"So, you've never done a wall?" Zodiac TR. First wall.


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Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 26, 2008 - 10:54pm PT
This is a long one...

It’s Sunday, Dean and I are sitting in the meadow watching 2 guys take their time on Sea of Dreams, and 2 other guys from YOSAR pushing on Lost in America. We were lucky enough to see the YOSAR guys on the crux pitch 8 about 20 or so hours into their push. In our original plan this’d be our first night on The Zodiac. Plans change. The original plan had Dean picking me up at the San Fran Airport, us blasting to the valley, hauling a load to the base, jetting down for some pizza, crashing at camp 4, hauling and fixing to 3 on Saturday, and blasting on Sunday. The original plan didn’t include us stopping at McDonald and Dean getting food sickness. He was pretty much shot, which was ok, as I got to get some shopping in, a few beers, and some quality people watching. Camp 4 was full so we drove back out to Hetch Hatchie (spelling?) to camp for the night. We decided against poaching a site, but did try in Yellow pines. Some knob from Chevron would have none of that. I’m sure that anal prick has no friends, none!

Sorry I got side tracked, back to Sunday in the Meadow. As a skinny woman rides up on a bike, both Dean and I recognize her as Lorna from a few of Holly’s TR’s. She is here to check on her pals on Lost in America. We chit chat for a bit,
she asks “What are you up to?”
We say “Zodiac”
“oh I want to do that one”
I say “I’m pretty psyched, this is my first wall”
Silence….. Crickets……
“So…you mean you’ve never done a wall?” Lorna inquires.

I opted not to tell her that I really only have about 20-30 short, 80’ or so, pitches of what I think might be C2. In truth/ retrospect it was more like C1. I also opt to not mention that I’ve never placed a piton, never placed an off set alien, and have never seen a pin scar. All of these things made me a little nervous, and I sort of didn’t want to see Lorna’s reaction. Dean has a bit more experience and had soloed Tangerine Trip, practiced on a bunch of lower pitches of El Cap routes, did the Prow, and I think the West Face of Leaning Tower.

An oft repeated quote of the trip was “So… you mean you’ve never done a wall?”

Back to the journey. Saturday had Dean and I Hauling a load to the base and me leading pitch 1 of 16. All in all I lead 1,3,5,6,8,10,12,14,and 16.

The climbing was pretty straight forward, off set aliens are almost like cheating, the top had me placing 2 or 3 cam hooks to the anchors. It took me 2.5 +/- hours, and was unquestionably the hardest aid pitch I’d climbed to date. But I had read somewhere that if you can climb pitch 1 of Zodiac, you can climb Zodiac. I’m feeling pretty good, until Dean tells me he saw C-Mac climb the first pitch in 12 minutes on YouTube. Dean cleans

And we decide that since he is still a little dehydrated we are better off going down instead of fixing to #2. I rap and access the damages of a bounce tested nut.

Off to the Pizza deck for a Hawaiian pizza and a beer. Camp in Camp 4.

Sunday gets us up and hauling another load, we jug, Dean leads pitch #2

I clean, it’s hot, and Dean is still so dehydrated that he has not peed yet. I vote we bag, hang in the meadow, get some pizza and a good night sleep. He agrees. We haul to #2 rap and head down. See above for Sunday afternoon.

Camp 4 was loud.

Monday morning, up and at em. Haul the last load, and blast. We jug to 2, I lead 3 with much more confidence than 1 until I had to hook about 20 feet to the right to get to the belay. I’m thinking C1 my ass this is gripping me. AHHHHH I clip the belay, that feels SOOOOOOO good. Dean says “you sure you’re at the belay?”. “Yeah,… ah shit” I now see the error of my ways as there is a nice C1 crack leading to a belay about 20’ of gripped hooking to my left. I sit there in the heat and get all worked up over nothing, then hook back to the route. This cost us some time.

Dean sets off on 4, it’s hot. I clean 4 and Dean says we could dock the gear, head down for some pizza, get 1 more gallon of water each, get up early and blast in the morning. I agree but change my mind about ½ way down the trail as I start thinking about jugging 400’ and where we’d be if we just kept climbing. Hind sight…

Great bivy, 5:15 start. Either my nerves are getting the better of me or I am dehydrated as I have a pretty bad gag reflex trying to eat a Cliff Bar. I chalk it up to dehydration. We Jug to 4. Actually this is Dean rapping from 4 the day before..

I head out on 5 and 6. Climb to the 5 anchors and back clean a piece or 2 pieces and head out on 6. Loose crap at the start but pretty straight forward. 1 inverted cam hook over a bolt felt pretty easy. USE SLINGS from 5 anchor to 6 anchor, I created some horrendous rope drag.

Now we’re in the meat of it. Dean gets the Black Tower.

I get pitch 8.

And take my first aid fall trying to speed things up on shallow cam hooks (over a good placement)

I fix the lines and rap back to 7 for the bivy. My first night on a wall!

Wednesday 5:15 I jug to the top of 8, set the haul, haul, get my ass back in the ledge while Dean leads 9.

Then Mr. ElCap pic showed up at the bridge to get some pics of Dean leading 9, me cleaning 9, me leading out on 10.

The nipple pitch was intense. I cam hooked out to a fixed nut, placed a lost arrow as the nut was suspect, cam hooked past 2 more fixed pieces to get me to the nipple. Above the nipple I used 2 beakes to get to the belay. For sure the hardest, headiest, pitch I’ve led.

Dean fired 11 and we bivied.

The next morning I led 12. 12 was nice but getting to the belay had me hooking for 6 moves above a bolt and some ledges. The hook were pretty enhanced though.

Dean on 13, me on 14, Dean sends 15. Apparently Tom Evans was heading out and shot a few last photos of us at 15…

Dean leading 15

By the time I get to 15 it’s 8 oclock-ish. I try to get Dean to lead 16 to the top, no deals. I consider it then keep remembering people saying it’s no give away etc. I tell you what, if you get there and it’s a relatively full moon and it’s 8:00 PM, send it, after what you did to get where you are it’s no big deal.

So Dean and I are spent, after dinner we decide to use 1 porta ledge and the natural ledge for the bivy. We only have 8 hours until we get up. Yeah, not a good plan. I think I slept for an hour that night..



Pitch 16 took 45-50 minutes. The summit is awesome.

Summit photo

East ledges suck. 6.5 hours, and I took a good tumbler with the pig on my back. Dean said I looked like a slinky as the weight of the pack would accelerate my tumble, then slow it down, then speed it up. It’s amazing what I’ll do to entertain a pal.

Showers at housekeeping. Burgers, chicken wings, fries, and nachos at the Curry Grill. Sleep back at Hetch Hatchie. Saturday to Deans house in San Fran, a town with a lot of hills, and a 4th floor walk up. Taco’s for lunch Sushi and Ice Cream for dinner all with the lovely Tia, Deans wife. Sunday on a plane back to Michigan. Monday I get to see my sweets, Christa, and my dog, and her dog.

Thanks for hanging in there to anyone who made it this far.




Temps 95 – 102

B- Cliff Bar
L- 2 Fruit cups and a cliff bar
D- Chef Boyardee and 2 pudding cups

4 Liters of water each a day.

Pro, recommended rack from supertopo, but bring less iron. We used a hammer 8 times (except to clean). 3 lost arrows and 5 peckers total. Pitched 7, 9 and 10.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:01pm PT
damn nice first,
good on ya Prod and Dean!


Aug 26, 2008 - 11:05pm PT
Good job

It's a nice route isn't it.
The Schmutzvink

The WAY past
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:08pm PT

contender for Best Trip Report for '08
mark miller

Social climber
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:17pm PT
Great job in those Temps and sweet Trip report.
goatboy smellz

cien años de soledad
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:27pm PT
Way to go Guy & Dean!

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:34pm PT

Nice shots

Social climber
Boulder, Colorado!
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:53pm PT
Cool! Thanks!

I drink your milkshake!
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:54pm PT
Well you done a wall now, ain't ya, boy!

Best feeling in the world.

Ice climber
canyon country,CA
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:56pm PT
1st wall as well, before then after the clean up. Your water bottle looks awefully small for summer. I barely had the energy to take pix(they were film then). What's next hard man ?
note; 1st time was pre cam hook and pre offset alien,adjustable aiders too. Way easier(cheating? the 2nd)
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
up Yonder (someplace else)
Aug 26, 2008 - 11:58pm PT
Good job,Guy(s)....That was my 1st El Cap route, too.....
You got some memories goin' for me.....Thanks.
(Except we had the pleasure of seeing Dougald Macdoogal{Ronald Macdonald? that R&I guy} get pummeled in a storm because he came unprepared...
poor silly bastard!)
Groove on, Prod!

Social climber
wuz real!
Aug 27, 2008 - 12:02am PT
Nice, thanks.
It was my partner's first el cal rpute. My first as head nailer. Six months later he told me he was scared the whole time.

prod Send!

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Aug 27, 2008 - 12:09am PT
Dude, a blistery winter of climbing that iced-up fence of yours paid off! Good on ya! Did any of that eBay junk come in handy? Hope so.

Social climber
My Inner Nut
Aug 27, 2008 - 12:12am PT
Good work, Guy and Dean! Cool TR.

Now a Prod slinky - that's FUNNY!
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Aug 27, 2008 - 03:12am PT
Well done. A hot time on the big wall.

Where I once was,I think?
Aug 27, 2008 - 03:43am PT
Groove #1 well done !

christa Marsh

Sport climber
traverse city, mi
Aug 27, 2008 - 09:32am PT
I second the Wooooohooooo!
Hey, do you like pizza?

Trad climber
Aug 27, 2008 - 10:12am PT
Ha! My first Cap route as well... Great report.

Gym climber
Otto, NC
Aug 27, 2008 - 10:54am PT
NIce job fellers...it was hotter than hell that week!
Russ Walling

Social climber
Nutsonthechin, Wisconsin
Aug 27, 2008 - 12:01pm PT
Good job men!

Crestline CA
Aug 27, 2008 - 12:33pm PT
Yo... nice work, nice route, nice report, nice shots... a climb to remember! Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Trad climber
Aug 27, 2008 - 12:55pm PT
Two men, one ledge-- what could be better?

Plus forty feet of bonus hooking.
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
Aug 27, 2008 - 01:40pm PT
Nice job boyz! Any route on El Cap is always five stars!



mars...it's near nevada...
Aug 27, 2008 - 01:54pm PT
"...off set aliens are almost like cheating..."

money, baby ! nice work !

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 27, 2008 - 03:34pm PT

Thats a good question. Could be something this thanksgiving in Zion with my girlfriend.

Hey Jaybro,

I was more scard prior to leaving the ground, and prior to leading out on 1 and 10. After you get moving you find a groove.


Did I buy some ebay swag from you?


At one point I opted for the 3' sloped stone ledge below the fish ledge. It sucked but at least I got to streach my legs out. Shortly after I fell asleep my right leg fell off the ledge into the abyss. That scared the sh#t out of me, I was awake right now!

Everyone else,



Big Wall climber
Yosemite, CA
Aug 27, 2008 - 04:41pm PT
Super good job! From Lorna too, as she doesn't frequent the Taco... Nice job beating the desire to go down. Maybe next time, we can show the way down the ledges in 2 hours from Zodiac!! ;)


Aug 27, 2008 - 06:06pm PT
great pics man! keep reading to learn about an equally fun experience!

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-Andrew with VisitLasVegas.com
Jonny D

Social climber
Lost Angelez, Kalifornia
Aug 27, 2008 - 06:12pm PT
my partner's first wall as well, brings back great memories. congrats and thanks!
Dr. Rock

Ice climber
Castle Rock
Aug 27, 2008 - 06:19pm PT
Did you see that guys eyes?
He was stoked. Or spooked, one or the other.
Looked like he just took a huge hit off a Crack pipe, if that's the rush you get, sign me up.
Dean looked like "Ho Hum, another day at the office, this MoFo better have brung Beer."

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 27, 2008 - 07:58pm PT
Hey Doc Rock,

More stoked than spooked. Ok maybe a little spooked here and there too, but all in all more stoked. And yes Dean is pretty even keeled.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 27, 2008 - 08:24pm PT
A very nice report!

Too bad that idiot Andrew from VisitLasVegas dropped by.
nick d

Trad climber
Aug 28, 2008 - 12:28am PT
I don't know about that, M.H. I think it's a reflection of how awesome the trip report is, when Vegas is trying to piggyback on their fame.

I think you guys should at least get comped at the Sammy Davis Jr. room or something.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Aug 28, 2008 - 09:52am PT
Great job, guys!
Wow--only 4 liters a day in that heat--you'se
guys are hard men!
Awesome report, congrats on a well earned wall!
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
up Yonder (someplace else)
Aug 29, 2008 - 05:28pm PT
Prod bump!.....

Trad climber
Aug 31, 2008 - 01:56pm PT
Wow, proud first wall, Prod!
I was under the impression that Dean is quite an experienced (solo) wall climber, though? Maybe he was just trying to impress me :-).
Either way, sounds like an awesome adventure, and I'm glad the food poisoning horrors ended on the ground.

Hope to run into either and both of you on the rocks!
hungry man

Trad climber
Aug 31, 2008 - 02:56pm PT
Thank you for the awesome trip report!

Trad climber
San Diego
Aug 31, 2008 - 04:40pm PT
Nice job on your first wall. Those temps are gnarly! Way to keep it together!
Captain...or Skully

Big Wall climber
up Yonder (someplace else)
Sep 1, 2008 - 01:15pm PT
Anti-politico bump...
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Sep 1, 2008 - 01:22pm PT

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
Jul 5, 2009 - 02:09pm PT
Bump for a great TR Prod man!

HOOK right, HOOK Left, That had me rollin! HA


Social climber
the local crag
Jul 5, 2009 - 02:22pm PT
nice work, hope you learned your lesson about eating fast food before a climb, but then again that goes for curry food too

Boulder climber
San Diego CA
Jul 5, 2009 - 02:45pm PT
Great TR guys! Looked like a great time

Trad climber
Jul 5, 2009 - 03:11pm PT

Social climber
New Zealand -> Santa Barbara
Jul 5, 2009 - 06:07pm PT

Great report and a congratulations on a great climb.

Cheers, Roy
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
Jul 5, 2009 - 09:49pm PT
Good job guys! I climbed Zodiac in Oct. '06 and your TR brought it all back. Heck of a first wall! Great pics and report.



Social climber
Jul 5, 2009 - 09:56pm PT
when/if I get on a wall, will remember this TR, thank you!

Trad climber
A place w/o Avitars apparently
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 6, 2009 - 02:53pm PT
Thanks all,

I just went back and re read what I wrote. It brought back a bunch of great memories for sure. Can't wait for September so I can get on my second wall....


Trad climber
Jul 6, 2009 - 04:51pm PT
Nice Prod!!
Look forward to September's TR

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Jun 2, 2010 - 05:24pm PT
nice to have (re)discovered this TR. The 'nut test' scratch looks like it could have been a lot worse.
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Jun 2, 2010 - 07:35pm PT
Nice guys. Well done.

Zodiac was my first route on the Captain, albeit in '83 (feeling old now).

6.5 hrs. on the East Ledges though? I don't think it's ever taken us more than 4 and that's without the fixed lines. I, too, however, took a tumble with the pig on my back, as did my partner. Nothing like being face down in a bunch of bushes, your head pointing downhill as a haulbag crushes you into the brush.
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