North and South Thunder are seldomly visited unless you are a peak bagger. They are often overlooked by the more impressive Pheifferhorn to the east and the popular hike to Lone Peak to the west.
Luke and I took the most challenging, yet most direct route from Little Cottonwood Canyon via Coalpit Gulch starting at approximately 6,000 ft. at 8 am. This route offers everything scramblers and peak baggers could hope for. Near the bottom of the gulch, we passed a series of waterfalls by scrambling on the narrow canyon walls. The first 2 waterfalls were fun and slightly challenging, but the 3rd waterfall was downright sketchy. The rocks on either side of the waterfall were slick, steep and exposed but we made it. Our original plan was to descend via another route, Bells Canyon. After that stunt, we stuck to our original plan.
The gulch opens up slowly and becomes more brush-invested. Eventually it opens up into a steep boulder field. We stuck to the main drainage up the boulder field into a cirque at the base of North Thunder at 9,500 ft. At this point, the partially snow covered boulders became hazardous and frankly, a hassle. We stepped through quite often in gaps in between boulders. We made our way up to the saddle and began ascending the northeast ridge to the southwest up to North Peak. The knife-edge ridge offered mixed snow and rock travel, which kept things interesting. We reached the peak around 2 pm and we weren't lolly-gagging!
We followed the ridge south and west over to a ridge triple-junction and eventually up to South Thunder. The ridge line was fairly straightforward except for one impassable section of knife-edge vertical rocks which we bypassed by scrambling below.
From South Thunder we headed quickly down into Bell's Canyon and to a trail. We didn't want to be route finding in the snow and in the dark. The snow was prevalent until past the upper reservoir in Bell's Canyon. We made it down Bell's Canyon in about 2 hours and hitchhiked back to my car parked near the water treatment facility near Coalpit Gulch.