snow and ice conditions on the route and the approach can vary considerably, we keep the the itinerary flexible.  Below is a sample.

Day One: Meet in Mammoth and do a thorough gear check in the morning. Acclimatize, review climbing skills and climb at a near by climbing area.

Day Two: Hike into basecamp. Early in the season we often camp at on the edge of the Palisade Glacier, with five star views of the route. Later in the season we sometimes camp in the less visited Palisade Basin.

Day Three: To gain access to the ridge crest, we typically climb the Northeast Couloir of Thunderbolt Peak, where we sometimes encounter a bergschrund requiring some ice climbing. We can also use one of the chutes on Thunderbolt's west side. Continuing along the ridge, we traverse a series of summits and choose among several bivy sites depending on our progress.

Day Four: We tag the remaining peaks in the traverse, finishing on Mount Sill, and return to our base camp.

Day Five:  We hike out.

The Palisade Traverse


Maximum Ratio:

2:1 (2 climbers to 1 guide)


Private Pricing (per person, per day):

See private rates on Guided Alpine Climbing in the Sierra



  • Backpacking experience
  • Good physical fitness and endurance
  • Participants should be able to follow 5.7 (indoors or outdoors)
  • We encourage climbers interested in this trip to do a warm-up or preparatory climb with us in the Sierra. Contact us for more details.


Getting There:

Most climbers will fly into Reno, NV where there are numerous inexpensive flights from all over the U.S. If arriving in the summer months, May through October, renting a 2 wheel drive vehicle is fine. The drive from Reno to Mammoth is about 3 hours in the summer.

The Palisade Traverse

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