I camped at the South Lake Trailhead Sunday night. Monday morning, I hiked up to Bishop Pass, then continued cross country towards “Thunderbolt Pass”. The terrain was primarily small boulders and grassy slopes at first, but soon turned to talus, large boulders and snow. From “Thunderbolt Pass”, I traveled towards Potluck Pass by contouring high, but when past North Palisade’s southwest chute, the sand, loose talus and scree became unbearable, so I descended nearly to Barrett Lakes before continuing towards Potluck Pass. At this point, I could see "Barrett Peak" and was concerned that it would be too technical for me to free solo.
I thought to myself that I should have expected "Barrett Peak" to be difficult since the surrounding peaks were also difficult. I had no route beta and was simply taking the easiest way the map suggested. I started gaining the south ridge of "Barrett Peak" before reaching the pass. The slope was sandy, then became talus and larger boulders. The view of 12968 above Potluck Pass was great.
As the ridge made a turn towards the northwest, there was more exposure on both sides and route-finding became more difficult. In addition, the quality of the rock was poor. I had to test many holds before trusting them. The view of Palisade Crest from here was great.
I first stayed to the southwest side of the ridge, then switched over to the northeast at a small notch. I then downclimbed some class three rock into a southwest-facing gully, then back up the gully towards the summit area. The climbing got more difficult and steeper, so I downclimbed to a notch on the northwest side of the gully and investigated the northeast side of the ridge. By now, the winds were blowing hard and continuously. A short downclimb and traverse led to a primarily solid pitch of easy fourth class rock to another small notch. I climbed to the southeast to find that the summit was to the northwest. I climbed northwest to the summit. The views of Polemonium Peak and Mount Sill were enjoyable.
I wasn’t too surprised to find a summit register but was surprised by the 30 or more names since the 1970s. I considered heading down a prominent southwest-facing gully northwest of the summit, but decided to retrace my ascent route to avoid making a long day an epic. I found some easier terrain by descending directly northeast off the summit, then traversing back to the fourth class pitch. I followed the ridge down, but got on the west side of the ridge too soon and found myself climbing over ribs to get to easier terrain. With careful route-finding and patience, the south ridge is no more than fourth class, perhaps easier routes can be found from the north. On the return, I dropped nearly to Barrett Lakes, then ascended to “Thunderbolt Pass” instead of dealing with the loose, higher ground.