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West Ridge - part C - Pony Express to Long John
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Lightning Bolt Crack 

YDS: 5.8+ French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 70'
Original:  YDS: 5.8+ French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: Duncan Ferguson, Jim Erickson, 1971
Page Views: 3,478
Submitted By: Ivan Rezucha on Feb 16, 2003

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Good stance above the crux. Photo: Roth.

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  • Description 

    Two stars for position and intimidation. Lightning Bolt Crack is listed in Rossiter as a variation to Mail Ridge. Supposedly it looks like a lightning bolt from some angles, but the crack you climb is pretty much straight up. It is visible from the base of Mescaline up right at the top of the cliff. It is the left facing wall at the top of the Mail Ridge buttress. The top pitch and crux of Handcracker Direct is around the corner to the right. Just left of Lightning Bolt Crack is a V-chimney, the top pitch of Mail Ridge.

    Approach via Dead Letter Department (5.8--this would be a good combination at that grade), Mescaline, or various other climbs in the area. You can also do this after descending the initial gully after doing Hand Cracker Direct. Belay below the crack below a rotten red band.

    Climb carefully through the red band to the base of the crack. The crack is overhanging here, but there is a big loose, thin flake you can stand on. Be careful! From the top of the flake layback off jams a few moves to get established in the crack. Above this there are a few footholds on the arete to the right, but they quickly run out as the crack widens and flares. But the good jams continue, at least for your left hand. A few more moves bring you to a Thank God bucket and horizontal crack. That's the end of the crux section. From this point, using the arete on the right for a few moves seems easiest, then back to the crack to pull up into a very nice belay alcove. This is the same belay spot as for the top of the Handcracker Direct crux pitch.

    Easier climbing at about 5.5 leads up a corner/crack system to the top. Descend to the north, down a gully, and then walk off, carefully, to the north, above the Mescaline wall. The last 20 feet or so of the descent are technical, getting around a chockstone.


    Doubles of #1 (red), #2 (gold) Camalots, #3 (blue) Camalot. To sew it up bring more. Plus a light standard rack.

    Photos of Lightning Bolt Crack Slideshow Add Photo
    Rock Climbing Photo: Good rest before the crux move. Photo: Roth.
    Good rest before the crux move. Photo: Roth.
    Rock Climbing Photo: Peter starting up the route.  Layback up a thin-ha...
    Peter starting up the route. Layback up a thin-ha...
    Rock Climbing Photo: Looks awesome from the ground....
    Looks awesome from the ground....
    Rock Climbing Photo: Lightning Bolt Crack.  Belay on a ledge by a small...
    BETA PHOTO: Lightning Bolt Crack. Belay on a ledge by a small...

    Comments on Lightning Bolt Crack Add Comment
    Show which comments
    By George Bell
    From: Boulder, CO
    Feb 18, 2003

    There is a variation at the top of this route that I have done. At the top of the Lightning Bolt Crack, you can move left and exit left via a short diagonal crack that breaches an overhang. I believe this crack starts near the top of the V-Slot of the Mail Ridge route. The diagonal crack is short but awkward, 5.9+. After a few moves you can easily move on to the top. Some confused souls (namely, us) climbed this diagonal crack mistakenly believing it was the crux pitch of Handcracker Direct!
    By slevin
    Dec 26, 2006

    The variation George Bell describes, a handcrack exit out the alcove above the Mail Ridge V-slot, was first done in 1980 by Jim Erickson, who rated it 5.10a and didn't name it.
    By Jay Eggleston
    From: Denver
    Feb 18, 2011

    You don't need a #3 Camalot for the actual Lightning Bolt Crack, it is all #1s and #2s. A #3 is however,useful for the easier section above the HandCracker belay.

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