Zoroaster Temple Trip Report, 10/2/07


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 14, 2007 - 02:56pm PT
Zoroaster Temple Trip Report, 10/2/07
There’s some kind of magic in the Canyon. Especially, if you get below the rim and start wandering around. You’ve got to come back. Hermit Creek, Horseshoe Mesa, Osiris Temple, Whotan’s Throne. The names of the features are from some fantasy novel. Looking out from the south rim one summit stands out. Zoroaster Temple. With huge Brahma Temple always lurking behind like a body guard.
Wendy and I took a backpack to Clear Creek one year. On the way down the South Kaibab Trail we met a man coming up with a climbing rope on his pack. He’d climber Zoroaster. When I asked him about the various pitches his reply was, “Forget all that. When you get to the base of the climb you’ve already done the crux”. I smelled adventure! When I got back from that trip, half my photos were of Zoroaster, which we’d seen from three sides. About that time I bought the Grand Canyon Summit Select guidebook. On the cover is one of the Tomasi brothers sitting on the “pitch four horn”. He’s having the time of his life and it looks incredibly exposed. I wanted to be there.
I asked Bob if he wanted to go and of course he did. We wanted a third for safety. It’s a long way out there if something goes wrong you need the options another person provides. I asked my friend Scott if he wanted to go. Scott’s not a climber but he’s hiked both sides of the canyon below the rim. Thirty years and over thirty trips. He was the one who got us started backpacking there when he called with an extra permit for a family of four to Monument Creek. Many trips followed with kids and without. He’s a fine athelete too. With the motivation of getting to the top of Zoroaster before him I figured he’d work extra hard to learn how to follow 5.9 in the four months until the trip. He accepted the invitation right away. The training at the gym and on real rock went well. The mysteries of the 5.8 hand jamb proved difficult but were sufficiently overcome at last. Never the less, it was clear he would be in for a huge adventure.
The plan was to hike down the South Kaibab Trail and camp at Bight Angel Campground at the river on day one. 7.5 miles or so. Day two we would do the climb and return to camp. 11 miles and 4,600 feet of gain and then loss. Day three we would hike out the Bright Angle Trail. 9.5 miles or so. Other TRs seemed to either do the climb in a day from the rim or establish a base camp somewhere above the Redwall. I knew I couldn’t do it from the rim in a day. My canyon experience carrying heavy packs with gallons of water and gear over third and fourth class, which would be required to get above the Redwall, made this option seem like just to much hard work. No, we would start in the dark with daypacks and probably finish in the dark as well.
Here’s a picture of us at the trailhead.
Of course a steady, at times pounding, rain had started on the shuttle ride to the trailhead.

In the rain the trail at times it felt like we were in China or Tibet.

Traversing along the ridge toward O’Neil Butte it felt like we would be blown off by the howling wind.

By the look of the trees this may be common. I saw no skeletons at the bottom of the ridge though. After a few hours the rain turned into a drizzle and we got our first views of Zoroaster.

The changing weather made for strange cloud jewelry on the peaks and buttes.

Scott with Zoroaster

Just before the rain stopped and we got a rainbow.

Here’s a picture of our camp. I’m airing out my feet and hoping and pretending that my one pair of socks will dry out.

The next morning we left camp at 4:30. The first couple of miles are on a good trail and were easy to do in the dark. We climbed through the first cliff bands and were on the Tonto platform as dawn started.

Dawn with Cowboy Hat

After leaving the trail and starting to move up Sumner Wash towards the Redwall break, Scott had to turn back. He had tweaked his hip on the hike down the day before. It had gotten worse over night and then really bad as soon as we began scrambling up the wash. It was hard accepting this news. I think for all of us. Scott really wanted this summit. It was going to be such a great addition to his Grand Canyon adventures. Bob and I didn’t want it to be either. We kept thinking there’s got to be something to do. Split the weight of his pack between us maybe? Eventually, we bowed to reality.

Here’s a picture Scott took of us moving up the wash towards the Redwall break.

Right after this Bob told me to turn around and I took this picture. Beautiful.

We soon reached the most dangerous few feet of the trip for me. The topos say you bypass the first steep point by climbing to the right, fourth class. We got sucked in too far by the presence of a fixed rope. We should have climbed out right earlier. Bob went one way and then said don’t come this way. I ended up on a steep face looking at a thirty footer. The rope was close but I had no idea how it was anchored. Fortunately, Bob got to the top and the anchor point was good. I tied a small loop for a hand hold belay and traversed off to the left. All was well again.

Here’s Bob getting out a snack above the Redwall.

The rest of the way to the climb is classic canyon climbing. Short steep chimneys followed by long traverses on ridges or below cliff bands, looking for the next break.

The final fourth class bands to the base of Zoro have fixed ropes in the tricky sections.

Soon we were looking up at the climb. It was 10:30.
Rick Booth let me use this photo when mine didn't turn out well.
The route goes from the fresh rock scar at the bottom, up either side, to the chimney/ramp for three short pitches, then a long chimney/corner pitch, followed by a traverse and then a final corner crack to the top of the roped climbing. We decided I would link the first two pitches, which would give Bob the crux sandy face on the third pitch.
Here’s a picture looking down from halfway up P2.

I was on a good ledge and starting to set up a belay when Bob yelled up, asking if I was at the bolts. I moved up farther looking for these bolts, which are on the topo. Pretty soon I was well into the third pitch! Bob had to simul some third class to get me the rope I needed. This crux is rated somewhere between 5.7 and 5.9 depending on the Topo you read. I moved up and down about three times trying to string together the sequence. Eventually, with three good pieces in, I went for it. Fortunately, the “secret” handhold appeared and I was through. As usual, with it now behind me I started to wonder what all the fuss had been about. This 10 or 15 feet is the crux of the climb. I think there are no bolts.

Here is Bob on the fourth pitch
This pitch is cool old school climbing. I faced the wrong way in one chimney and had a few fun moments. Here’s a picture looking down from somewhere on the pitch.
When I got to the top there was Bob on the “pitch four horn”! One of the belay bolts still has it’s hanger. The other is still set well but needs to be slung with a stopper. The next pitch traverses on an easy ledge with exposure to a funky bolt with one of those crappy bent flat bar hangers. Right after the bolt you step into an exposed bomb bay chimney with a super cool but wild move. You move up the chimney and belly flop, I mean mantle, onto a big ledge.
Here’s a picture looking back from this ledge at Bob on the pitch four horn.

I looked up at the last pitch and yelled over to Bob, “We’re Yosemite climbers. We’ve got this one in the bag”! Overconfidence? No way! I’m experienced student of the Ed and Gary school of offwidth climbing. First they have you loose skin on the Sunol wood OW. Then they take you to flail and then fail on Secret Storm, Left Side Of The Cookie and Doggie Do. Finally finishing your training with the sharp crystals of Vedauwoo. I cruised this pitch.
Here’s Bob on the lead.

The roped climbing is over but the summit block awaits.

Summit shot with Wotan’s Throne behind us and Angel’s Gate to the right.

Here’s a picture of the rack.
Note the plastic pro ordered from Australia just for this climb. Sweet. We used twin 8.1 ropes.

Here’s a picture of the first rappell.
We got to the bottom and I looked at my watch, “Hey, it’s only 2:20”. Bob, “look again”. Damn, it was 4:10.

Here’s a picture looking back at the Big Guy.

Dusk with Cowboy
I stumbled to the trail just as the final light faded. We did make it to the canteen at Phantom Ranch by 8:30. Just in time for a beer. Nice.

The next day I took this picture on the hike out.

Until next time, Canyon, until next time.
goatboy smellz

Oct 14, 2007 - 03:39pm PT
Way to go Zander.

I see you brought the big Hexes.

Social climber
The West
Oct 14, 2007 - 03:53pm PT
Zander to Zoro, a truely excellent adventure, thanks!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 14, 2007 - 03:55pm PT
You guys should try something with a bit more approach,...

(If you left any of those dinosaur eggs on the summit they might hatch. Now THAT would be cool!)

berg heil, nice TR

Trad climber
Lee, NH
Oct 14, 2007 - 04:08pm PT
Best TR here in a while! Must have been a great day, and with all those pictures it was surely a fun read.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 14, 2007 - 08:21pm PT
Howdy Goatboy,
The plastic gear is good. When you hold it in your hand you can tell it'll work. The guy I ordered it from said more people buy the stoppers than the hexes. The stoppers were pretty bomber. There is a lot of surface area and they fit pretty well. At least on this climb. The red hex was used a few times. The the two big ones were not. I didn't know it but Bob does not like to set any kind of hexes the long way. I had got the big hex to be the second big piece for the last pitch but it wasn't needed. One could take three more medium cams on this climb instead of all the plastic and you'd be OK. One #4 Friend is all you'll need.
Hey Piton,
The mathematics of climbing is such that ones max climb equals the approach times the rating of the climb. Since I can only climb 5.9 all my approaches have to be long ones. If I could just climb 5.11 I could shorten my approaches considerably. Ed can show us the actual calculations but I think it's Mc=aL*5.(x)/we with we as the weather function.
See ya,

right here, right now
Oct 14, 2007 - 08:43pm PT
Darn’d nice round-trip to chew on there Zanderoso!
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Oct 14, 2007 - 08:49pm PT
Cool TR Zander. I would love to go on one of those adventures with you sometime. It would be completely different than anything I have done.

Standing Strong

Trad climber
northern cali fall with the sunshine
Oct 14, 2007 - 09:39pm PT
that is SO f*cking cool! i didn't realize people actually could climb in the canyon. i mean yea some of the layers are harder rock but it didn't click that people could get up to those layers to climb them, or that even if they did that there were enough established routes that there might actually be a guide... the temples are so f*cking rad! when i was there i took so many photos of the moon rising over them. visually, they're totally f*cking fascinating. good on you! i would love to climb there too. it's like you think the grand canyon is like the stereotypical great american road trip, and not a big deal, but you get there and it's so awe inspiring that you practically fall in, especially at sunset, and you almost toss your camera in the canyon cuz there's so much to take in that it's almost just too ridiculous to stop gazing for even a second while you pull out the camera.

Oakland: what's not to love?
Oct 14, 2007 - 10:16pm PT
Most excellent! Thanks for writing it up, and great photos. Looks like 5-star adventure to this spectator.

I've climbed on those plastic hexes from Oz, didn't feel too good about it myself.

Trad climber
SF, aka: Dirkastan
Oct 14, 2007 - 10:34pm PT


Social climber
The West
Oct 14, 2007 - 10:37pm PT
Oh yeah, strong it goes,
the view from the north on our 24 hr from the north rim attempt -ended up about 28hrs

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 14, 2007 - 10:45pm PT
Rim schmimm!
Go out to Toroweap. Splash a little Jim Beam on Rif's grave (but be careful not to get any on his wife's), and the god's will smile upon you for the rest of your days.

Social climber
The West
Oct 14, 2007 - 10:54pm PT
Much as i'd like to think of it as a smile sometimes I get the feeling the gods are just teasing...

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 14, 2007 - 11:01pm PT
Toroweap is absolutely astounding. We went out there with the kids. Fifty plus miles of dirt road. It was the middle of the tourist season and no one was there. We camped 100 feet from the edge, which at that location drops a mile almost straight down. What a place.
I love that rim shot. We so much wanted to climb Brahma but we were too slow. Deva looks cool as well. Did you guys get to the top of all three?
See ya,

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 14, 2007 - 11:08pm PT
Standing Strong,
There are more climbs out there then anyone will ever know!

I met your boy at the Faacelift Sushifest. We did our first backpack into the canyon when our boys were about that age. Go for it. If you really want to go with the old farts on a trip sometime send me an e-mail. There are no plans right now but there will be.

Take care,

Social climber
The West
Oct 14, 2007 - 11:09pm PT
Nah, 'just' zoro. But the half full view is that I have two more reasons to go back! It'd take no time at all in a Tundra with a plumber's rack!
Chicken Skinner

Trad climber
Oct 14, 2007 - 11:14pm PT
Zander, I am an old fart too. I will email you.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Oct 15, 2007 - 12:30am PT
If anyone accuses me of hating park rangers the ultimate denial is my love of John.

Toroweap just wouldn't be what it is without his presence. That the NPS permitted him and later his wife to be buried there (after incredible paperwork that would preclude any further family members' internments) is to their credit, though after spending half his 70 years at that incredible place an alternate arrangement seems absurd.
I used to watch everything from skunks to deer walk up to him and eat out of his hand. He was simply the good samaritan of a remote and beautiful place.
We used to dangle our feet over the edge of that awesome abyss while passing back and forth the Beam, and when I took the occasional toke he would tell me of his days in the service, and how those black boys used to "dig" the reefer.

I first was drawn out there chasing a beautiful ornithologist with remarkable oral skills who was conducting a bird count out on the strip.

She could recite poetry. What did I say?

Anyway, she and her friend Helen were staying out at Tuweap while making the count, and I rode out there on my dirt bike the first time and ole Rif was more than happy to refill my tank at Uncle Sam's expense.
Sometimes a local bush pilot would fly out tourists, and while the girls were there the pilot would tell the tourists (after pointing out Colorado City) that ole Rif was a plyg, and they'd land to find one old guy and woman along with these two women in their twenties greeting them, and if they had daughters they couldn't wait to GTF outta there!
Too phuckin' funny. John loved it.

I'll leave the "rims" to the tourists. For me, the canyon IS Toroweap.
I'm not the only one either.
Some guy named Kurt Diemberger used to go out there. He returned and gave John an inscribed copy of Summits And Secrets, the very one that I read with my feet dangling over the edge.

Ten years later I met Diemberger for the first time in Boulder. He didn't know that John had died.
He said he'd be back to pay his respects.

I told him not to forget the Jim Beam.

Its what John used to call, "Something for men over 50 and women of ANY age."

halfway from the center of the climbing universe
Oct 15, 2007 - 12:39am PT
cool tr. I liked it
Messages 1 - 20 of total 59 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
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