Thornton Peak

July 30, 2022


North Cascades Highway, WA

“Thornton Peak” is the unofficial name of a broad summit above the upper Thornton Lake. The area is very beautiful and the scramble on this peak is quite enjoyable with great position and views, but unfortunately it’s too close to the much bigger prize, namely Mt. Triumph. The unofficial status of the name also contributes to the lack of exposure on the internet so most scramblers don’t even know the existence of such a peak. Judging by the summit register entries this peak sees far less visitors than Mt. Triumph. Lily and I came up here mainly to climb Mt. Triumph as well but the two peaks’ approach are entirely the same, so with some extra time to kill I decided to check out “Thornton Peak” in the evening of Day 1. Lily stayed at camp as she’s not keen on peak-bagging an add-on summit.

Mt. Triumph NE Ridge and Thornton Peak. GPX DL

I only came here with “beta” that Adam W. scrambled Thornton Peak from the col and I knew nothing more than that. I assumed the scrambling wouldn’t be too difficult so didn’t bother to bring anything with me. I ate and drank and off I went. The initial slopes were ascended via a mix of snow and class 2-3 rocks and then I came to a flatter bench. The next rock band looked interesting with option to bypass on snow by staying climber’s left. I didn’t bother to do so and just scrambled straight up the rock, overcoming some down-sloping 3rd class moves on wet rocks. I then merged onto a ridge feature which led me to a notch. The notch was down-climbed on some loose 3rd class terrain and then I was staring at complicated-ish upper ridge.

Looking back at the col where we camped
The lower Thornton Lake with Eldorado Peak etc. behind on the skyline
Trappers Peak and “X Mountain” in the foreground with Snowfield Group behind
The upper Thornton Lake was still entirely frozen even in late July..
Looking across the SE Face of Thornton Peak towards its south ridge in foreground
The upper Thornton Peak’s SE Ridge
Looking back at the notch where I scrambled down into
A full view of the southern Pickets

I stuck mostly to the crest of the upper ridge dealing with mostly class 2 terrain, but one step in the middle required a couple 5th class moves. Just when I was hesitating to commit to the class 5 moves I saw an easier line on climber’s right, but I was too lazy to backtrack. I committed to the moves and made a mental note to descend the easier line an hour or so later. I then ascended gentle snow slopes to the final summit block, which I thought the attack was on the climber’s left side. After traversing there I soon realized that’s not the way so I traversed back and attacked the summit block head-on. The scrambling was not as hard as appeared and was mostly only 3rd class, albeit with some exposure and loose rocks. I sat on the summit to soak in the views and read the register for about half an hour.

The summit block which should be attacked relatively head-on
The last stretch to the summit was exposed and somewhat loose
Summit Panorama from Thornton Peak. Click to view large size.
Looking down Thornton Peak’s south ridge into Skagit River valley
The million dollar view of Mt. Triumph from Thornton Peak summit
The full view of the Picket Range
Jack Mountain and Crater Mountain behind The Roost and Davis Peak
Lower Thornton Lake in the foreground with Inspiration Glacier area behind
The NE Ridge of Mt. Triumph on the left skyline with Pickets behind
McMillan Spires, Inspiration Peak and Mt. Degenhardt in the southern Pickets
A zoomed-in view of the upper Thornton Lake
Me on the summit of Thornton Peak
Reading the history of this peak with Mt. Triumph behind

Eventually I decided to descend and time was ticking and I needed to properly rest for the following day. I easily down-climbed the summit block and jogged down on snow for as much as I could. I got back to camp in under 2 hours round trip and then did the evening cooking routine for the following day.

My long shadow in the late afternoon hour
This is that tricky step I talked about. I found a better line on descent
More views towards Snowfield Peak group on the horizon
I stayed on snow to get back to that notch feature for the short up-climb
One last look at the southern Pickets
Back to the tent with zillions of mosquitoes