April 27, 2015
Jasper – Tonquin Valley, AB
Thunderbolt Peak is one of the many ‘smaller’ objectives in Jasper’s Tonquin Valley. It’s often done in summer as a scramble ascent but Liam, Ben and I decided to do it in April. The approach and return is written in our primary objective, Simon Peak’s trip report. The ascent of Thunderbolt Peak was the 3rd day of this 4-day ski mountaineering trip. We woke up at 6 am under a cloudy sky in Wates Gibson Hut. None of us was super motivated but nobody wanted to just sit around in the hut for a full day, so off we went…
The way this peak looked suggested it probably wouldn’t be the greatest ski objective due to the bushy lower mountain and the rocky upper part. We figured if we ski far enough up Eremite Valley before cutting back along a ledge it’d be possible to avoid bushwhacking. Of course the first task was getting down to Eremite Valley. We picked a more direct line across Outpost Lake but the bush on the other side was horrible. I ended up removing my skis for another time.. Once down to Eremite Valley the travelling got much better. Liam again, set a blistering pace and I kept struggling keeping up with him. We went all the way past Arrowhead Lake before finding a reasonable route cutting left up the previously spotted ledge system.
We had to traverse pretty much all the way back to the NW corner of this mountain. At one point we got too far up and ended up having to backtrack for a bit to avoid getting too close to the steep slopes. Eventually we rejoined the scramble route and at a giant boulder field we ditched skis. From here on there was still hundreds of meters of height gain and it seemed like this mountain was a lot bigger than it appeared. One advantage of doing it in April is the ability to utilize snow for as much as we could. It’s much easier to just kick-step up the snow face versus dodging the slippery boulders.. The snow slope got a big steeper towards the summit to give this peak a bit of “bigger” feel.
The summit stay was not very long due to the strong wind and the overcast sky. The descent was fast and fun thank to the snow. We made the call to ski down through the bush short-cutting the route since our ascent line was apparently too circumventing than necessary. The upper section was super fun but just as expected, the lower part of the bushwhacking was really steep and tight. I somehow managed to maneuver down (by removing skis of course), and then we slogged the rest of the way back to Wates Gibson Hut.
Our round trip time was about 6.5 hours which was quite standard for a leisure pace. If we had gone up the direct route we could shave off at least 1 hour. Finishing the trip by 2 pm meant we’d have another entire afternoon sitting around in the Hut resting up. That was good though as the 4th day was supposed to be very long.