Peak Climbed: "The Lightbulb" aka "James' Tower"

Peak Height: 5,820'

Route: Standard Route

Difficulty: 5.10 C0

Location: San Rafael Swell, Utah

Trailhead: Buckhorn Wash pullout

Mileage & Gain: 1.5 mi & 680 ft RT

Date Climbed: November 11, 2019

On our final day in the area Ryan and I were stoked on giving Bottleneck Peak a try, likely the Swell's most (only?) classic tower. We planned on climbing the three pitch, 5.11- Zoomerang route which is a bit easier but significantly less popular than the standard 5.11+ line known as Tippin' the Bottle. Both are apparently excellent. Unfortunately when we got to the top of the talus cone the wind was ripping, making the north facing climb not such an appealing undertaking on an already chilly day. We were fairly confident that we could pull it off, but it wouldn't have been much fun. Another time!

Nearby James' Tower, also known as The Lightbulb, served as a worthy little consolation prize before the long drive home. We bailed from the base of Bottleneck and hurriedly booked it back to the car, drove a few miles up into Buckhorn Wash, and repacked our gear. Goodbye heavy rack and second rope, hello aiders.

We did the three pitch climb in two pitches. Ryan linked the first two 5.10 crack pitches that begin on the chilly north side of the tower and wrap around to deposit you on a big ledge on the south side. He confidently ran it out quite a bit given the slightly insufficient rack we'd brought. This was quality and varied crack climbing, including some fun offwidth with cool huecos that kept the wide part pretty casual.

Unless you're an exceptionally confident 5.10 crack climber don't put too much faith in some of the Mountain Project comments about gear, especially if you plan on trying to combine pitches. Take cams down to 0.75, multiples in hand and big hand sizes, and at least one #4. There is one bolt on the offwidth section but it's long enough that most will appreciate one or two big pieces here (#5 - #6).

The last pitch is one of the friendliest bolt ladders ever created and there is never a need to come even close to top stepping. A #3 cam is handy for the topout.

After absorbing the excellent summit views two single rope raps get you back down the route. We had a 70 meter rope but a 60 probably works too.

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