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[TR] Yosemite - El Capitan - Zodiac 10/15/2008

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Trip: Yosemite - El Capitan - Zodiac


Date: 10/15/2008


Trip Report:

...so there i was, pooping on the top of el-cap and it was snowing. it was 95 degrees shuttling loads 4 days ago.... "i gotta come back and do this again" i thought to myself. This was in May of this year after climbing tangerine trip. In the next few months el cap is still on my mind. Do i push my luck and try this thing again? Was it a fluke? What makes Zodiac so classic? Should i spend my vacation back in the same place? So many questions just go away when you start up the wall.


We have this running joke that everything on the valley floor in yosemite takes 4 hours. It's not really that much of a joke, and certainly motivates you to get moving and get on the wall and out of the mess of the tourons and traffic. The valley is very much like bellevue square. just substitute the 'cougars' with bears.


Anyway, all this just leads up to finally being packed and shuttling loads to the base of Zodiac. We were going full wall style with redundant ghettoblasters, a box of wine, an arsenal or iron and more chef-boy-r-d than i care to admit. It takes a day for the two of us, myself: bob and my partner: ryan, to organize and shuttle the 2 loads to the base.


The next day we go back with our food and climb/haul two pitches. A trip report we read earlier said "if you can climb P1 of zodiac, you can climb zodiac". Not sure i totally buy that, but it did provide the closes thing to a fall in our 5 days of climbing. To keep the pitch clean was 3 inverted camhooks in a row to reach the anchor. well, as i was placing the 3rd camhook - the one i was standing on popped but i was caught by the one i had just placed. so, does it count if you fall up to a camhook?? whatever.


racking up at the base



Cleaning pitch 1



Hauling P1photo credit for all distance pics: tom evans



Leading P2




so we had the 1st two pitches fixed and hauled...off to the buffet!!


The next morning was an early one as we had a long day ahead. the plan was to jug the 2 pitches and lead another 4. luckily these were the easiest pitches of the route with many bolts and some easy free climbing.



hooking on p5



to a reachy rivet



to the first bivy



cleanliness is next to godliness



we were now getting to the meat and potatoes of the route and some very classic terrain. from the black tower, through the gray circle, the nipple pitch and the mark of zorro. ok, so now we are understanding why this is considered such a classic line.


the black tower has some thin nailing



cleaning above the black tower



same pic as above...from another perspective



going into the gray circle



pitch 9...whatta beauty!



mid pitch 10



lowering out while cleaing the nipple (p10)



So now we are thru the harder stuff and the top is within reach. we bivy at pitch 13 (3rd and final wall bivy) aptly named 'peanut ledge'. it is as flat as a park bench and shaped like a peanut. the pitch coming off peanut is the only reason to bring big gear. at one time there was a line of bolts next to the 4.5" crack the goes for about 80 feet. those bolts have been chopped, as they were not part of the original route. so there's a bit of a runout.


running it out on p14



while i lounge at the belay






sharp edge on P14



leading p15



looking back at the fragile hook travers (p15)



the (alleged) best top-out on el cap



the payoff!!!!!!!!!



...what a bitchin climb!!! big thanks to climbing partner ryan for no clusters and good spirits thru the climb. big thanks to tom evans for the great pictures and a bitchin day of drinkin on the bridge. big thanks to the weather, although it was actually snowing when we drove into the valley - it was sunny and 70 every day w/ no wind.


does it quench the thirst... nope...already have the next topo hanging in the cube. can't wait for spring!










Gear Notes:


2 sets micro nuts

2 sets nuts

3 offset aliens (not 3 sets, but 3 total)

mastercams - blue to red

aliens - black to gray

zeros - gray to red (teh suck!...barely used)

double camalots to 5 and 1 #6

several beaks (teh rule!)

several angles (baby to sawed 1")

few LA's

several heads (placed 1)

double hooks (small to big)

several cinch rivet hangers

starbucks double shots

1/2 5L box of wine (cab-sav)

'yellow belly' the bigwall rubber chichen



Approach Notes:

crowded with japanese press shooting the hans and yuji speed ascent of the nose.

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Nice photos capturing alot of the classic pitches. Brings back some great memories. Probably one of the best el cap routes.

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so how did you get the far out shots then? did you know home boy w/ the tele-photo lens?

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Nice work! Sweet pics! :brew:


So besides the black tower, did the rest of the route go clean? How much fixed gear has returned after the big cleaning?

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thanks all...



far off shots - tom evans aka elcap pics sits on the bridge next to the meadows all day every day during the climbing season. every evening he posts pictures on supertaco and gives and 'el cap report'. the guy know what is going on w/ every team on the wall and takes bitching pictures w/ a bitchin lense. it's a great read and the gives a reason to make it thru the day as a cubical puke.


clean- for us, we probably hammered more than others... the black tower took me a few beaks. two equlized off the tip of the tower - if you fall there you get hurt. probably 2 or 3 more beaks on the rest of the route. 1 small head near the top of p9 and then a couple angles here and there on the rest of the route. we are style-less cowards, but whatever. from what i hear, there is nearly the same amount of fixed gear as pre-cleanup.


fall in the valley:

very few leaves were turning when we were there, just up high in some gulleys. i think i prefer spring. the waterfalls are big and the belays don't smell so bad...but it's hard to complain about being in the valley.

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Sounds like a great trip! Nice to see some different photos of the route as well.


As for gear, I guess the fixed stuff comes back pretty fast. I tried the route earlier this year (April/May) and backed off halfway up the black tower. Besides the fixed heads, there was very little fixed gear anywhere on the route. From what I hear, a lot of people have had to place at least a few pins post clean up, so you guys were right on par for the course.





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Please don't nail Zodiac. It's not necessary. Bring the right gear and it goes clean. Sawed off angles and hybrid aliens work great in many places. Ballnuts, cam hooks, and hand placed beaks work in the thin spots.

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that's quite a generalization... it going clean is certainly dependent on fixed gear... fixed gear is evidence of it not going clean.


at any rate... the clean vs hammer argument can go on and on like bolting arguments.. i don't think zodiac has reached the 'clean' level like other routes.

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I totally understand your nailing comment, however, perhaps what you are not aware of was Zodiac has been stripped from top to bottom of all the fixed gear within the last few years..


Zodiac is once again scary and hard, and while it might go entirely clean, it would be an incredibly rare and ballsy feat. If you feel otherwise, try the first pitch and tell me how you got past the equalized heads without a hammer.


I consider myself a fairly competent aid and wall climber, Zodiac has gone from "No big deal" to "Serious respect required"


Nice work on the ascent, thanks for the trip report.




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You're correct. A 'clean' ascent requires the fixed copperheads. They are part of the route just as the bolt ladders are. But hammering additional pitons is not necessary to climb the route. There have been a number of such ascents since the cleanup.


I was shocked the first time I climbed in Yosemite and saw the size of the pin scars. My personal ethic is to avoid adding to that damage whenever possible.

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