This sustained and varied crack was first ascented by Ed Webster and Pete Williams in 1979. It was also featured in the recent movie of Return2Sender when it was onsight free soloed by Renan Ozturk. Perhaps you will leave with a whole new respect for Renan after climbing this route. The great position of the tower offers splendid views of Canyonlands and Indian Creek. Bring all your trad climbing skills for this climb from finger crack, to offwidths and squeezes. Make sure you don't get suckered into the wide cracks of Liquid Sky (5.11+) which starts to the left of the route and crosses over to the right of the route higher up.
Lightning Bolt Cracks
From where you parked follow the creek bed towards the tower. Keep aiming towards the tower. On the southeast side of the tower you will see a relatively easier looking gully that can be scrambled up. Once on the upper plateau go east towards the cone. Ascend the cone on faint climbers path. Be careful about the ball bearing pebbles on hardened desert soil especially on the steep cone. The route is on the south face of the tower. Later in the afternoon the route goes into shade and it becomes pleasent.
Looking for a passage in the cliff bands to reach the tower cone. Approaching the tower cone from the south.
Route DescriptionPitch 1
Climb the right crack of the two obvious splitters on the southeast face. The technical crux (5.11-) is right off the ground. Jam the finger crack for two moves and use the small incuts on the face for feet. Most people yard on gear to overcome the initial moves. The crack opens up nicely into a hand crack but little higher up the crack becomes an offwidth (5.10). Get your right arm into the OW and grab an edge deep inside, walk your feet up and grunt your left arm on the horn and pull yourself up and through the slot. A #5 camalot protects the move here, cussing and cursing is also helpful. Traverse left on sloping ground, a reachy move brings you to the belay spot.
First pitch starts fingers goes to hands and OW First picth is the technical crux.
From the belay move up the chimney (no pro) and once high enough reach out to your right and place a #1 camalot and get back to the crack. This move is kind of reachy and balancy too especially for shorter folks. Once in the crack get your #3 camalots ready for the big hands roof. Pull the roof and traverse to the left for belay.
Pulling the big hands roof move on 2nd pitch.
From the belay get onto the slanting slab and lieback it until being able to get into the bombay chimney. The gear here is green and red camalots and gets bigger to yellow camalots under the roof. Long slings are helpful if you plan to go all the way to the summit. Turn the roof (5.10) with good hand jams (don't miss the left crack) with wild exposure under your feet. There was a hitched sling to protect the roof. The climb somewhat eases after the roof but the feet are slippery. Catch your breath and continue up the right diagonaling crack to the base of the squezee chimney. Wiggle yourself up the unprotected chimney and reach the summit.
Starting the 3rd pitch.
Exiting the bombay chimney and pulling the roof on 3rd pitch.
Looking down from the third pitch.
With two 70m ropes one can do one double rope rappel all the way to the ground from the bolts on the summit down the west face of the tower. With shorter ropes you would need to rappel to the notch and another double rope rappel to the ground. Walk around the tower clockwise back to the base.
Looking down to the rap route.
Set of TCUs from blue to red or green to red aliens. Doubles on #0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2 BD Camalots, at least 3 #3 camalots is useful. Bring a #5 camalot for the offwidth on the first pitch. The squeeze chimney on the last pitch is wide enough that you have to jam your body. It may be possible to place cams in the back side of the chimney. All belays are on gear. Long slings especially if you link pitches. We used two 70m ropes. It is reported that one 70m rope or two 50m ropes will get you back to the ground. However a single 60m rope will leave you with a sketchy downclimb on the descent.
Shows the gear used on Lightning Bolt Cracks.
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