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Lightning Bolt Cracks

5.11-, Trad, Grade III,  Avg: 3.9 from 285 votes
FA: Ed Webster, Pete Williams 1979
Utah > Moab Area > Indian Creek > N Six Shooter Peak
Access Issue: Raptor Nesting Climbing Avoidance Areas Details
Access Issue: RAIN, WET ROCK and RAPTOR CLOSURES: The sandstone around Moab is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. Also please ask and be aware of Raptor Closures in areas such as CAT WALL and RESERVOIR WALL in Indian Creek Details


What an incredible route!! Lightning Bolt Cracks is one of the undisputed must-do ultra-classic desert towers and would be worth doing for the summit alone even if the climbing was total crap. The position rivals the final pitch of the Naked Edge.

The route can be done in 3 or 4 pitches--many different belays are possible. The various guidebooks (with the exception of Rock Climbing Utah) all have strangely inaccurate route descriptions.

P1-start on the right side of the east face in the beautiful splitter crack (fingers to chimney). The left crack is 5.11+ and also very pretty. I thought the real crux of this pitch was not at the beginning (rated 5.11a), but the overhanging, somewhat difficult to protect moves into the awkward leaning slot (rated variously 5.9 or 5.10) above. You can do like me and place a very small wire left of the slot, but beware, it shifted when I, ahem, tugged on it...

One can belay at the fixed slings, or traverse left at 5.9+ and make an akward belay with tricky placements in the flared slot--I recommend the former (back the slings up!)

P2-two options-thin 5.11 fingers widening to splitter off-hands over a roof on the right, or 5.9 flared chimney widening to off-fists over a roof on the left. I took the left, which is rated 5.10, although fairly burly by Creek 5.10 standards. Have a #4 friend ready for the roof (I placed a tight #4 camalot which nearly became stuck).

One can belay above the roof (medium-large friends and/or more fixed delectables), or continue up and left (5.10-) in the acute corner to a spectacular belay just under the bombay chimney/roof.

P3-An unnerving spectacle: turn the huge roof (amazingly, only 5.10) into good hand jams; follow the cracks through progressively worse rock to the base of the final chimney. If you are a big fella like me, belay here (small cams needed) and make your thinsome partner lead the final narrow sandy 5.9 squeeze. Enjoy one of the best views of your life, then rappel.


Bring a double set of camming devices from tcus/small aliens to a number four friend. A number four camalot can be useful, and a number five camalot helps in protecting the first pitch slot but plenty of people do the route without it.

The final squeeze chimney is secure if you can slip deep inside. I've heard that a number four big bro would fit here. Big people will find it easier to climb as an off-width on the outside, but that would be a damn scary way to lead it! There used to be a bolt but it has been pulled.

Plan on setting your own belay anchors or at least backing up the dubious fixed anchors that do exist. Bring lots of long runners.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Finishing the route on this slick rock was very exciting.  I was almost done.
[Hide Photo] Finishing the route on this slick rock was very exciting. I was almost done.
Heres a good topo showing where to cross over
[Hide Photo] Heres a good topo showing where to cross over
Brian Povolny on Pitch one.  Photo: Todd Gordon
[Hide Photo] Brian Povolny on Pitch one. Photo: Todd Gordon
[Hide Photo] untitled
Lightning Bolt Cracks are on the tallest (rightmost) formation. Start in the right crack on the bottom half, then transition to the left crack on the upper half.  The axle-snapping drive and long approach are totally worth it.
[Hide Photo] Lightning Bolt Cracks are on the tallest (rightmost) formation. Start in the right crack on the bottom half, then transition to the left crack on the upper half. The axle-snapping drive and long a…
Tony Bubb climbs Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11) on Indian Creek's North Six Shooter. This was done in Joseffa's approach shoe after arriving and realizing I'd forgotten my climbing shoes. Photo by Joseffa Meir, 2002.
[Hide Photo] Tony Bubb climbs Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11) on Indian Creek's North Six Shooter. This was done in Joseffa's approach shoe after arriving and realizing I'd forgotten my climbing shoes. Photo by Jo…
Looking out of the chimney
[Hide Photo] Looking out of the chimney
Danny leading P1 of LBC
[Hide Photo] Danny leading P1 of LBC
Andrew Porter, visiting from South Africa, leading pitch 3
[Hide Photo] Andrew Porter, visiting from South Africa, leading pitch 3
Tony Bubb high overhead on the hand and fist pitch of 'Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11)' on North Six Shooter Peak. Photo by Joseffa Meir, 1998(?).
[Hide Photo] Tony Bubb high overhead on the hand and fist pitch of 'Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11)' on North Six Shooter Peak. Photo by Joseffa Meir, 1998(?).
Joseffa Meir starts up on 'Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11)' on the North Six Shooter. Photo by Tony Bubb, 1998 (?)
[Hide Photo] Joseffa Meir starts up on 'Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11)' on the North Six Shooter. Photo by Tony Bubb, 1998 (?)
Lee stringing the first two pitchs together.  Stellar climbing with fists through the second pitch roof.
[Hide Photo] Lee stringing the first two pitchs together. Stellar climbing with fists through the second pitch roof.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
[Hide Comment] I should add, FYI that the horrifying 5.12 off-width roof crack/chimney to the right of this route (the continuation of the right-hand variation on P2, actually) is called Liquid Sky, a.k.a. "A Critique of Pure Squeezin'" for you Kantians, and it appears from a little distance that this crack separates practically the entire main tower into two large pieces of sandstone--no doubt the right half will soon fall off. FYI. Apr 2, 2002
[Hide Comment] The 2nd pitch is 5.9/10 only if you can get fist jams in the crack at the bulge. If you can't fist jam it, it's 5.11 OW. Apr 2, 2002
George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] I agree, the wide section on the first pitch seemed way hard to me. I grabbed a flake back in the crack and desperately cranked on it, to my terror it shifted and started sliding out (it may well be gone by now). How to do this section is not obvious like the 5.11- thin crack start.

The easiest way to do the second pitch is to start up the left crack, but switch to the right crack before the roof. There is a big pod in the left crack, move up past this but before it's too late span right to the right hand crack. The right crack is slightly thinner through the roof, I was able to hand jam it (but I have big hands) and would rate the pitch 5.10 or easier this way. I recommend belaying under the big roof at the end of this (2nd) pitch. Apr 2, 2002
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] This climb has quite the long approach, and as a result was the scene of one of my most interesting climbing memories... I'd discovered while packing my bag that one of my old blue LaSportiva Kaukulators was delaminating badly. I tossed it aside and decided to take up my new brown one for the left shoe. I hiked to the climb with one of my old shoes and one of new shoes... or so I thought. I had not known that my partner, who wears a size 7 ladies shoe, not a size 10 men's had also brought a brand new pair of Kaukulators, and I was not attentive to teh size of the shoe I had tossed into my pack.

I realized this mistake while at the base of the cliff. There was no chance of stuffing a foot into her shoe, even if she'd have let me. I wore her tennis shoe on my left foot up the climb. As a result, I found that the 5.10 roof with the slabby traverse was in fact the crux. This was mildly amusing only in hindsight. I wish I could have seen my own face at the base. Apr 11, 2002
Stan Pitcher
[Hide Comment] Just did this one - wow!!! An amazing chunk of rock that I'd been looking at for a long time. I was real glad on that first pitch that I had ran into a friend hours before who loaned me a 5 camalot. Unfortunately it did not fit for what I had brought it for which was that 'squeeze' at the top! Man was I bumming. I might have been able to squeeze in there but I knew I'd get stuck and die there. With the sun getting low I had no choce but to thrash my way up the outside of it and pray I didn't get spit out. I found the second pitch bulge super hard too even though I could get a fist (3.5 cam is perfect). The first part of the third pitch (before the squeeze) has got to be one of the desert's finest - wild climbing and what a location! Oct 16, 2002
[Hide Comment] I've done at least 60 tower routes and this is one of the five best. Nov 7, 2002
[Hide Comment] For a full pump, do the route in two pitches; link together the first two and belay at the start of the last 5.10 section. Then blast from there to the top. Prudent runner placements under the roof will alleviate any rope drag. Also, the approach is much better from the west side. Rather than turn at Davis, take the next left and drive until you are virtually a couple hundred yards from the base of the scree slope. Leave your packs on the west side for the rappel and you'll be set to jaunter back to your car. Happy trails! Dec 27, 2002
Alan Searcy
Pine, Colorado
[Hide Comment] Holy Crap, that climb is top drawer! Tips to offwidth on pitch 1, do a hairball traverse left and start with fingers again! We strung 1 & 2 together and probably should have with 3& 4, rope drag was negligible. A very sweet bit of climbing with something for everyone. If you belay in some blocks below the base of the squeeze chimney take a piece of 6 mil cord, you can sling a chockstone and use a few small cams (aliens to .5 camalot) to beef up your anchor. The price of admission for us was high, maybe 4 miles of trudging and lizard chasing but it's definitely worth every step. Jun 7, 2004
[Hide Comment] Who can't be jealous of all the stellar first ascents Ed Webster did? He's the man! Aug 1, 2004
Bob Bates
[Hide Comment] I did this route on my 29th birthday! It rained for three days prior and, as luck would have it, stopped the night before my birthday. My partner was very hungover in the morning, so we ended up starting late. Luck was once again on our side, as it was also a full moon that night. So after an amazing desert tower, we strolled down the talus cone in the moonlight. Best birthday ever! Sep 14, 2004
[Hide Comment] I climbed this route last weekend. I had the pleasure of leading every pitch, including linking the last two. Before the final chimney, I decided to take a breather before jamming my body into the crack. As I was standing there, I peered into the back of the crack and saw a rather odd sight. Way in the back was a skull. It was pretty big, like a large mammal. I'm thinking it was a deer or something. Anyway, it scared the bejesus out of me. I kept climbing and finished the route. I guess I blocked it out of my memory because I am remembering it now for the first time. I was just wondering if anyone else has seen this skull. How did it get up there? I don't ever recall seeing a deer that can climb 5.11.

-Dave Stewart Oct 20, 2005
Josh Ewing
Bluff, UT
[Hide Comment] We summitted LBC on Thursday, November 18, 2005 and found the anchor in a mess. 2 old star drives were just laying there still attached to the webbing. The rock was shattered on top. Another star drive was still in shattered rock and we pulled on it and a dinner plate sized rock came up with the bolt. One old star drive with half the shaft remaining and one 1/4 inch bolt near the shattered rock was all that remained. We left a nice new .75 cammalot to back up the anchor. So....anyone who goes up and puts in a nice new bolt will be rewarded with a nice new cam. Don't try to take it without fixing the anchor though!

Also...we approached from the West and found a nice clean path to the base. It seemed a good bit less steep and loose than the east side. Nov 20, 2005
Vince MacMillan
Dolores, CO
[Hide Comment] This route and summit are the distillation of all that is right in the universe. Um, yeah, well anyway: RE 11/2005 Gear Alert: On 7April2006 my pard and I (mostly my pard:sorry dude)drug a bolt kit up to the summit and installed a 1/2" SS Rawl with a Fixe Ring anchor(5,800 lbfs! in 500 lbf rock). We removed the 30+ feet of girth-hitched rope/cordalette/runner garbage that was strung across the summit and presumably left by whoever snagged the above noted .75 camalot (bummer, man). So there is now one good bolt, one spinner, and one worthless 1/4" p.o.s. to start the rappel off. The bad news: the second rap station is in an even greater need of updating. Somebody else's turn, though. . . .

Also, just wondering: does anybody know what those empty bolt holes (approx. 15) scattered about the summit are all about? Apr 8, 2006
Brian Weinstein
[Hide Comment] I'm not sure why the guides call P1 the crux of the route. If doing the true 2nd pitch of LBC (right of the wide P2 of Liquid Sky), you have a beautiful, thin, off-fingers splitter for 25 feet before the 5.10 wide hands roof. That was definitely the crux for me. What an amazing place to be! VM, thanks for adding the bolt on the 1st rap, it looks like there was a recent addition to the second rap as well. Sep 22, 2006
James Beissel
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] We did LBC on Thanksgiving Day this year. Easily one of my Top 10! We took the "Corral Pocket" approch as George Bell describes and found it to be much shorter. 4WD not needed. Try to follow the same tracks as previous parties - lots of crypto soil. If more people start using this approach we will have to consider the impact issues.

P1&P2 can be run together, otherwise belay at the chockstone at the top of the P1 offwidth.

I'm a bigger guy (about 190) with a wide chest and I didn't fit into the P4 squeeze very well. (It was so tight I rubbed the sheath off my rope!) There is pro in the back, but I couldn't come close to reaching it. I brought a #4 Big Bro and it was essentially the only protection on the pitch. Unless you are small or comfortable running it out, I suggest bringing the Big Bro. It also works well to backup the chockstone belay on P1.

Bring two 60m ropes you can rap from the summit to the ground in one rap. About 185ft. Nov 26, 2006
Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] "Bring two 60m ropes you can rap from the summit to the ground in one rap. About 185ft."

Are you sure about the 60 meters? We did a single rap on two 70 meter lines (back to same side where LB line is) three days before you and were about 5 feet short (should've used EDK instead of fishermans). Jan 18, 2007
Sam Lightner, Jr.
Lander, WY
[Hide Comment] Forest Dramis and I dragged the drill and about 30 pounds of chain up the peak to fix said anchor. The drill, being a piece of crap bosch and not the better designed hilti, literally caught fire when I started the first hole. The motor burned up, and there we were. Being ASCA guys who eat red meat and love women and song, we were undaunted, and continued on with just the bit and the hammer. The result is chain anchors at both stations using the good previously placed bolts and our 4 1/2 X 1/2 inch SS bolts... someday the tower will fall down but our anchors will still stand (lightning effects withstanding).
You can rap the route with one seventy (Two raps). Apr 18, 2007
toddgordon Gordon
Joshua Tree, California
[Hide Comment] For more reading, click:… Jun 10, 2007
Clayton Rardon
Yucca Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] An amazing tower. We had warm weather and sunshine for the hike in and out, and a nice Spring blast of icy wind driven snow at the top. Classic desert tower and classic desert Spring weather. Nothing like climbing something like this with your mates. Feb 17, 2008
manuel rangel
[Hide Comment] The route went well and quick since we began climbing after noon. The rock was great, it had a smooth finish and very sustained in my mind. Apr 22, 2008
[Hide Comment] What a spectacular climb. Starts thin but soon gets & mostly stays wider. Outstanding scenery, great climbing, heaps of exposure, and a stellar summit. Can descend with 1 double rope rap off the back side from chains. May 16, 2008
[Hide Comment] I just did this recently and we were able to rap with a single 70m rope. The first rap (to the east) was less than 25m and the second rap (to the northeast) was less than 35m. Sep 11, 2009
[Hide Comment] Hey all, this is a booty call of sorts. We fixed a #2 camalot with black tape on the 2nd pitch of this route right below the fist bulge. If you were able to get this out it would be greatly appreciated if we could trade you for beer or similar items. If not, nice work getting it out and enjoy! Mar 20, 2010
[Hide Comment] Outstanding climb! Hardest part for me was the start, my favorite part was the 3rd pitch roof. We took doubles from a #1 metolius to #4 camalot with an extra #3 (3 total). Next time I would take doubles to #3 and a single #4. The guide recommends a 70m or two 50m ropes for the rappel - we did it in two raps with one 60m and had no problems, so don't bother with the extra weight. 4wd is recommended for the approach but we were okay with a 2wd truck. Go do it! Apr 1, 2011
DaveF Farkas
Durango, CO
[Hide Comment] Did the route in 3 pitches linking the first 2 pitches together...stellar! Did ya see the bull skull deep inside the chimney on the last pitch? Apr 19, 2011
Spencer Weiler
Salt Lake city
[Hide Comment] Belaying below the roof at the end of pitch 2 has a great stance and spectacular position, but the only fixed belay option is a slung chockstone with a couple old slings on it. Slinging it yourself isn't really a great option, so save at least 1 #2 camalot to back up these slings for your belay. I had doubles in all sizes except #2 and #3 camalots, where I had 3 each which I enjoyed. The squeeze on pitch 3 is awesome, very secure and fun, no need to worry about protection here. The exit onto the top can be protected well with your #4 camalot. A purple tcu works great to protect the initial section of pitch 2, the #4 camalot protects a good portion of pitch 1, and the #5 camalot is optional as there is gear in a horizontal before entering the offwidth section. It was my experience that our 70m rope made it down fine but I would be very skeptical to do it with one 60m, though it seems at least one person here has claimed it works ok. Everyone I've talked to has said 1 60m comes up short which seems accurate to me. Apr 25, 2011
Chris Strouthopoulos
Durango, Co
[Hide Comment] The alternate, west side approach doesn't need high clearance. You could get a subie up here no problem. Take the next left after Davis canyon, pass a few small washes and park before the big one. Couldn't find a trail to start, but you can avoid busting crypto by following the big wash down valley a bit and then hooking a right in another wash. Head towards the obvious break in the white band of rock directly under the tower. A faint trail and some cairns guide the uphill. Perhaps a little longer than the east approach, but morning shade was pretty sweet.

Wouldn't recommend placing a nut below the P1 OW when the horizontal crack is almost all parallel. Yellow alien fits perfect, while as the few constrictive spots for a nut have lower rock quality.

I would have appreciated having a bolt to back up the slung chockstone fixed anchors. I know it's the desert and all, but this is a popular route. With thunderheads moving our way we bailed and they're not exactly confidence inspiring.

Stellar route- very psyched to go back and finish it! Oct 4, 2011
[Hide Comment] I found the approach beta confusing. If you have 4wd take davis gulch road until the sandy wash. That will take you almost all the way to the tower. If you have low clearance car, just park and walk the road and wash. Less than 2 hour approach even though it looks far. I was grateful to have the #5 camalot for pitch 1. A few extra pieces in the small to big hands range was also beneficial. The exposure on the pitch 3 roof is awesome! The final squeeze is so easy and not scary if you can fit in there and you get gear before you exit so its super mellow. Don't worry unless your a big guy and then it would be very difficult. 2 raps with 70M. Once to the notch and one more to the ground. Mar 16, 2012
David Appelhans
Broomfield, CO
[Hide Comment] A 60m rope got us off in 2 raps from the top. Perfect length on the last rap. Nov 23, 2012
Kevin DB
[Hide Comment] I've climbed this route a few times and I think it's one of the best routes anywhere. Last I did it I was going up the first pitch and loving it, only to remember that every other pitch on the thing was even better. Can't say enough about it. The only downside is that the hike sucks, but it's totally worth it. Jan 26, 2013
Oakridge, OR
[Hide Comment] Thin-fingered freaks like me will find the direct 2nd pitch 11+.

I got nauseous at the 6" part of the first pitch as I had to switch my gear loop while in a tenuous no-hands knee jam abobe gear (only brought a #5 as per the old beta, which I was trying not to kick too much).

With the 4x4 it made for an excellent day-long adventure! Oct 1, 2013
[Hide Comment] On Nov 17, 2013, I found the first belay chockstone with the rat's nest of slings around it (the lower of the two chockstones) was broken and the lower half of it (guessing ~30lbs) about to fall off. I could not clear it because of people and gear at the base. Be very careful as it won't take much to send it down. Nov 11, 2013
[Hide Comment] For those looking to minimize OW, "Liquid Bolts" is an excellent variation that combines the first half of Liquid Sky with the second half of LBC. We did it in 2 pitches:

1. Begin with the tips-to-fingers start of Liquid Sky, pass through the pod, and then climb up to the highest stance below the 5.9 chimney. Instead of going left, transition right into the finger crack, turn the wide-hands roof, and then belay.

2. Move left into the second half of LBC and belay on the summit. Apr 6, 2014
[Hide Comment] If you want to lug a #6 camalot up it protects the first pitch OW quite nicely. Definitely not necessary, but I was glad to have it. Feb 17, 2015
Will Wright
Mesa, AZ
[Hide Comment] We found the 1st pitch left crack to be very easy for 11+, and much easier than the 2nd pitch right crack Nov 10, 2015
Boise, ID
[Hide Comment] I thought the second pitch finger crack was very stiff for the grade by Creek standards. When(not if) I climb this route again, I'll bring doubles from 0.3-3, and a single #5. No #4. With a #5 Camalot you can forego the #4 and still be well protected when the going gets wide. I thought the squeeze chimney at the top was super casual, felt like 5.7 to me.

As of 5/18/16 there were no fixed slings nor any fixed gear on the route with the exception of the bolts on the summit. May 22, 2016
Ryan Arnold
[Hide Comment] Climbed this last week as two parties of two. It was near our group's climbing limit and was a real challenge!

1. Approached via the alternative (not Davis) route that didn't need 4wd. Drove for a few minutes down a straight, sandy road that is on your left (south) about a mile past the Creek Pasture campsite. Great road! Parked somewhat randomly and crossed the flatlands.
2. Car to route was 1 hour 20 minutes at a casual pace. Head towards the north edge of the giant mound, where a large wash can be easily followed to the final cone. We charged straight up the cone, slightly sketched out, but you could follow the flat area under the cone around to your left (east) and climb the cone on a good trail heading straight to the base of the route.
3. Gear was doubles from small fingers through #2 camalot, triples #3, single #4 and #5. Moderate gear conservation on all pitches, especially the third. Lots of slings.
4. The final squeeze chimney is a cakewalk unless you're huge, and you can burrow deep with no chance of falling. The exit move is like 5.5 and well protected with a #1.
5. No fixed anchors or bolts on the route. One very ratty slung chockstone above the OW section of pitch one.
6. First three pitches seemed a bit sandbagged, but safe. I wouldn't have wanted to do pitch 1 without the #4 and #5 though.
7. We did three single rope raps, anchors quite obvious. South 25m to the saddle, then east toward the start of the climb (about 25m rap, semi-hanging anchor with old bolts and tat), then to your backpacks with a 30m rap, flat landing. May 1, 2017
Eric Bluemn
Boise, ID
[Hide Comment] Climbed 10/15/17 via the alternate 2WD approach. Parked at the first pullout past the weather station at a cairn and the start of what looked like established trail. Had some difficulty finding an established trail shortly after the pullout and though we attempted to avoid sensitive ground by linking washes and rocks we couldn't avoid busting through some crypto soil while wandering across the flat plains. Accessed the mesa rim through the obvious white rock break, and then went straight to the rim on sketchy hardpack covered in ball bearings. Approach took 1hr20'. From the base of the route we could see good trail down to the 4wd approach. We decided to take the 4wd deproach from the route. This was not sketchy at all, followed established trail, and took 1hr30' from the base of the route to the highway (where we hitched back to our car). At this point we would highly recommend just walking the 4wd approach as this limits the ecological impact and is much less sketch of an approach while taking essentially the same amount of time. Oct 15, 2017
Simonov Zverkov
Mokroe, RU
[Hide Comment] Left a BD 3.5 in the roof on the final pitch. Busted wires, but still has lots of life left. Didn't have enough time to fish it out...get there soon to claim a newly re-slung 3.5 before it rusts to shit!!

Other comments:
-a #4 and a #5 made this route not scary. Triple #3's were also helpful
-We approached from the West, parking near the big wash and following a series of washes to the cone Nov 6, 2017
Scott E
[Hide Comment] Found a cam on 5-15-18. Let me know what it is and I can get it back to you May 15, 2018