Disco Inferno V 5.9 C2+

  • Currently 3.0/5

Desert Shield Area

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Trip Report
Disco Inferno, Zion: An ongoing saga
Tuesday March 14, 2006 1:39am

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...

  Trip Report Views: 4,805
About the Author
Ammon is a big wall climber from Capo Beach.


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


Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Mar 14, 2006 - 02:06am PT


Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
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

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  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
Capo Beach
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....


Mudcat Spire
  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
Capo Beach
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.


  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

Trad 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

Big Wall climber
Veneta, Oregon
  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

  Mar 15, 2006 - 01:07pm PT
Great report; good times. Way to go!

Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
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
Capo Beach
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?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Mar 16, 2006 - 12:03pm PT
answering some of the questions above

the route was Pretty DAMN Disco. sorry bout that

you can protect the 5.8 chimney... but then you follower will have to get in it also. i put a piece or two way up high with long slings so that i could flip and ammon could jug outside the chimney

Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
Author's Reply  Mar 16, 2006 - 11:20pm PT

We forgot to mention the false belay, I think it was on the 5th pitch. It seemed like a short one and sure enough we ended up doing the route in nine pitches. Not a bad idea when short-fixing but no good if climbing traditionally.

So, we hit the rim in 3 hours 42 minutes, exactly 45 minutes longer than we did Desert Shield in. The extra time could be chocked up to the placements on the headwall being more tedious, not having ANY HB off-sets (Haa haa), or maybe a better excuse could be, we were still feeling the numbing effects from the Streaked Wall.

Haa haa, sound familiar?

Either way, we dun good and it was an excellent way to spend my last day in Zion.

The topo said to bring a drill because the bolts on the summit “are flexing hard”. We, of course, didn’t bring a drill kit. We checked them out and they didn’t seem bad to us, they must have been replaced. I did notice the webbing and cord on the raps weren’t looking that great.

We descended and were back at the car in no time.

Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
Author's Reply  Mar 16, 2006 - 11:24pm PT

Our rapping method went down like this:

I would fix the lead line to the anchor and go down on a single line to the next belay. Chris would re-rig it with the skinny line and double rap in. I could pull him in if needed. I take the other end of the lead line, fix and start rapping. Chris starts pulling and I get a head start off the belay and reduce the cluster. Just remember not to get too far off the anchor unless the rope gets stuck. The second guy has to pull all the ropes but the first guy has most of the weight and leads the descent, a good trade-off.

Oh yeah, does anyone know if this route has been done in a day before? Most of the locals seem to think it has but had been fixed from the day before.


Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
Author's Reply  Mar 16, 2006 - 11:38pm PT

Here's one of me hooking the holes on the headwall - The hole above is the one that blew.


Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
Author's Reply  Mar 16, 2006 - 11:53pm PT

Alright OUCH!! It's YOU and ME, after school... at the baseball field at three O'CLOCK.

Haa haa, we should put on a slideshow together. I could act all serious and you could be that guy who keeps crack'n jokes and switch'n the slides to your funny ones.

It would be a riot.

  Mar 17, 2006 - 12:01am PT
LOL! OK, Ammon, but you gotta give me a headstart. I'm slow as molasses in wintertime. Really some nice pictures and a good climbing adventure. Well done..
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Mar 17, 2006 - 12:18am PT
Seems like there would be some way to lower you on the lead line as it's being pulled and that would kill two birds at the same time.

Or maybe kill you anyway if it screwed up.

nice send as usual



  Mar 17, 2006 - 12:47am PT
Now this looks like a nice route us regular guys (mere mortals) can do.

But you guys still took it off into the stratospheric regions.

Back down here on earth, we love man.

It's a beautiful line.


  Mar 17, 2006 - 12:56am PT

What? Christ..... what the f*#k are you talking about!?

right here, right now
  Mar 17, 2006 - 01:00am PT
Good call.

Social climber
The Deli
  Mar 17, 2006 - 01:45am PT
What does it take to slow you guys down? Another nice job!

The first picture of Ammon on the ‘bolts & holes’ pitch is great! Beautiful rock and nice cross-bedding. I wonder how much time is represented (in # of years/months/days) in the length of that pitch, or between the bolts… Do you guys ever think about the fact that you are climbing on sand dunes when you are up there???









Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
Author's Reply  Mar 17, 2006 - 01:46am PT

Aiigh, I hate being lowered, Karl. It's worse than going down the skinniest of ALL lines.

Besides, you have to do a few tricky pendi's and scrambling traverses to get to some of the anchors. I think it’s easier if you have total control without yelling…. STOP!!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Mar 17, 2006 - 11:41am PT
here is a topo i made of the route.

there are more topos here: http://www.supertopo.com/topos/yosemite/obscurities.html
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Sep 14, 2006 - 12:01pm PT
just thought this should be archived here in case anyone wants to fix up the bolt ladder and wants to know how one of the fa feels

Just to give you a very brief history... Josh Cannon and I climbed the first three pitches and got snowed out. I came back two weeks later and soloed the 4th and 5th pitch. I left my ropes fixed at the top of the 5th and rapped down to get back to high school monday morning. When I came back to finish the route the next weekend, I stopped by John's place, he lived in Hurricane at the time, and we agreed to attempt to finish the route together. We jugged to the top of the 5th, I led the sixth pitch, and and John led the remainder of the route. As far as the holes go on pitch 5, I never intended on having empty wholes for hooking, I used a #3 copper head inserted by hand into the 3/4" deep hole. My thought was that I wouldn't blow the hole out by pounding a beak in there, but the if the route got repeated subsequent ascents could deepen the holes and place a bolt or baby angle. There was some natural hooking on the pitch, maybe five or six moves. I climbed the route about 6 years back and it looked like those hooking edges had blown out and holes or enhancements were put in there place. In retrospect, knowing how sandstone wears from repeated ascents, I would have taken the extra time and money to drill deeper and put something more permanent in the holes. I was 17, and that was my first time climbing a new route, live and learn I guess:)


belgrade, mt
  Sep 14, 2006 - 02:12pm PT
There is a new geology book that came out by Zion Canyon Institute, written by Robert Eves (Prof at SUU) about Zions geology. The book has several pics of climbers including one of Joe French on the Disco Inferno headwall.

Hobart, Australia
  Sep 15, 2006 - 09:21am PT
Just noticed this post.

I had completely forgotten (again) I was involved with Disco Inferno. Actually, it was really Calder's project. His previous partners had bailed on him and he came by my house asking if I would finish the route with him, which we did. But I only climbed the last three pitches, ropes were fixed to pitch 5. The only pitch I led was the second-to-last pitch (the pitch after the roof). My role in the FA was really one of support for Calder.

As some of you Zion dudes might know, most of my routes in the canyon don't have many drilled holes, but when they do, they are filled with a good solid bolt. So I say, fill 'em if you drill 'em.

By the way, Calder was quite the inspiring climber. I think he was only a teenager when he climbed Disco Inferno.


  Sep 15, 2006 - 02:23pm PT
OT: Whatever happened to Calder stabelford(sp). funny story, our friends knew him very well. Always talked of his climbing exploits. When it came time to name our son, we settled on Calder. Was just curious to see what happened with the other Calder. BTW ours just turned 7 and did his first outdoor bit of climbing a few wks back. Not sure he's gonna be a big wall climber but it sure was fun to watch.

Mudcat Spire
  Sep 15, 2006 - 02:31pm PT
He's a pilot. Skywest I think.


Trad climber
berkeley ca
  Jan 13, 2007 - 07:33pm PT
researching zion routes and I came across this sweet description. How would this be for a slouch like me to solo ammon?? culd ya bivi on Boogie Ledge This looks to have trade status (ONCE the holes fill in) as it seems moderate and easier than cosmic trauma, DS, and lunar X..?? What happerns after p8 as it looks like there is a line a nd a bolt, does it top out???

Good send fellas looks llke a ton o fun.

Big Wall climber
Long Beach, CA
  Jan 13, 2007 - 08:16pm PT
RE: Lunar X

I don't know but if Ammon/Chris say that DI had "tedious" placements, I don't think it is mellower than Lunar X. While I have not climbed DI, we did do LX about 2 years ago, and while the "Old A4 pitch" has a bit of spice to it, it went just fine with HB's and the odd offset alien as I remember. However the little "good bivy for 3" block at the anchor for the old A4 pitch requires a portaledge. We slept 1/2 pitch below that on a decent ledge because we didn't bring a ledge.

just my 2 sints

Trad climber
berkeley ca
  Jan 13, 2007 - 10:14pm PT
Yeah I did Lunar X 6 years ago and it was awesome. We were dumb and used cam hooks, they were the cause of 2 30-35 ftrs. What was your trip like.

I am trying to find a good route to go solo, and would like to avoid the 7 routes I have done-Lunar x, sheer lunacy, moonlight, prodigal, spaceshot, touchstone, monkeyfinger.

I would like to stay in the realm of c2 if possible beacuse I am a weenie.

That said moonlight in a day could be great fun.

Trad climber
berkeley ca
  Jan 14, 2007 - 12:39am PT
With some instruction and bolts I wouldn't mind fixing the drill ladder, now I have only placed bolts in granite, ssooooooooooooo.

Trad climber
berkeley ca
  Jan 16, 2007 - 05:10pm PT
What no trust??..

My twin brother's laundry room
  Jan 16, 2007 - 05:39pm PT
Rad trip report boys. Good to hear and see some monkies are getting after it.

Trad climber
  Apr 30, 2007 - 11:41pm PT
Hey all, I'm thinking about jumping on this route next week. Does anyone have an update on the blown out headwall? If we do decide on this route we will likely bring a bolt kit for any drilled holes that are completely blown out.
Maura LaRiviere

  Apr 1, 2013 - 01:29am PT
Hi -

I just got off Disco Inferno on 3/30/13, and thought I would add some more current info...

[] The drilled holes on the headwall pitch are now all filled with bolts. The mid-pitch section of nuts / offset cams is still flared and crumbly enough to be interesting.

[] I had a #6 that was pretty crucial to turning the first roof on the 6th pitch.

[] The couple drunken wasps that Chris mentions have now multiplied into an active hive of a thousand or so angry wasps that protect their territory quite fiercely. And somehow they have gotten the idea that the last thirty foot section of that pitch is their territory. The pitch was unclimbable above the second (smaller) roof, but at least the first roof is easier to down-aid than to up-aid. Do wasps have a season? Is fall any quieter in their lifecycle than spring?

[] The third pitch chimney is super fun! And, for now, totally wasp free.

[] The rap anchor tat was all looking pretty sun-faded, so we replaced what we could on pitches 2, 4, and 5.

Johnny K.

  Jul 16, 2013 - 07:13pm PT
Desert Shield Area - Disco Inferno V 5.9 C2+ - Zion National Park, Utah, USA. Click to Enlarge
Photo: Chris McNamara
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