Trip Report
TR: Where have you gone, Chris McNamara?

by yo
Friday December 7, 2007 12:21am
1995. A smoky teahouse somewhere in Nepal.

“You mean Chris McNamara?” my buddy Matt said. “I heard he has beaks for fingers and cam hooks for thumbs and a lemur’s tail.”

“Is that how he climbs so fast?” I said. “Cause he’s really ripping it up right now.”

“For sure, and he’s only like sixteen or twelve or something. I heard he has the wingspan of Dikembe Mutombo.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Honestly I don’t either,” Matt said, “but I think it’s really long. He was made to climb big walls.”

“He seems pretty badass at it.”

“He climbs em and he’s always gonna climb em. That’s the life. I bet ten years from now all we’re gonna be reading about is Chris Mac climbing this and Chris Mac climbing that.”

A toothy Sherpani with blue jeans and headphones checked on us and went back to the kitchen. Matt sipped his yak butter tea and I looked at some Norwegian girls.

“Oh, and this other thing I heard?” Matt said. “I heard Chris Mac got this girl pregnant in Coarsegold and she had the baby and when the kid came out it was a spider monkey on crack.”

Present day. Mosquito Cove outside ZNP.

Matt’s diesel Dodge Ram roared into sight and did a dusty bootlegger into our campsite. A little unnecessary. I coughed while he dismounted. His truck had handicapped plates, which he said were from the previous owner, though you couldn’t be quite sure.

“I got it!” he shouted. “The final clue!”

I wanted to keep reading my copy of Nub: The Tommy Caldwell Story but figured I’d humor him. Matt had a piece of paper with him. He was real giddy about it.

“I know where he went.”

“Who?” I said.

“Chris Mac,” he said. “Remember? The baddest of the baddest who just one day disappeared? And you and me have spent all these years, like ten years searching in vain. Until now.”

I rearranged myself in my Crazy Creek, because those things hurt your traps after a while.

“These are critical points of plot,” I said. “It’s good we’re talking about them so the reader knows what’s happening even though technically I would know exactly who the hell we’re looking for and that makes this whole exchange kinda grating.”

“Wait. What?”

“Nothing, bro. Lay it on me.”

So he took a huge breath and told me how he was over trying to shoplift a book from the visitor’s center when he saw the hottest girl walk in and she was carrying a haulbag that was all scraped up and so he—I said he could skip ahead a little if he wanted. So he told me how Chris McNamara, right before he disappeared, did a new route in Zion called Drop Zone. And this was the topo to Drop Zone. So.

“So that’s it?” I asked.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and gazed at the topo and I figured I’d do the same. Just your ordinary topo, some lines on a paper. Hard to think it was the Answer. Huge blade rack, though, that was promising.

“I guess we gotta climb this route,” he said.

Present day. Angelino Wall, ZNP. This is our second present day, which is my bad, because that’s pretty confusing. This is actually a presenter day than the first one, but I called that present day and I can’t call this “three days in the future” because then how confused is everybody gonna be.

Drop Zone (Chris McNamara, Dougald MacDonald & Jessica McAlba, 1996.) Turned out this action was located on the Angelino Wall. I’d never heard of it. Some folks also call it the Apex Wall, and I’d never heard of that either. It’s right above the NPS housing in Zion, which is kitty-corner from the NPS command bunker, which is under the NPS doomsday machine. Lately I’ve heard one guy on the Internets calling this the Brangelino Wall, really hoping it would catch on. Drop Zone looked like an okay route, some junk lower down, and looked like some loose rock, but the meat of the route—three pitches of thin seams—were mind-blowing. One of these pitches climbed through a monstrous varnished scoop called the Sandstone Tsunami, and man did we like the sound of that.

“I say we push it and get it over with,” Matt said.

I said I agreed. And that’s how we got it on.

Upon the undertaking of an epic mountaineering objective, teamsmanship and intrepidness are of the utmost, not to mention sobriety.

Eight hours later we were at the top of pitch two and we decided to change tactics to an almost more heroic strategy: sieging the crap out of this McMomma. The problem, which really came out of the blue at us, was that this shizz was hard. The rock on this pitch was like a loaf of monkey bread left on a counter for a month and then rubber-cemented to other loaves of monkey bread with some Pop Rocks in between. You know rubber cement, with that little brush and kinda makes you high.

You will be.

This pitch was composed of rock similar to the volcanic rock that made up the plaster of paris volcano I made and erupted to some acclaim in Mrs. Ziemkowski’s first grade class. Sorta gooey like that.

Bomber anchors, boys! Thanks a McMillion! (Proudest drilling ethic I’ve ever seen. Eleven pitches and I think 11 holes.)

You may be thinking to yourself, what’s all that junk balanced above the intrepid leader’s head? Well, that’s just Matt, first of all, and above him is the Sandstone Tsunami! Bwahaha! Oh, lower? Yeah, that’s a bunch of loose blocks all Jengaed there waiting for some clown to stuff in a 3 McCamalot. Which is just what he did, while the whole thing snapped, crackled and popped like a . . . I don’t know, not sure what the right simile is. We moved the belay to the right and to the left and back to the right and trust me when I say many sandstone blocks of the smallish appliance size came out of this bad boy. Not toasters, bigger than that. The topo called this the “Was A5, Is A1” pitch, presumably meaning it was more chockfull of death blocks when they did it and they trundled most of it to make it “safe” and if that’s the case, imagining what it was like on the FA gives me ball trouble.

You ever look at your pictures after a route and think, who are all these people? They look familiar but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t having that much fun.

Focus you must.

Hang ten, bitсhes.

Now here’s an interesting little number. Who wants to guess what this feature is called? I’ll go first. How about Super Terrific Fun Time Ledge! Bzzzzt. How about Horrorfest at McMidnight? Closer. It’s called Thank God Edge, an astounding clever name when you’re reclining on your couch with the topo and slightly less so when you have to tweedle out there with that void under your jumblies. That thing gets smaller and smaller and then its gone . . . but then you go up! Up the pitch the topo calls “A3 pins & 5.8R.” Yipe! And the only thing that keeps you going is the prospect of spraying yourself silly once you top out, assuming you live. And you do live! And also top out. Except not really, it’s the sort of route that kinda slabs over and you’re still manteling and pulling free moves through the shrubberies and your ropes are caught up on everything and the pig won’t move, dammit, and my crap your toes hurt. But then you’re done.

That’s how we did it. We shook hands and looked at the lights of Springdale and a faint cheer rose up from the NPS compound, where the tools in their olive-green bathrobes had been watching our progress through their sniper scopes and basking in our late-night Rammstein serenades and the booming cannonades of the occasional sandstone mini-fridge. You’re so very welcome, dear tools. No charge. In fact, we’re happy to pay you for a show like this.

The morning after the second present day. Summit of Drop Zone, ZNP.

When we awoke from our shivery dirt naps, we could’ve sworn there was something we had to do. We packed the bags, headed for the raps. There, we remembered: the quest. Instead of down, we went up. Up vast grainy slabs, through thickets of manzanita and prickly pear. The sky darkened, turned green. Brimstone filled the air. Finally, at the brink of a bottomless chasm crossed by a rickety bridge, stood an withered old man.

“So,” said the old man, “a great wall climber and an internet spraylord and a Jedi knight approacheth.”

Matt said he was pretty sure who was who and I did too. I called dibs real fast on that Jedi thing. Matt said we were looking for Chris McNamara.

“First answer me this. What . . . is your name?”


“What,” the old man said, “is your quest?”

“You know what,” Matt said, “if we’re gonna come all the way up here and treat you like some kind of wise man, why don’t you put the effort in and come up with some of your own material. Don’t rip off classic movies.”

“Yeah,” I said. I can be pretty tough when other people start it first.

“And that’s another thing,” Matt said, turning to me. “If you think I’m excited about your little TR here, well, think again, bub.”

“What’s with all the attitude all of a sudden?”

“Don’t make me look like an ass. And don’t make it seem like I got a big man-crush on McNamara or something.”


“And don’t just fill up the whole TR with pointless dialogue, like people will read all that crap. They just want pictures, they’re stupid. They want climbing porn so just give it to them and leave me out of it.”

A little more timid I said, "Maybe you could ask your question and we can bail."

“My pard is right,” Matt said. “Just tell us what we want to know and we’ll let you get back to…whatever it is you got going on up here. Where’s McNamara?”

The old man stroked his beard. His curled fingernails clicked on each other.

“Ah, yes. Many years ago two others visited me here. One was very young, the force was strong with him.”

“That’s the one. Where’s he at?”

“Ahhh. Well the older one walked away with the bags. He walks among you still. But the child . . .the Chosen One, he walks no more. He has sprouted wings and now he soars.”

The Conqueror and the Conquerees.

The FA and a topo:

Props to Chris and Dougald. No smart-assed appendices and/or slandering of uninvolved big-name climbers will be included herein.

  Trip Report Views: 4,700
About the Author
yo is a climber from a tied-off Tomahawk™.


  Dec 7, 2007 - 12:36am PT
Aah... all is right with the world again.

climber's near nevada...
  Dec 7, 2007 - 12:37am PT
sick, yo...most sick indeedly...

  Dec 7, 2007 - 12:43am PT
Thats the frign', your in ground zero. sweet.
More Air

Trad climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 12:44am PT
Great TR...Ghost Dance is next...

A long way from where I started
  Dec 7, 2007 - 01:13am PT
Best TR in a long, long, time.

Gym climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 01:20am PT

Trad climber
it's all turtles, all the way dooowwwwwnn!!!!!
  Dec 7, 2007 - 01:34am PT
funnE chit, mank

Trad climber
Provo, Ut
  Dec 7, 2007 - 01:51am PT
The Arete of trip reports... beyond anything I have ever read... perfection! pure perfection! thank you so much.

Oakland, CA
  Dec 7, 2007 - 01:59am PT

Watertight and clever as the day is long. Loved it. I could tell in the photos that you were already composing witticisms by p3.

"...imagining what it was like on the FA gives me ball trouble."

Always keep a diamond in your mind, Yo!

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
  Dec 7, 2007 - 02:17am PT

right here, right now
  Dec 7, 2007 - 02:53am PT
That's a peach!

Big Wall climber
Capo Beach
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:04am PT

[monkeycall]Thanks for sharing yo. Nicely done![/monkeycall]

  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:04am PT
That Yoda pack is the funniest fecking thing I've seen in awhile!


Trad climber
Butte, America
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:05am PT
Fine read, great vischees--thanks for sharing.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:13am PT
yo...your stories are always of the utmost pleasure, but this time your pics trumped. It's like you were sending those beaks into ice or snow or something. Where did they go?
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
  Dec 7, 2007 - 04:06am PT
Congratulations on a proud send, and thanks for the great TR!

If I didn't already have plans for a wall in Zion in the Spring I would be making them after reading your TR!


Trad climber
Louisville, CO
  Dec 7, 2007 - 08:22am PT
i love that stuff.

handsome B

Gym climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 11:46am PT
Awe-some stuff! Thanks for the TR!

My twin brother's laundry room
  Dec 7, 2007 - 12:26pm PT

Trad climber
One drink ahead of my past.
  Dec 7, 2007 - 12:44pm PT

  Dec 7, 2007 - 02:22pm PT
Awesome TR and photos. It's great to see someone go do our route, which we thought was pretty darn cool (and perhaps even pretty damn western). I haven't heard of any other ascents, though Paul Gagner and a partner climbed the first three or four pitches to get to a crack system farther right (never finished, I believe). It's possible yours was the second ascent.

Those photos bring back some great memories. We traded leads for the whole climb, and pitch 2 was Chris' first lead ever on sandstone. It was an eye-opener for him. Seems like you had "fun" too. Great job!

belgrade, mt
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:39pm PT
yo, is it possible to be gay for just one man? Because maybe your wife will understand it better that way.

I can't see the pictures because I'm at work but I hope their's someone wearing purple shorts that are a few sizes too small.

Trad climber
Denver, CO
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:40pm PT
butt puckering anchors. better you than me.

nicely done
Jerry Dodrill

  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:45pm PT
Great TR! I didn't know there were TWO Tsunami pitches in Zion. Dougald, did you lead this one, or did Chris author both of them?

There were a few more bolts on Los Banditos than Drop Zone.

Social climber
Enron by the Sea
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:46pm PT
That thing needs a publisher! That's as good a TR as I've ever read, here or anywhere. If it doesn't float above the you know who threads for the rest of the week somebody ought to start yankin' library cards.

I haven't laughed that hard for a couple of present now I need to go to Zion and borrow a sniper scope to have a good look.


Trad climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 03:50pm PT

Trad climber
Louisville, CO
  Dec 7, 2007 - 04:03pm PT
i just read this whole thing over again.

i kinda wanna go climb in the desert kinda.

Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Dec 7, 2007 - 04:07pm PT
Thanks, yo - a marvellous tale. Definitely to be added to the Classic Threads list.

I don't suppose you saw any canoes up there?

  Dec 7, 2007 - 04:12pm PT
Jerry: Luck of the draw: I got the Tsunami pitch, the hard beaking and hooking traverse two pitches below it, and Thank God Edge. Chris got the hard second pitch and "Was A5, Is A1." Belaying was much more dangerous than leading on the latter, though Chris did have to bathook around a particularly huge and loose block.
Standing Strong

Trad climber
snowshoe thompson history trail
  Dec 7, 2007 - 04:50pm PT
OMG a TR from YO!

merry christmas to US!

thank u bro :)

Trad climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 05:09pm PT
I reread the thing twice, waiting for photos to load, the words were that compelling. Thanks for the effort in the writing!

Boulder climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 05:39pm PT
Sweet tr, thanks for posting it!!!

belgrade, mt
  Dec 7, 2007 - 06:42pm PT
Ya know kids you could've just done that 5.8 on Carbunkle.

It would have been a lot less work. It's no Cherry Crack but what is?

Mudcat Spire
Author's Reply  Dec 7, 2007 - 07:37pm PT
Thanks, peeps!

Dougald, thanks for popping in. Pretty proud route, enlightening in a few spots, ya know? I think the modern beak selection made quite a few moves more secure. And I can't imagine an FA load on some of those anchors. Cheers!

Social climber
  Dec 7, 2007 - 11:51pm PT
Yo! Thanks for the TR.
Your description of topping out made me feel like i was there. Gotta love weaving through the manzanita and sage with all that rope drag trying not to drag the rope through a cactus. It really sucks though when on rappel and you discover you were unable to miss all cacti.

Thanks again!
s. o.

Trad climber
not where I want to be
  Dec 8, 2007 - 02:37am PT
What is this, yo without short shorts? A sweet report and a proud send.

It seem Matt has been busy in zion this fall.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Dec 8, 2007 - 02:47pm PT
Great TR!

Reminds me I wanna get some more of them african peckers for mixed ice climbing...

-Brian in SLC

Trad climber
New England
  Dec 8, 2007 - 03:34pm PT
Great job, excellent TR. My new goal in life is to find one of the Yoda packs, haha!

Big Wall climber
  Dec 8, 2007 - 06:18pm PT
Yo - TooSlow says that is just TooFunny!
Tahoe climber

Davis these days
  Dec 9, 2007 - 12:33am PT
Proud TR, and proud send.
Thank you so much.

Social climber
From the gettin place
  Dec 9, 2007 - 01:08am PT
A breathtaking work of staggering genius!

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
  Dec 9, 2007 - 09:06am PT
Great TR. I knew this wasn't going to be a normal TR when I saw the Yoda.

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
  Dec 9, 2007 - 11:06pm PT
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Dec 10, 2007 - 03:17pm PT
haven't laughed that hard in a long time. you got the gift! where do you have more of your writing?

great work on the 2nd. ahh those beak anchors bring back memories...


Trad climber
Portland, OR
  Dec 10, 2007 - 03:39pm PT
"ahh those beak anchors bring back memories... "

Shudder. Should beak and anchor even be in the same sentence?

  Dec 11, 2007 - 01:43am PT
Brilliant! You're a genius. Fabulous read.

Social climber
Enron by the Sea
  Dec 11, 2007 - 08:05pm PT

On pure merit

  Dec 12, 2007 - 04:10pm PT
Chris wrote: "ahh those beak anchors bring back memories... "

I really don't remember the anchors being that bad (I was jugging/belaying on them), but Chris assures me some of them were. So, I take back what I wrote earlier about respecting our bolt count. If someone else does this route and thinks an anchor sucks, feel free to back it up. No bolts for bold climbing = cool. No bolts for bad anchors = stupid.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 4, 2008 - 12:46am PT
whoa! how'd I miss this one.


Guess the McNewsletter is good for something after all. :)

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jan 4, 2008 - 03:12am PT
Thanks Yo for being about the funniest damn writer on the planet! I was worried I'd wake up the rest of the house with my out-loud laughing.

you will be.
I was instantly transported to reddish lights on yoda's face as the x-wing fighter left dagoba with a half-trained jedi

Hobart, Australia
  Jan 4, 2008 - 11:21am PT
Missed this one first time around.

Gems like this is why I resist the frequent temptation to delete the Supertopo favorite on my browser (now if I had a "Ignore Bush, Politics, and WOS Button" I'd be pretty happy.)

Trad climber
  Jan 4, 2008 - 01:06pm PT
Dude, that story is so sweet, it made me dig out my aiders...



Trad climber
the south
  Jan 4, 2008 - 01:26pm PT
Where can one obtain a Yoda pack?

beneath the valley of ultravegans
  Jan 4, 2008 - 01:35pm PT
I'm about ten inches under water right now so thoughts of dry, red sandstone are about all I can hold onto. Great write-up! Here's a little accompaniment from a while back:


Trad climber
Boulder, CO
  Jan 4, 2008 - 01:48pm PT
Frosty.... you are my big wall super hero...
Thanks for the post. I am living through you.


  Jan 5, 2008 - 12:26pm PT
Wow. Simply epic TR. If you've gotten a swollen noggin from all the praise you've received its deserved.

Kudos to Dougald for his post "If someone else does this route and thinks an anchor sucks, feel free to back it up. No bolts for bold climbing = cool. No bolts for bad anchors = stupid."

The last part is the most refreshing,sensible, and responsible comment on the matter I've heard in a long time.
The Alpine

The Sea
  Jun 7, 2008 - 10:28pm PT
Resurrecting a classic...

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jun 7, 2008 - 11:40pm PT
Cheers to you BOYZ!

  Jun 8, 2008 - 08:59am PT
this was (or is? -- present day, I guess) fantastic. very funny and proud glad folks bumped this!

  Jun 8, 2008 - 03:22pm PT
Great, yo.

Great stuff.

Social climber
  Jun 8, 2008 - 04:32pm PT
"Resurrection" - Oh My!

Really, Yo, you are the best at the Trip Reports. I only search Supertopo under your name any more, trying to avoid the sanctimoniousness of other posters.

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Nov 12, 2008 - 08:02pm PT
Bump for one of my favorites.

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Nov 12, 2008 - 08:28pm PT
Now THAT is a trip report. Holy crap that was a good read (and pics!). Thanks for bumping this, I think I missed it last December.

Where can I get me a stuffed Yoda to bring up on my back into the vertical beyond? That was priceless.
T Moses

Social climber
Paso Robles
  Nov 12, 2008 - 09:08pm PT
Probably the best trip report of all time .

Social climber
  Nov 12, 2008 - 10:39pm PT
Yo, he really is THE man! And so pious, or is that prius! I wish I had a nickle for every big bad wall he has nabbed, and your way too fast!

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Feb 25, 2009 - 11:01am PT
good stuff!

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Feb 25, 2009 - 11:59am PT
great TR!

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Feb 25, 2009 - 02:09pm PT
yo for president!
T Moses

Social climber
Paso Robles
  Feb 25, 2009 - 11:35pm PT
Bump for Hump Day TRing! THE BEST TR EVER!
seth kovar

Reno, NV
  Apr 18, 2009 - 11:55pm PT

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Aug 17, 2009 - 07:39pm PT
bumping the good stuff


Social climber
No Ut
  Aug 18, 2009 - 12:16am PT
How could I have missed this? Unless my present tense is all in the past? ...whatever...

Yo, I climbed with Yo Daddy, as Yo know (even walked into Kangtaiga with with Yo-all - Yo-self - as a tiny Yo might recall)

Yo has tickled my funnybone in the best way Yo can imagine. What fun it must be to climb with Yo.

Come back to the current present, Yo...we need mo-o-Yo!

Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
  Aug 18, 2009 - 12:18am PT
He's also the funniest guy on this whole forum.
Dude, I salute Yo(Damn, I sound like Lynnie).

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Aug 18, 2009 - 01:23am PT

Trad climber
Golden, Co
  Aug 31, 2011 - 01:25pm PT
Remember reading this report awhile back, took a couple of minutes to find.

Bump for awesome TR's

Mountain climber
Wilson, Wyoming
  Sep 16, 2011 - 09:39pm PT
Bump for Yo and good content, and cause Yo said that nose lovers should suck it. Ha.

edit: and for hard sandstone routes, and for beak belays, and for general non-nancy-ness...

Trad climber
going big air to fakie
  Sep 16, 2011 - 09:55pm PT
That was funny and a great TR. Glad I didn't miss it, even if it is a bit later. SWEET!!!

la la land
  Sep 16, 2011 - 09:56pm PT
Bump for sour belt candy rum chasers!!!

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 17, 2011 - 02:03pm PT
This site should have a little robot that auto-bumps this trip report at least every 3-6 months! Definitely in the Pantheon of all-time greatest reports.

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Sep 17, 2011 - 08:26pm PT
Like watching Jim Brown play football. Then his film career (incl. first interracial love scene) and then helping kids steer clear of gangs.

Trad climber
Stockholm, Sweden
  Feb 18, 2012 - 03:38pm PT
Big Bump!

Hillarious and ingenious at the same time!! Can't imagine how much fun it must have been for Chris Mac to read this when it was first posted..
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Feb 18, 2012 - 04:07pm PT
This TR should be mandatory reading for post-grad contemporary writing classes.

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Feb 18, 2012 - 05:32pm PT
No kidding! How did I miss this one?

Dude knows all of the classic movie scenes, fer sure.

Gym climber
Small Town with a Big Back Yard
  Nov 5, 2012 - 11:13pm PT
Bump for Yo's excellent writing.

Jim Henson's Basement
  Jan 23, 2013 - 09:29pm PT
Yo's the man. Great writing. Great pics.

You failed to leave Matt out of it BTW.

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Mar 14, 2014 - 11:37am PT

Oakland, CA
  Mar 14, 2014 - 03:29pm PT
Bump again