Starlight Peak West Chute
14,200 ft Starlight peak is one of the peaks on the Palisade ridge outside of Big Pine, CA. Most mountaineers would not consider this as a separate mountain as it has much less than 400 vertical feet of topographical prominence, but due it it's improbable summit pinnacle, most California scramblers consider it one of the California 14ers (peaks that rise above 14,000 vertical feet above mean sea level). In 2015, Matt Shaner and I did a traverse from Thunderbolt to Sill where we skipped the summit pinnacle because we had just spent far too long climbing the V1 summit block on Thunderbolt. When I first passed it, I thought that I would not come back, but the allure of sitting on top of the needle was too strong. This summer I had decided to finish up the California 14ers, so sitting on top of this summit also accomplished that goal. Some snow was still present on the peak and it was mostly firm and soft. We decided not to bring ice axes and instead of bringing crampons or microspikes, we brought skeats which are a Ski Mountaineering tool that I work with, but also work great as a lightweight running crampon.
We started at 5am from the Bishop pass trailhead, and walked briskly in the dark. We made it to the top of bishop pass just before sunrise in just under 2 hours. From there we spent a very cold half hour filtering water at the lake on top of Bishop Pass. From there we traversed scree (stay low!!!) over to thunderbolt pass and then up the prominant west chute.
The route has you scramble up the 3rd class wall almost immediately upon entering the chute, this dumps you out in the "lower couloir". You scramble up and right (South) to a notch and then traverse an exposed 3rd class ledge to a headwall with a frozen waterfall. Scramble up the 4th class headwall (staying closer to the waterfall is better) and end up in the 2nd class loose gully. Go up the gully "the upper couloir" up 3rd class terrain until you are blocked by a few feat of low fifth class terrain. At this point head left up 4th class blocks and a few strenuous moves to pop out to the ridge. From there walk over a precariously balanced block over to a ledge below the summit pinnacle.
From here we set an anchor and Andrew belayed me up the Southwest side of the pinnacle. I have read various grades from 5.4 to 5.9 to v2 for this, and 5.4 is definitely the correct grade for the Southwest side. An easy layback and mantle and you are there. The view from the summit was great. Andrew lowered me off some rats nest on top of the block and we belayed eachother back across the route. We elected to rappel the 4th class upper portion of the upper couloir and then the ice waterfall. We scrambled back to the base of the couloir and then dragged ass back across the talus to the lake and down the trail to our car. But, we still made it before dark which was great. Some delicious organic snacks at Manor Market in Bishop and we drove home, back in Pasadena just after 11pm! Great day!
This was my last 14er so for the record, here is the list:
1) Whitney 4 times (2 from the west, one up the east buttress, and once on the mountaineers route)
2) Shasta twice, once up avalanche gulch and once up the hotlum glacier
3) Langley twice, once up new army pass and once up tuttle creek (did not walk all the way to the summit on second go)
4) split once, standard scrambling route
5) Williamson once from the northwest couloir
6) Tyndall once from the east ridge
7) thunderbolt once up the V1 boulder problem, on belay
8) north pal once from the north during a traverse
9) polonium once from the north during a traverse
10) sill once up the 4th class east route
11) middle pal once up the north couloir
12) Russell once via Mithral dihedral
13) white mountain peak once by walking up the road
14) Muir once by scrambling from the west
15) keeler needle once by scrambling from the west
16) Once via the west chute