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Starlight Peak, California (14200+ ft)

Polemonium, North Palisade, Starlight Peaks
Starlight Peak's Milk Bottle from N Palisade

Inyo National Forest
Inyo N.F. Wilderness Permits and Reservations

Route: West Chutes

We approached Starlight Peak by way of South Lake and Bishop Pass, camping south of Bishop Pass overlooking Dusy Basin at about 12000 feet near a water supply. In hindsight we could have traversed further southeast above Dusy Basin and still found water above the lakes and been closer to Thunderbolt pass for the summit day.

Traverse southeast above Dusy Basin across ledges and climb talus to Thunderbolt Pass. Identify the third most prominent chute south of Thunderbolt Pass. It has a fan of talus above the snow patches in the first photo below. Climb into this chute, the Lower West Chute. Just before this Lower West Chute narrows climb up to the right on fourth class rock to get above this narrowing onto scree, then continue upward to the right on easier rock to enter the gully above. Continue upward in this debris covered gully and climb to the right at the buttress onto slabs to a notch.

From this notch you can see the Upper West Chute and a waterfall on the left and slabby rock on the right (see photo below). Traverse downward to the east into the Upper West Chute on a third class ramp and climb to the slabby rock wall to the right of the waterfall. Climb these fourth class slabs just right of the waterfall, then continue up the Upper West Chute as it turns to the left to reach the headwall above. Climb the headwall (we went to the right up a narrow gully) to reach a notch from which you can see the Palisade Glacier to the north.

From this notch the Milk Bottle summit is above out of sight to the left. Some of our team traversed around the right side of the ridge on slabs and up a wide chimney to regain the ridge at a narrow notch. Others instead climbed more directly up the ridge and around the left side of it in a narrow ramp with occasional rappel slings. Both routes have significant exposure. The Milk Bottle is just beyond where the two routes rejoin.

The Milk Bottle climb begins on its south side. One can toss a rope around the Milk Bottle just above the south side shoulder to provide an anchor for the climb. Climb directly up the rock relying on friction (rock shoes recommended) and a knife edge until you reach small footholds at the top. You can rappel or be lowered by slinging the top of the Milk Bottle and provide a top rope for others. See the photo below illustrating the Milk Bottle climb.

Descend the same route taking advantage of rappelling options usually indicated where others have left slings. We rappelled to the left of the waterfall in the Upper West Gully off two large rocks lying on a slab. Exit the Lower West Gully and hop talus back to Thunderbolt Pass and down into Dusy Basin and traverse the ledges back to camp.

Starlight Peak from Thunderbolt Pass
Starlight's Lower West Chute
Starlight's Upper West Chute
Upper West Chute Headwall
Keith Leads the Milk Bottle


  1. Porcella, Stephen F. and Cameron M. Burns, California's Fourteeners, Palisades Press, 1991.
  2. Porcella, Stephen F. and Cameron M. Burns, Climbing California's Fourteeners, The Mountaineers, 1998.
  3. Secor, R. J., The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails, The Mountaineers, 1992.

California Fourteeners

Mount Whitney Mount Williamson White Mountain Peak North Palisade Starlight Peak
Mount Shasta Mount Sill Mount Russell Polemonium Peak Split Mountain
Mount Langley Middle Palisade Mount Tyndall Mount Muir Thunderbolt Peak