Amador County Highpoint Trip Report

Thunder Mountain (9,410 ft)

Date: April 17, 2005
Author: Robert Greene

We started from the vicinity of Carson Spur, looking for the trail described in Loro Paterson's trip report. I say vicinity because in winter/spring, the Carson Spur pass is signed "avalanche zone: no stopping, no parking, no peds." Well, we parked and changed into our gear and, just as we were about to leave, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) SUV comes by and booms out over the loudspeaker "You can't park there. Move along." So we got in the truck and moved down the road (to the west) about a 1/2 mile to an off-the-road parking area (fit one car!). Then we got out and started hiking up the road.

Sure enough, Mr. CHP SUV comes back by, "You can't be hiking up here. Turn around." That's when we noticed the little "no peds" bit on the sign. So, we waited around a little while and sure enough he came by again, so we flagged him over, and undertook a successful Covillization of the CHP. He dubiously granted us permission to "hike up that ridge line over there" despite telling us that he wouldn't want to be anywhere that had snow above him. I agreed heartily, by definition, we wanted all the snow to be below us at our final objective. He drove off, I'm sure with visions of how cool the CHP helicopter would look later that day.

We got on what may have been the USFS trail but was most likely just a road used for maintenance of the wind units at the top of the Kirkwood resort. The first potion of the climb (up to the Carson Spur point) was all in forest so we feared no avalanche. Along the top, scary signs like "Unexploded military ordinance may be located nearby" added some excitement to the trip over the Two Sentinels. We passed to the west of both these rock formations -- the east side looked like a treacherous and fast way to enter the Kirkwood resort a 1000+ feet below. No thanks!

After passing Sentinel #2, the road ended and we passed onto a snowy ridge line which eventually brought us to the outcropping Martin's Point. You have to go southeast from here around a rock formation. Going southwest leads to -- fun -- cliffs. After passing around the rock formation, the ridge line was windswept enough so we picked up the trail and, with a fun diversion at the pinnacle right before the summit itself - my partner went for some class three rock climbing up between the two pinnacles, I opted to take the steep snow traversal around to the summit area -- we were on the summit.

Afterwards, we took a quick jaunt (30 minutes) down from the 9410-foot summit over to the 9408-foot summit just to be sure. The tackle box summit box was a great idea except it has no drainage and was full of melted snow. The trip out was uneventful; we retraced our steps with some optimizations (not climbing so high on Martin's Point), and CA COHP #22 was complete for me.

By the way, we had crampons and ice axes but didn't need either. There was a lot of soft snow and snowshoes probably would have been helpful in a number of places. We had several feet of snow all the way from 88 to the summit (except on the deadly-windy ridge). This is a heavy snow year for California, so these conditions may not be typical of a mid-April ascent.

Hike statistics: Round trip about 6.7 miles, total elevation gain (total) 1,940 feet; 5 hours duration.