Thor Peak is a spectacular sight from the Whitney Portal Road, often appearing much more impressive than its taller Sierra neighbors. Yet as a climb, it is overshadowed by nearby Whitney. However, it is a cool climb with some interesting routefinding and great views of the Whitney Region. It's class 2, but seems most people can't find the entire class 2 route on the way up and end up doing some class 3. Overall, there are a variety of established routes, from Class 1 walk-ups to 5.10 A2 routes and 5.10d free climbs.
See R. J. Secor The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails for more information.
To get to the Whitney Portal, take the Whitney Portal Road west from Lone Pine for 12 miles until the road ends. Hike up the Whitney trail to Mirror Lake - approx. 3 1/2 miles. Climb directly up from Mirror Lake. About half way up there is a cliff band you need to negotiate - there is a class 2 route through this, but if you can't find it, there are class 3 routes as well. The ground is pretty solid up to this cliff band, but then it turns to scree above. The route we took from here was to the right as you look uphill ( roughly east of the summit ) and up one of the chutes that are visible as you trudge your way up the scree. Supposedly, you can also head to the sandy plateau on the left for another route.
Thor Peak may also be approached from the North Fork of Lone Pine Peak.
If you plan to hike along the Mt. Whitney Trail past Mirror Lake to climb Thor Peak you must obtain a Mt. Whitney Trail wilderness permit. These permits can be notoriously difficult to obtain. Most climbers apply for them months in advance to climb during the late spring through fall. Up to 100% of the permits allotted each day under the trailhead quota for entry from May 1 through November 1 are granted through a lottery. The first round of the lottery is held each February. Permits for overnight visits are usually more difficult to obtain than day visit permits, and competition for a permit is usually greater for weekends than weekdays. Climbers may also obtain permits by arriving at the Lone Pine Ranger Station the morning before beginning a climb, although obtaining a permit this way is more uncertain and often more competitive. Mt. Whitney Trail wilderness permit information may be found here or here or call (760) 873-2483.
Another alternative approach is to climb the peak from the North Fork side of Lone Pine Creek. No day permit is needed for approaching the climb from the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. Trialhead use quotas are in effect from May 1 though November 1, so climbers should consider obtaining overnight permits as far in advance as possible. Permit reservations for the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek cost $5 per person. Climbers may also obtain permits by arriving at the Lone Pine Ranger Station the morning before beginning a climb. More information on wilderness permits may be found here or call (760) 873-2483.
When To Climb
Year round, but keep in mind that the Whitney Portal Road is closed during the Winter, adding several snowy miles to the approach.
Climbers may camp at Whitney Portal, but reservations are recommended. Whitney Portal Campground also has 10 walk-in sites that are first-come, first served, but these sites fill up pretty quickly on weekends. There are also two good campgrounds outside of Lone Pine: Lone Pine Campground, which also accepts reservations, and a BLM campground, Tuttle Creek, which is generally open March 7 through November 1. Although it lacks running water, Tuttle Creek is free, requires no reservations, and usually has sites available. You can also backpack into Bighorn Park, which is approximately 3 miles up the Whitney Trail. Camping is not allowed at Mirror Lake at the time of this writing.
Alternatively, you can backpack up to Upper Boy Scout Lake along the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek (see "Red Tape" above for information on obtaining a wilderness permit for the North Fork of Lone Pine Peak).
- Photos of my hike to Thor Peak on 8/6/05
Thor Peak via North Fork Lone Pine Creek Trail and Lower Boy Scout Lake
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