Zenyatta Mondatta A4 5.7
Trip ReportZenyatta Mondatta Photo TR -10/08
Yo, so although our ascent of ZM is nothing remarkable compared to a lot of reports on this site...it was significant achievement on a personal level for my partner Brian and I. For us it was a step up in difficulty over anything in our past experience, and felt like breaking through a gateway toward more serious routes on El Cap and beyond. I dedicate the climb and this TR to my lovely wife who, this year more then ever has supported and strived to understand my El Cap addiction. Thanks babe!
I'm not going to give you guys a pitch by pitch blowdown of the route. If you want that, go up there and get it yourself....it's all there. If you want specific beta, email me. All I'll say is bring extra hooks and duct tape if you want pro in some spots. I will describe the highlights of the climb for me, most of which didn't have anything to do with the climbing itself, but the experience as a whole. If you don't want to read my introspective intro, then just skip down to the pics, they tell it all.
So, my fascination with ZM started probably 15 years ago when I first considered climbing El Cap, and grew over the years as I stared at it from the base of the Zodiac. The name alone capured my intrigue and imagination, what does it mean? I still don't know...and where does the route go? Even after completing it I can still only pick out about 3 main features on the route...the rest is still mysterious. However when we were up there it all seemed to come together and the path was obvious. Bridwell's routes are amazing, this was my second after South Seas/PO, and on both climbs I just felt a sense of wildness and awe...constantly asking myself wtf was he thinking!?
About 10 years ago, after doing a couple of easy EC routes I asked my friend and wall mentor Ryan Shreve (RIP bro), to go up on ZM with me. The first thing he said was, "Dude...that's a death route, a loose horror show." The second thing he said was "Go do more trade routes first, then we'll get on A4." At the time that second comment really crushed my ego, being a young punk full of piss and vinegar, thinking anything on EC would be easy. Now I know why he gave me those wise words and I am glad I followed his advice. I felt all my combined trade route experience prepared me for this climb, and as a result I allways felt confident and in control, never scared, like I was climbing in the best style I could. It's obvious on the route that many previous climbers didn't prepare enough, as evidence by all the drilled bathooks next to features and heads smashed into nice natural placements. These guys were scared, lazy, incompetent, whatever...and imho didn't respect Bridwell, his route, the rock, or future ascensionists. But whatever, I digress...
It's hard to say which is my favorite El Cap climb, but this one was definately up there. It was without a doubt, from start to finish, the smoothest ascent I've had, everything flowed...from one place ment to the next, one task to another...it all came together perfectly. Two minor mistakes, 1st I forgot my foam pad in the truck,which I regretted during the storm, but Brian was kind enough to let me use his. Second, I forgot to top off my Flask. wtf was I thinking! Again Brian shared his rations...of course, he ran out of papers the second day, so we are even. We fixed one Beak on the route, which I regret, I tried for 30 minutes on that thing, till the tie off snapped and gave up. I think I would have needed my chisel to get it. Still usable and bomber though.
After a nice warm up climb on Zodiac with my bros Justin and Blake, my intention was to solo ZM. Still kind of reluctant to solo, I spoke with my friend Mike Ousley in the Meadow, and asked him if he wanted to climb something, and explained my plan to solo ZM. His wise words were, "Well Bone, are you soloing because you don't have a partner, or because you really want to solo?"
hmmm...good question, simply stated yet profound and fundamental. I decided the answer was a little of both. Yes, I didn't have a partner who I felt was ready for ZM. My usual solution when I don't have a partner is to take up a less experienced friend and show him the ropes. But on this climb I felt like I'd be pushed enough as it was without worring about a n00b. I had soloed El Cap before via Zod, and it was one of the richest experiences of my life, and also one of the loneliest. I recall swearing I'd always prefer to do the Cap with a partner from then on, because...well, it's just more fun being up there with your bros. Still, however soloing has some strange appeal and still draws me...
Anyway, the week before up on Zodiac we watched a couple of solid climbers over on T-Trip, handling business, getting sh#t done, and having fun in the process...I was impressed. It was Eric and Brian and we had met them at the base. We met again on the East Ledges and had a great time laughing and telling stories about our climb. When I got back to the Valley and was getting my solo mojo on, I ran into Brian again right before he was fixing on Mescalito. We pretty much instantly clicked and had a great time chatting it up. For whatever reason after getting two ropes up on Mesc, things fell through for him and his partner...and he gave me that look, I could instantly read in his eyes, "Can I come on ZM with you dude?" He didn't have to ask, I beat him to it..."Well, why don't you just come with me?" I said. So plans flip flopped and there I was about to get on the most chalanging climb of my life with a guy I had never climbed before! F*#k it! I had a good feeling about Brian and he didn't dissapoint, the efficiency I witnessed on T-Trip carried right over. We swapped leads and shared the cruxes and all the work equally. The thing that sold me on climbing with Brian so quickly was his attitude, always smiling and positive from start to finish. His moto, "It goes, just pick the right hook!"
We were gettin ON IT! The first day started out as one of the best I can recall, when I got a call from a bro back home telling me Phish just got back together! Heck yeah! And now I'm jumping on El Cap, life couldn't be better! Dreams are coming true! The day ended in the best fashion as well, pounding beers with Ammon and Sean O'Niel at the base of T-Trip as they prepared for their push of T-Trip. We partied hard and fed off Ammons overwhelming energy and positive vibe. How could we not 'send after such a send off! I was feeling a little regretful in the morning trying to shake off the hangover. Ammon's solution, pound another beer!
Ok, I'll shut up, now for some pics! Thanks goes out to our friend Tom Evans who sacrificed his own climbing time to wait for the perfect light and shoot our climb. YOU ARE DA MAN!
The full selection can be seen here, there are alot:
THAR SHE BLOWS!!! Where she goes, nobody knows...
Fixing p1. Nico's at the base cheering me on.
Basking in the glory of EL Cap.
Ammon marching up the Trip. looking a little haggered.
Hauling p1 together. "I'm gunna puke, damn you Ammon, ARRRRGGGHH!"
Brian in a comfy belay.
Brian gettin er done on p4.
Toms View, notice I've got the ledge tucked out of the dropzone, another runout off the belay.
Me leading p5 A3r, whatever...this was the mental crux for me...turned out to be a walk in the drilled hook park...still taped a hook down for good measure.
Storms coming in and Brian takes us to the shelter of the Lighting Bolt Roofs. "I know it's comin, don't worry mom, we'll be fine." "Are you sure you have enough warm clothes?" "Yeah Ma..."
Tom checks in on us.
Enjoying our dry view of the storm.
The sun teases us, but we know it's a sucker hole.
Not much else to do but smoke our various smokables, we decide to save the beer.
Perfect end to a beautiful day of swirling clouds.
After a day of rest it's nice to be movin'! p7
Climbing through the Lighning Bolts next morning. Wild roof, my favorite pitch, probably my favorite single moment of the entire climb.
Tom's View, he loves my shirt, btw!
Brian gets more then his share of run-out hooking on loose features. p8
Brian approaches the 9 O'clock roof. p10
And does some of the craziest acrobatic cam hook moves I've ever seen, red tag line shows the angle...not windy.
Pigs lowered out. Not sure why I like Pig pictures so much.
p11, A2 Cool! Into C1+ awkward shitty, which I bash my knee on in the dark (our 1 pitch after sunset).
p12 One supposed A4 crux, was more like C2 thanks to Pete's bomber fixed heads.
Linking crazy features. Not sure which pitch...
Brian pushes the rope up p13 looking for the way.
Somebody needs to leave their mark, what does it mean? Whatever it means I think it's BS. Grafitti.
Approaching Pete's junkshow, pulling through it happens to be the crux of the route, but the wine and beer we dug out of his bag elieviates any hard feelings.
Brian starts p15, almost home!
Flyin' the colors one last time.
Parting shot. Top out before dark! Had to pound one of Pete's beers at the belay in celebration.
So there it was, a great climb with a great new friend. The thing that made this climb so special for me was the people I ran into and shared it with along the way. Brian and all the monkeys seemed to be there and full of encouragement. Old friends in the Meadow and at the bridge KFC, Bobo, Nico, Ammon, Ivo, Blaze, Mike, Nanook, Rich, Kate, yeah....even you Pete. You all made my trip. Can't wait till next time.
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