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[TR] El-Cap- Zodiac 4/9/2004

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Climb: El-Cap-Zodiac


Date of Climb: 4/9/2004


Trip Report:


Zodiac route, El Cap. Well the 21 year old monkey is off my back. I got up Zodiac with the considerable help of my good friend Cody. Cheryll and I drove down to Mt. Shasta the first night. I didn’t sleep well being the first night of a long trip. Arrived in Yosemite early afternoon of the 8th and met up with Cody around 3 at el cap meadow. The clouds have moved in and we spot a soloist about 5 pitches up on Zodiac. We hump loads of water up to the base just as it starts to rain. No other parties in sight so we decide to blast on it early the next day and hope the soloist stays ahead of us. We return to the meadow and Cheryll has already been at work as our ground crew, she has info and the soloist becomes Elaine. The food at the Curry buffet is exactly the same as last year, tasteless and overpriced, I find it hard to choke the stuff down. We rack up in the motorhome after diner since the ground is wet from the afternoon rain. Finally everything is set to go. Our campground reservations don’t start till the next day but I figure we should be alright sleeping for one night in the overflow lot at Curry….Wrong. Just as I steaksauce off around 11:30 the rapping on the door starts…Park Ranger! We try and ignore him but when I hear my name on his radio I open the door. Trying to reason with the man gets nowhere and we are kicked out of the park shortly before midnight. Cody sleeps in his Van parked next to me and never hears a thing. We drive down 140 till we’re out of Yosemite and finally find a place to park but the cars driving past all night keep me from sleeping. By the time we re-enter the park and find Cody an early start is shot and so am I but we pack up the pig and do the long heavy grunt to the base. Cody had his own little early morning excitement when opening his car door from the inside to take a piss caused the alarm to go off, this resulted in Cody driving naked thru Curry village in a horn honking van and still the Rangers leave him alone! I feel like a zombie as Cody starts the first pitch just before noon. He climbs while I repack the pig which is so heavy I can’t lift it when I’m done. Elaine is working on pitch 8 as we start. We talked of just fixing to the top of 3 but momentum is pulling us so we keep going. Cody leads to the top of pitch 4 as a block. I lead 5 and 6 and start up the black tower pitch 7. It’s going o.k. but I feel haggard. I do some free moves then bounce a nut since it would be a long fall if it popped. I’m on it with my left hand casually on a hold when it pulls so I catch myself plus my 30 pounds of gear all on my nearly healed left shoulder, ouch! I’ll be feeling that all summer. It feels like more than a day so I retreat to the belay and turn it over to Cody. He leads to the top of the black tower (½ way up pitch 7) as I set up the ledge. We have been climbing under a waterfall all day and we get pelted with water every now and then so we pull the bivy sacks out. I’m very tired but can only force down half a can of soup, it feel good to lay down and the ledge is quite comfy. The next morning I feel like crap, I’m cold in my sleeping bag and bivy sack and have spells of uncontrolled shivering. I force some more food down but have no appetite. We discuss bailing but wait for the sun to hit us instead. When it does I feel a bit better and tell Cody I will follow if he will lead. Cody does a great job and does all the leading that day getting us up to pitch 11, I have to call him back from heading up 12, seeing that Elaine has already bivied there plus it’s almost dark. I’ve been feeling better all day and enjoy our second bivy, under the devils brow, much more than the first. I’m up for leading on day 3 and enjoy pitch 12, Pitch 13 is the longest on the route and I find it challenging, back cleaning would have prevented the horrible rope drag on the last 60 feet of the pitch, it gets so bad I tie off the rope and solo the last 30 feet. Elaine has been reeled in by now and she is quite elated to have company. Cody leads 14 where we pass her but we make plans to bivy on top and all descend together the next day. We top out around 4 in the afternoon with Cody sprinting the last couple pitches. It’s a bit of a cluster with all three of us with all our ropes and bags climbing together, but the short fixing and leads in blocks that Cody and I have employed the whole route make it a bit easier to go around her. On top it feels so good to take the harness off and enjoy the horizontal environment. I reach Cheryll on the radio and she’s a bit disappointed we won’t be descending that night but understands. Elaine won’t even let us help her pull her pig over the top but she has herself and all her gear on top by dark. We’re rewarded with a jug of wine and truffles that Elaine shares with us. The descent is slow and tedious but by 10 the next morning we meet Cheryll at the picnic area...beer, showers and rest! It was a great adventure, feeling bad on the wall wasn’t fun, but having a strong understanding partner made all the difference and I feel proud to have made the call to keep going up when going down seemed to make more sense.

Pitch 1 & 2 Cody leads the direct start, so these pitches are combined. The first 100 feet is nearly all fixed but the second part of the pitch requires gear up to 2 inches and has one expanding section..

Pitch 3 Starts out with a few placements then is mostly bolts to another crack near the top.

Pitch 4 Starts out with easy free then gets steeper and wider 2.5 inch.

Pitch 5 The old bolt ladder from hell has been replaced with a direct bomber line of bolts up to some free climbing up then back right to dead bird ledge. Gear to 3 inch.

Pitch 6 Free then a few bolts and placements to more free climbing bring you up to a nice ledge at the base of the black tower. Maybe the shortest pitch on the route, gear to 3 inch.

Pitch 7 The black tower starts free then gets steeper, the aid is thin and the rock brittle above the tower ends at a nice ledge. Might want to get your pecker out for this pitch. There are no bolts at the top of the black tower, gear to 2 inch.

Pitch 8 Into the white circle…what’s your sign? Free climbing wanders up and left to steep corners. the bolt ladder shown leading to the belay has been chopped. No more ledges till pitch 13.

Pitch 9 Classic, very step and thin. Cody pulled a fixed head near the top and took a good whipper.

Pitch 10 The nipple, get the big stuff out of the bag this is why you brought it. Cody led it clean.

Pitch 11 The mark of Zoro, a lot of fixed gear very steep climbing up to a crack and bolts to our second bivy under the devils brow.

Pitch 12 A wandering pitch with hook traversing and even a few free moves, don’t have to worry about back cleaning when on hooks. I think this is where I had to use a bat hook.

Pitch 13 Peanut ledge makes you work to get there. Long, and don’t forget to back clean when you climb back right. The final 60 feet up to peanut is a nice crack that takes medium cams, if you can pull the rope.

Pitch 14 Get the big stuff out again this is the other reason you brought it.

Pitch 15& 16 Hooks and free up to vertical aid cracks. Wander left, wander right but all you really want to do is just pull over that last buldge to the dramatic finish.

Gear: We took a few pins and each nailed a couple times. Half the pin list described on super topo would be adequate. We took two # 4’s (by accident) a # 4.5 and #5 could have got by without the duplicate 4’s but the big cams were used. H.B. offset nuts were great, especially the brass ones. And of course the hybrid aliens were the first choice off the rack. Having nearly two sets was great. We took a cheat stick and both cheated, but not much and could have easily got by without it.




Edited by retired

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Just as I steaksauce off around 11:30 the rapping on the door starts…Park Ranger!

The N-O-D-D-E-R Strikes Again! yelrotflmao.gif


Thanks for the Trip Report. Congratulations on getting that monkey off your back.

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It’s going o.k. but I feel haggard. I do some free moves then bounce a nut since it would be a long fall if it popped. I’m on it with my left hand casually on a hold when it pulls so I catch myself plus my 30 pounds of gear all on my nearly healed left shoulder, ouch! I’ll be feeling that all summer.


I have done the exact same thing. Nothing is scarier the doing a bunch of free climbing, then switching to aid and having to bounce test some sketchy piece. My near ddislocation happened while testing a hook on the Tripple Direct.


I have to conciously tell myself not to hold onto the rock these days for fear of dislocating my shoulder up on the wall, it is my nightmare. I'd rather take a long ride!


Nice Job! bigdrink.gif

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Not exactly sure how steaksauce became steaksauce??? I assume the steaksauce knows? I'll reduce a few more photos and edit them in soon.

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Still not sure about the n-o-d curse but I did post a few more photos in the gallery under big walls...off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow!

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