Knudtson Couloir on Mt. Thompson

11 Oct 2003 - by Chris Jain

Steve Aho and I climbed the Knudtson Couloir on Mt. Thompson. We left the South Lake trailhead at 5:30 AM Saturday and returning 12:45 AM Sunday. (I was a bit surprised that Steve was up for this trip because the previous weekend he had gone up the Harrington Couloir, which is just a couple hundred yards or so west of the Knudtson, with a party of three in a trip that ended up being 22 hours car to car!)

The Knudtson is in good condition with bubbly dirty-whitish ice in its bottom part and with a narrow finger of beautiful hard clear (but brittle) ice above. We simul-climbed about 600 feet to the 'shrund. We climbed right up over the 'schrund for about 20 feet of vertical, although this looked like it could be passed on the left. From there, four pitches took us to the top and simul- climbed an additional 100 ft or so near the top. In the interest of saving time, Steve led throughout. The ice finger goes over a little cliff that must be surmounted. The upper 100 feet or so of the couloir is melted out but is easy 3rd class with lots of loose rock.

Even though we did not have any parties above us, we experienced some rockfall. One of the rocks struck be squarely on the forehead of my helmet. The ice of the upper couloir dinner-plated in places, often in the pattern of a bulls-eye.

From the top of the couloir it is an easy walk to the summit block of Thompson (13,494 ft.). After signing the summit register, we took the very loose and exposed 3rd class N. Ridge down to its saddle with peak 13,240 (approx.) and then traversed over onto the E. Ridge of peak 13,240 and followed that down in order to avoid moraine-hopping.

We had a full moon on both the approach and descent and this made it a lot more pleasant and scenic then it could have been. The approach and descent (and especially the descent of Thompson's N. Ridge) are clearly the crux of the route.

Sunday, we slept in and then spent a leisurely day sport-climbing in the Alabama Hills.

A picture of Knudtson can be found on the Internet here:

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