Disco Inferno, Zion: An ongoing saga


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Big Wall climber
El Cap
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 14, 2006 - 01:39am PT

It was my last day in Zion and Chris and I had one more route before I left for some Nevada mining. The Legendary Joe French suggested Disco Inferno as our final bigwall crag’n route. Joe is a talented and very adventurous climber with a wealth of information about the local faces and peaks.

It’s a good route and goes clean easily. Except for the holes on the headwall (for future ascents they will get blown out) I hooked them. It's a worthy first ascent by John Middendorf, Josh Cannon & Calder Stratford climbed in January of 1995.

We awoke….. well, I awoke around 8:00am, Chris had been up for a few hours shopping around on the internet, buying some wings. After some Pioneer grub we headed to the base. The weather was looking a bit dubious but we were going for it.

Here’s a picture of me looking at the only ascenders we ended up with on this climb. Yep, two rights… what THE!!

I am VERY confused.

Chris, help me out...


Mar 14, 2006 - 02:02am PT
Looks like that's not your only problem.


Trad climber
one pass away from the big ditch
Mar 14, 2006 - 02:06am PT


Big Wall climber
El Cap
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 14, 2006 - 02:10am PT

"Hey, Chris.. where is the yella' jug bro? Hmm, can't find the yella' jumar. I just need the yella' one.

We were at the base in no time all, you got to love the road side approaches in Zion. It was official, Chris and I had a record starting time in Zion, we started before noon, 10:05am, in fact.

Haa ha, these one sided reports. Let’s get some input Chris!!!

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Mar 14, 2006 - 03:04am PT
yeah. that is the one downside of racking at the base of the climb: if you have an idiot partner (me) who somehow steals your yellow jumar and forgets it back at the house then your kinda stuck.

ammon took the missing jumar in stride. however, he then turned to me and said:

"and where are the leather gloves i loaned you? are those also back at the house?!"

"uhh.... yeah....."

gulp. at that point, i was worried the el cap pirate was going to have me keel hauled. or maybe i'd get off easy and i would just have to walk the plank. but luckily i just got a look of, "you're botching it kinda hard right now... but you are still a bro"

the weather did look grim at the base. the type of conditions that make you rack at half speed. but i turned to ammon: "when you have a 3 minute approach, and can rap the route at any point, then its hard to come up with an excuse to bail"

"yeah," he said. "what's our excuse going to be? we started climbing but then our skirts got blown over our heads and we we couldn't see where we were going and had to bail..."

our suffer fest the week earlier on rodeo queen... that route was rated PDW for Pretty Darn Wester. this route was rated PDD for Pretty Darn Disco. Most of the topo page was covered with a big photo of Travolta in the classic Saturday Night Fever pose. we didn't know what to expect of the route... but the FA team of calder stratford and john middendorf definitely had style!

i was to lead the first 4 mostly free pitches then ammon would lead the next 4 aid pitches.

this photo below shows our latest speed tactic. just free soloing a pitch with a 8mm haul line in my back that ammon then jugs....

ok, actually i do have a lead line its just hard to see.

above the "approach pitches" is the awesome steep headwall

Trad climber
Otto, NC
Mar 14, 2006 - 10:59am PT
I watched you guys for a bit, finishing up the free and then getting on the headwall. Looked cold.

Social climber
la la land
Mar 14, 2006 - 12:30pm PT
Oh god... D now stands for Darn instead of DAMN
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Mar 14, 2006 - 12:36pm PT
where are you ammon?

hello? hello?! hello?!

ok, i guess i will continue:

next pitch was chill. nice 5.9. good free climbing on the first few pitches. not spectacular... but fun.

third pitch is called the birth canal. a 5.8 chimney FOREVER. probably the longest chimney i have led. it just wouldnt end. but it was super fun.


Big Wall climber
El Cap
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 14, 2006 - 01:40pm PT

Whoops, sorry. I don't have time to continue the story but will tonight.

The Birth Canal looked really fun and awesome. Pretty wild to get to the belay and see Chris way up in there without any gear in.

I think it took him one hour and five minutes to lead his four pitch block.

More, later....


NOT Fresno
Mar 14, 2006 - 03:33pm PT
Will the sickness ever end?!

I will tune in tonight for the next chapter of the Monkey Pirate Show.

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 14, 2006 - 10:35pm PT

So, Chris leads the first four pitches lightning fast and I have to admit that is sucked the wind right out of me trying to keep up and get to the anchors so I can get him on belay.

It’s a tough job and I got a glimpse of some of the pain and frustration that I enjoy applying on a few of my partners like Ivo, Ben V. and Cedar. Not that I like watching them suffer…. well, ok maybe a little. But, when I see them struggling to keep up it solidifies that I’m doing my job well. Now, it was my turn to struggle.

One hour and five minutes after Chris left the base I gladly handed over the two blue ascenders over to him. I was just happy we didn’t end up with two yellow ones. “Here you go Chris, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined.”

I started my four pitch block at the headwall which was a hole ladder with a bolt about every third or fourth hole. The bottom of the holes were blown out from them being stacked with beaks and slowly the sandstone wears out. Eventually these holes will be useless and a new hole, drilled angles or bolts will have to be installed.

I hooked through the holes with a grappling hook. I was just clipping a bolt when a hook blew. Luckily I had already clipped the bolt and was holding on to the aider. I fell onto the aider, grabbed it with my hand, got a foot in and stepped up. Whooaa, that was a close one.


San Clemente, CA
Mar 15, 2006 - 12:01am PT
....I got a glimpse of some of the pain and frustration that I enjoy applying on a few of my partners like Ivo, Ben V. and Cedar. Not that I like watching them suffer…well, ok maybe a little. ........

Like that would surprise me somehow brotha! Ha! heh.

Chris the birth canal looks stellar! Nice job again guys. Two true Blue Jumars, too! cheers to yah. Gabe
More Air

Big Wall climber
Mar 15, 2006 - 01:04am PT
Hey guys, so did the chimney(birth canal), have any pro? How was the roof? Love your trip reports!

Mar 15, 2006 - 02:13am PT
So ammon what are we supposed to do about the holes? It sucks there isnt just a sliding ball nut thingamajig to slide in there to eleminate the beaks and hooks and whatnot. Good send though fo sho! Does the line stand a chance against the desert shield or no?
jack herer

chico, ca
Mar 15, 2006 - 05:44am PT
There is such a thingamajig, called an RB or removable bolt. Though I think the holes might have to be deeper than your average bat hook hole for it to set properly?

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Mar 15, 2006 - 10:47am PT
LOL Ouch.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 15, 2006 - 12:44pm PT
There is such a thingamajig, called an RB or removable bolt. Though I think the holes might have to be deeper than your average bat hook hole for it to set properly?

Yeah, RB's require a deep enough hole, and the hole has to be pretty perfect.

Another issue with them is, once placed and weighted (as on a bolt/hole ladder), you can't just pop them back out again. They are REALLY hard to clean. Makes them unpractical.

Best are "more air"'s custom ground hooks for shallow drilled holes. Bomber!

Great pics and sends you guys. Makin' short work of a bunch of stuff in Zion. Pretty proud climbing. Inspiring!

-Brian in SLC

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 15, 2006 - 05:22pm PT

Where’d you go Chris?

So, I got through the bolt/hole ladder at the beginning of the headwall and came to a pretty soft and chossy roof. Here’s were Joe told me that you needed a #5 Camelot, or your screwed. Someone had even written those words on the topo we found in the visitor center.

The placement wasn’t exactly straight forward but within a few minutes I saw what must be done. I got on the cam and fiddled around with the next placement, meanwhile sending loose sand down on Chris. A couple of more nut placements got me into a crack system above the roof.

The next two pitches were the longest and most time consuming, on the route. It was all C1 placements but they were not obvious and had to think about the moves. It would have really helped if we would have had off-set HB’s. We had none.

I was leading the second to the last pitch and I heard some yelling from Chris. “Oh sh#t, oh shit”.

“What’s going on down there”, I asked kind of startled by the excitement in his voice.

“Uhh, nothing. Do you care if I leave this #1 Cam,” he asked?

“YES, I care. Why what’s going on.”

“Hold on, never mind they can’t fly, haa haa haa”, was Chris’ response.

I was a little confused about what was going on down there but I continued to make upward progress.

Later, Chris told me some wasps came crawling out of the crack and was guarding the cam so he couldn’t retrieve it. He meant, leave it for now and get it back on the rappel.


Big Wall climber
El Cap
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 15, 2006 - 05:36pm PT


Yes, it's a great route. Maybe not as clean and stellar as DS but that's because it hasn't seen the traffic that DS has seen. The lower pitches might be of finer quality which makes up for the soft rock on the headwall.

Maybe Middendorf will give his opinion on what should be done about the holes. I like the spiciness of it but it just won't hold up to repeated ascents. Brian has the same opinion that I have on the RB's, they are a PITA.

Maybe the holes should be drilled out, angles should be put in and removed by a couple of parties and then you should only need two baby angles to hand place.

I'm not sure but it's a worthy route that needs some love.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Mar 16, 2006 - 11:57am PT
yeah, those wasps freaked me out. i expected regular wasps that get all angry and attack... but these wasps all were really hung over. they could barely crawl and when i flicked one of them it took the tumble all the way down the route... dude... open you wings! or your parachute... or something!!

anyway, those holes that ammon was hooking on the headwall were GHETTO!! seriously, if you are going to drill a hole in sandstone, it should be a bolt. seems like most of the first ascent teams now understand this... fortunately.

when ammon unwaited one of the holes, it totally blew out. check the photos

keep in mind that is on an overhanging wall!

so i think the next team will definitely have to place a bolt. in fact, i would be happy to buy the bolts if anyone wants to go fill in the wholes. check in with the FA team of course, but i dont see how they would mind. those holes either need to be bolt or somebody need to re-enhance them.... then then when the eventually blow out again.. drill a another one next to it....

ammon kept cruising the aid as usual. we definitely not going all out to climb this wall as fast as possible. i think after rodeo queen we were just happy to chill and have a casual pace... and not be scared all the time!!!

here is ammon on the long pitch 6. best aid pitch on the route.

the upper pitches were rated c1 or a1 in the topo. but they probably go free at 5.10. so really the route is 6 free or mostly free pitches and 2 aid pitches.

ammon, can you remember any other funny stuff that happened?
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