First One Day Ascent of Zenyatta Mondatta


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Big Wall climber
Lake Arrowhead
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 28, 2005 - 03:26am PT

I sat on El Cap Bridge staring at the Captain for the third day in a row. I was waiting for my best El Cap partner, “Fly’n” Brian McCray to show up. He broke down a hundred miles out of Las Vegas and was having an epic time trying to find the right part for his van in the small town of Baidy. We had BIG plans for some El Cap ascents. My cell reception was marginal but I got through to Brian. He sounded like he was at his wits end and not very happy.

“I won’t be too upset if you want to climb something with someone else. I’m not sure when I can make it there”, he said.

I too was pretty bummed. Brian and I have a great time together climbing in a style that I’ve grown to love. Most of our ascents have been smooth, quick and without a glitch.

Shaking my head in dismay I walked to my car wondering how I will spend the next few weeks before I have to go back to the suffer-fest, I call work.

I saw my good friend Ivo racking up near the bridge as I went to my car, heading for some coffee.

“What are you guys racking up for”, I asked?

“We’re going to climb Zenyatta Mondatta”, Ivo said.

Damn, I was psyched and bummed at the exact same moment. Having soloed the route before, I knew it was a challenging route and always dreamed of trying to climb ZM in a day. A lot of really strong teams have tried the first one day ascent but didn’t quite get it under a day.

I introduced myself to Ivo’s partner, Kevin. “Good to meet you bro, I’m Ammon”.

I watched them rack for a while and started wondering how I could weasel my way into their adventure. Just as Kevin was leaving I asked Ivo if he would be interested in a third person to their team.

“Hell yeah, hold on… let me ask Kevin”. Kevin got a huge smile on his face, jumped out of his rig and embraced the idea, fully. The plan hatched.

I was a bit skeptical not knowing Kevin’s experience but was willing to give it a try since I had nothing…. Or should I say nobody else to climb with, in the style I wanted to climb El Cap in. Kevin was honest about his experience (lots of bigwalls but never big pushes), he seemed like a fun person to be with on the big stone and I was stoked to be a part of the crew. Ivo, on the other hand, is the funniest most psyched partner I’ve ever roped up with. I knew we would have a good time, no matter what.

Well, we set off at around 9am the next day. Zac and Gene hung out at the base, being both support crew and peanut gallery at the same time. I led the first four pitches without to much adversity. I was still a bit dubious about how we would actually do until Kevin took over the lead. He was a natural. He told me that he had never led in blocks and never led more than a pitch at a time.

I led the first four and he led the next four in pretty good time. He was truly stoked and I could see that he had what it takes to keep moving in the bigwall pushes.

We did have a little hiccup on the 10th pitch when a small hook move broke off while I was hooking and I took a 40 foot whip. The expanding flake that was originally there had fallen off and you could clearly see that the feature was gone. I got close to the belay and had to call for a make-shift cheater stick. I was twelve inches from reaching a bolt right before the anchor.

I was pretty taxed after that lead. Ivo took over for three pitches and then Kevin led us to the top. I was pretty impressed with his performance, especially since he had never tried doing anything like this before. We ended up with a time of 22 hours and 56 minutes.

The first one day ascent of Zenyatta Mondatta. Good job lads!!!


Ivo and Kevin preparing to clean the belay

Ammon cleaning

Ivo Ninov at the belay

Kevin leading the "Lighting Bolt Roofs"

Kevin... sending

Kevin Jaramillo at the belay

Ammmon cleaning....

Ammon at the belay

The Summit!!!!


Social climber
Joshua Tree, CA
Jul 28, 2005 - 03:34am PT
Really Good Show Mates!!!!

Trad climber
Jul 28, 2005 - 10:49am PT
Props to the boys!
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Jul 28, 2005 - 11:11am PT
Nice work, lads!

Kevin and partner followed me and Tom up Tribal Rite this spring. Trip report and photos to follow.

Ammon - what pixel width did you use for these photos? They're about perfect for this McTopo forum.

Trad climber
San Rafael, CA
Jul 28, 2005 - 11:25am PT
re."Ammon - what pixel width did you use for these photos? "

Right click on the photos and select "properties" to view the dimensions.

Crestline CA
Jul 28, 2005 - 12:20pm PT
Nice stuff and a great climb... just wondering how you can post the pics on this site directly like you just did?


Trad climber
Jul 28, 2005 - 12:37pm PT
What El Cap routes have yet to see a sub-24 hour ascent?

Big Wall climber
Phoenix, AZ
Jul 28, 2005 - 12:56pm PT
Ammon -- great job! You guys hardly looked baked at the top. Fresh and ready to head right back another one, huh?

Tom -- you have to host the photos somewhere on a website. Either upload them to a site of your own, or you can upload them to any of a number of free photo hosting websites. I just started using one called "photobucket":

BTW -- MUCH thanks for the slides!! They were very nice shots.


Big Wall climber
Lake Arrowhead
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2005 - 02:06pm PT

"what is the big deal? nice work but isn't this like your 20th 1 day ascent? what was different this time?"

Zenyatta is a classic route that a lot of really strong teams have tried to do in a day. A lot of the other FOD's I've done are pretty obscure and nobody has ever tried to do them in a day. It's a noteworthy ascent.

"What El Cap routes have yet to see a sub-24 hour ascent?"

Check out my page at:

Here's some photos by Zac Tourville "WigBall"

Ammon leading the 4th pitch

Zac's website is at:


Trad climber
So. Cal.
Jul 28, 2005 - 02:39pm PT
Wow. that's quite the fattie that Ivo's about to spark...
Nice send!

Ammon, how about posting some of your better "efficient" climbing tips, I'm sure we (meaning us "off the couch",
slow, older, fatter climbers) could use any advice/tips you could fling our way.

Ok, I'll get you started.

Shack's speed climbing tip #1.
1. Have the bowl packed or the doobies rolled ahead of time.
This can be a big time saver.

Now your turn.

Big Wall climber
Phoenix, AZ
Jul 28, 2005 - 03:41pm PT
Ammon, did Zac top out on the Sea? I left when h was about 1/2 way up and haven't heard a report since.


Trad climber
San Rafael, CA
Jul 28, 2005 - 03:45pm PT
I like the sport climbing photos on the WigBall site.

Big Wall climber
Lake Arrowhead
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2005 - 03:56pm PT

LOL, that's a good one Shack.

I think the most important thing is to keep the leader moving. Try to always have upward progress and no down time at belay exchanges. If you're climbing in a team of three and your block is over, have the next leader jug the haul line, have the rack ready for him/her and get them going ASAP.

Use the double-figure-eight to equalize belays. We have six lockers and rotate three at a time. Rack your gear on two different slings. It cuts into your shoulder but suck it up because it's way faster to pass/tag the gear to the leader when they need it. On one side/sling rack draws/biners and the other rack all protection, cams, pins, etc. That way if the leader wants one or the other they are ready available.

Back up your belay with a screamer. Here's a pic of what it should look like:

(This is a pic from Virginia)


Big Wall climber
Lake Arrowhead
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2005 - 04:00pm PT

Hey Ed,

No, Zac bailed. He had a tough day on "Hook or Book", got off route and scared himself silly.

He did a push ascent on T-Trip, via the first four of Virginia a few days later. Zac led most of the route.

Jul 28, 2005 - 04:10pm PT

I think Ed left out some stuff. So in hopes of seeing some of your picts I'll give it a go.

1st you need to get it hosted. (What Ed said)

Then the picture will have a location that you can link to like this picture for example:

Then if you want it shown with out having to click on the link you have to use the following command:

{img]http:// enter address here.jpg{/img] only using [ ] brackets

so the example would look like this: (Changing the brackets so it doesn't work)


Trying this to see if I actually know what the hell I'm talking aobut:


Thanks Ed

Big Wall climber
Jul 28, 2005 - 04:23pm PT
Props to Erik Sloan for Power Retro-Bolting the piss out of it so it would go in a day.

Big Wall climber
Lake Arrowhead
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 28, 2005 - 04:46pm PT

The temps were not too bad, a little warm down low but had a breeze that cooled things off. It got pretty hot after this ascent, though.

BitchMcFist, I don't think Erik bolted the piss out of ZM and this had absolutely nothing to do with the time. He did install a bolt/hanger where a rivet used to be at the "Nine O'Clock Roof". I can't remember if it's still there because I didn't lead that pitch.

I will mention that I'm not a big fan of those huge ass button heads (I think Minerals installed them). You have to own some pretty big wired hangers to get them over the huge head.

Oh, I should also mention that the end of the 10th pitch fell off (it was an expanding flake). There’s natural hooking now and you can get really close to the belay but leaves you at least a foot away from clipping a bolt right below the anchor (we had to rig a cheater stick out of a funkness, my first cheater move ever, bummer).

I think a rivet should be added right below the small roof. Thoughts?


Trad climber
Irvine, CA
Jul 28, 2005 - 05:15pm PT
DUUUUUDE! You guys look like you had a blast up there. You look so casual in those pics. Congrats!

Trad climber
So. Cal.
Jul 28, 2005 - 05:15pm PT
Are they 3/8" or 1/4" button heads?

Social climber
The Deli
Jul 28, 2005 - 05:20pm PT
Nice send guys!

Yeah, Ammon, I did install those first four 3/8” buttonheads… And you know why…

If the feature on pitch 10 fell off and there is now a totally blank spot, it seems like it would be a good idea to place a 1/4" buttonhead with two washers – like the rivets at the beginning of pitch 6.
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