Trip Report
No Sleep Till...South Rim: The Grand Canyon's Zoroaster Temple in a Single Push
Friday November 18, 2011 10:21am
Credit: zoom loco

The normal approach to climbing is to maximize your chances of success. But Peter Croft talks about going for it–and being willing to fail big–rather than surely succeeding: “It’s kind of a lost, or it’s kind of an ignored idea, magnificent failure rather than a kind of mediocre success.”

To stack the deck in your favor by camping at the base of the climb and following standard wisdom will most likely to result in a send. But using what we know to be the easiest way to ascend, we turn the game on its head: stack the deck against you as much as you think you can. Make sure there’s a reasonable chance of failure. Give the peak a chance to humble you. Then if and when you do succeed, it’s something even more special…

A few months ago while sharing a beer, Ben brought up Zoroaster Temple in the Grand Canyon, which he had glimpsed on a trip with his brother in 2005. The most beautiful peak in the country, a perfect sandstone pyramid rising above thousands of feet of symmetric red cliff bands. The peak is remote and in the very center of the Canyon, not on one of the rims. He claimed that if the Grand Canyon is America’s cathedral, Zoroaster Temple’s summit is the Holy of Holies. So beautiful, but so far away and obscure that it is rarely climbed.

A supreme effort befitted this supremely beautiful peak, and a chance of failure was necessary to do it justice. He wanted to send it in a single push, on what is generally done as a 3 or 4 day climb. 30 miles of hiking and low 5th scrambling with 10,000 feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of elevation loss with a 6 pitch 5.9 climb in the middle.

Zoro had been #1 on Ben’s goal list for six years now, but he couldn’t find any takers for a partner. Hikers don’t have the expertise for roped climbing and climbers aren’t too keen on the huge approach. And of those that might be able to handle both, no one seemed to be stoked on the single push idea. Since I had been training for the Pullharder Marathon, Ben claimed I had the right amount of send potential inside of me…

The results of the climb, report, photos, and videos, are here:

  Trip Report Views: 3,341
zoom loco
About the Author
zoom loco is a mountain climber from san diego ca.

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Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Nov 18, 2011 - 12:31pm PT
That is a big day!

So now can you envision doing a canyon traversal + Zoroaster Temple? Start on south, finish on the north rim?

Trad climber
Starlite, California
  Nov 18, 2011 - 12:43pm PT
There used to be a number of virgin summits in the Grand, and their location Top Secret!

George Steck has published an excellent guidebook to off-trail, cross country muliday loop trips off the North Rim. I decided to tackle one, as a daytrip from a jump near Point Sublime to the Flint Ridge. Got a very early start, since I'd be reascending to the Rim in temps in the high '90's.

The scale of the land is mindboggling, and it took a couple of hours just to make it from the road to the rim, which required crossing 2 minor side canyons on the way. In a particularly cool and lush green section of the game trails which constitute the routes, I damn near stepped on a rattlesnake the size of my arm - it was green in color.

Finally at the Rim, it took some time to locate the one and only feasible breach in the Toroweap formation, which is the uppermost rock stratum. Steep, loose, cliffy, with much traversing back and forth on narrow ledge systems. I was so concerned about losing my return route, I set cairns close enough that I could always see at least 2 from any one position. (Naturally, these I destroyed on my return, not to ruin it for the next party)

In summary, and speaking from many years of some pretty serious xc bushwacking, I thought my little "Walk in the Park" was the most difficult and challanging workout and routefinding experience I've ever encountered.

  Nov 18, 2011 - 01:07pm PT
Good work! You pullharder guys are always getting after it.
The psych is contagious.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 18, 2011 - 09:19pm PT
Bad AZZZ Y'all, way to get after it, I used to have that much energy.....:)

Trad climber
  Nov 18, 2011 - 09:31pm PT
Yo - I climbed Zoraster back in the '70s. Nice memories. We did the south face as I recall. I had never climbed on sandstone and as a result didn't trust my pro at all. Made for an interesting day. Such a beautiful area. We DIDN'T do it in a day, but camping in the canyon is more than half the fun in my opinion.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Nov 18, 2011 - 09:25pm PT
Nicely done, who needs sleep?

Trad climber
San Diego, Ca
  Dec 19, 2011 - 09:58pm PT
Great Trip Report. Will you be in the PCT50 this year?

  Dec 19, 2011 - 10:25pm PT
This is just a great climb. Definitely a highlight for me. Thanks for sharing your trip. It takes me back.

Trad climber
Flagstaff, AZ
  Dec 26, 2011 - 12:53pm PT
Good Work- We did the first 1 day ascent back in 94 in 22 1/2 hours in August, via the Screaming Sky Crack- So hot that day!

  Dec 26, 2011 - 02:06pm PT
Hey Nutjob,
A couple of friends of mine on a big backpack from Nankoweap went up Clear Creek and over down to the North Kaibab Trail so if you were on Zoroaster and kept on the "ridge" past Brahma you could drop down somewhere near Diva. I can't remember which canyon they dropped down. That would be one way to do rim to rim through Zoroaster. Or you could do the way Jaybro and his friends went, along the "ridge", and hit the North Rim at the Wahalla Plateau. You would need a lot of water for that.
It would be fun though.
M. Volland

Trad climber
Grand Canyon
  Dec 26, 2011 - 09:50pm PT
What size rack would you all recommed? Is there any way to get by with just one rope?

  Dec 27, 2011 - 02:27pm PT
NICE! Way to just go for it. That's one of those experiences that I could easily have talked myself out of with too much thought. I've climbed that thing a bunch and there's nothing else like those temples in my experiences.
I tried Zoroaster in a push back in 95 after reading about the screaming sky crack dudes.(Petito =Eric Mendt? sp?) We failed by two hours but swore we'd come back. WE never came back, but in 2003 two buddies and I dove in and pulled off Zoro and Brahma in 22 hrs. NEVER EVER AGAIN will I do such a thing. I'm sure of it, but to have those kinds of pushes in my memories will never fail me. So, for me it took climbing Zoroaster 4 times w/ one push attempt and a 3 month sea kayaking trip to separate me from climbing long enough to forget how hard core just trying to do a temple there and back in a push is. Then we went for it. I was so tired when we were done I gave my keys to my bro and jumped into the back of the truck for SLEEP. Woke up 15 feet off the ground looking out the windows hearing my friends yell to me that they need my credit card. Guess we got a flat tire and they couldn't wake me up so the mechanic just sent me up with the truck. It was totally weird. Lots of laughs.

Again, WAY TO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm friggen fired up. For me its undeniably one of the coolest places I have ever been and you sharing it really brings up some good feelings. THANKYOU!

Now if we can just get massive amounts of gear up there so those roofs (gotta look around) can be climbed. I've never seen so many stacked in one place. No sh#t.

Peace you all. Way to pull that sh#t off.

Bob Jensen

Social climber
  Dec 27, 2011 - 08:55pm PT
hey there say, zoom loco.... neat trip report.. .thanks for the share... someone bumped it up, :)

beeen only jumping on and off fast, so i've missed trip reports...
but--been busy with kids, and holidays, :)

Trad climber
Flagstaff, AZ
  Dec 28, 2011 - 11:12pm PT
Yes it is Eric Meudt- My name is always so misspelled, probably due to poor handwriting skills- I said the same thing after we got back. I would never do that again- I was so cooked.

zoom loco

Mountain climber
san diego ca
Author's Reply  Jan 10, 2012 - 09:25pm PT
Thanks all for the feedback and comments. To answer the questions, yes I (zoomloco/Ben) will be running the PCT 50. (Was that a random question or do you know me?) Second, yes I think it's very reasonable to do a rim to rim with zoro in the middle. If you used one of the routes recommended in one of the comments above, then it would be really hard to do it in a single push; but if you stick to the trail for the R2R, and just add Zoro as a side trip, it would add only a thousand feet elevation to the normal zoro climb, and also 6 more miles on trail. So 2+ hours of time only; for us I think we'd be able to go under 20 hours for that excursion. Actually we got lost a couple times this trip on the approach as well, so I think if doing the route again we could cut between 1.5 and 2 hours off our original time without too much trouble. Lastly, we used a single rack of BD cams (to 3.5, but only needed to #3) and only a single nut to sling the strange bolt. The wide section isn't really that wide. If you have big hands, you can get away with fist jams instead of proper o/w groveling for the most part. The o/w is also secure, moreso than the sometimes gritty sandstone on the face below. And finally, I think you'll want 2 ropes, or at least 1 and a tag line. The first rappel is not a full 60m but pretty sure it's way more than 35 and it's a free rappel. I guess you could do something creative and rap the route instead on that section but you'd have to leave some gear, I think, if not on that pitch then in the middle of the next rappel. It was 3 double rope raps with a 60m rope for us, that's easy and what I would recommend. It's sandstone so not gonna get cut so you'd be comfortable to climb on something skinny and light.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 10, 2012 - 11:08pm PT
Owww Owww Owww

Must..... eat...... Motrin.......
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