Zenyatta Mondatta A4 5.7

  • Currently 4.0/5

El Capitan

Yosemite Valley, California USA

Trip Report
Zenyatta Mondatta Photo TR -10/08
Friday October 17, 2008 3:19pm
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.

Backing up...
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.
[Click to View Linked Image]

Not much else to do but smoke our various smokables, we decide to save the beer.
[Click to View Linked Image]

Perfect end to a beautiful day of swirling clouds.

After a day of rest it's nice to be movin'! p7

Tom's View

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.


Tom's view


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.

  Trip Report Views: 6,373
About the Author
Lambone is a ice climber from Ashland, Or.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Oct 17, 2008 - 04:05pm PT

> The name alone capured my intrigue and imagination, what does it mean? I still don't know...



Zenyattà Mondatta has been translated as Sanskrit for "Top of the World".

Big Wall climber
  Oct 17, 2008 - 04:21pm PT
Hi Lambone,

Sitting in my office with computers all around breaking. Fed up. Had enough! This was truly inspirational and came at the right time! I hope one day I can be as good a climber as you (and the other folks here)!

Cheers, GraemeK

  Oct 17, 2008 - 04:38pm PT

Superb! Looking forward to Chapter 2.

The photo across the face with the portaledge in the distance is wonderful. Great job.



Trad climber
Pioneer, Ca
  Oct 17, 2008 - 04:55pm PT

Sweet TR!!!

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Oct 17, 2008 - 04:56pm PT
Nice job. That looks pretty sick!

Big Wall climber
  Oct 17, 2008 - 05:37pm PT
Had a japanese friend decoder the text.

It reads "Americans have large penis, we have very small penis"

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2008 - 05:48pm PT
haha, nice, but I think it's Korean.

Trad climber
  Oct 17, 2008 - 05:53pm PT
It's def Korean.

Thanks for the pics and TR dude! The ZM is a solid wall so I dunno why you're trying to play it down. Good for you guys for getting after it!
Mighty Hiker

Outside the Asylum
  Oct 17, 2008 - 05:58pm PT
A nice report! I particularly liked the juxtaposition of "close by" photos with the "distance" ones from Tom. Kind of underlines how there are different perspectives on what we do.

black hills, south dakota
  Oct 17, 2008 - 05:59pm PT
Nicely done Matt!!

I'm glad we got to share the experience----looks bitchin with Tom's photos as well.

......still curious about the hidden message engraving.


Nor Cal
  Oct 17, 2008 - 06:02pm PT
brilliant line, great tr, thanks for the photos..did that thing in 91' with some friends, the pics bring back memories of how outrageous it is up there...strong work.

Big Wall climber
  Oct 17, 2008 - 06:20pm PT

Nice T.R.!! Great pics & thanks for the commentary. Great route & position, the last bottom to top new route I believe, a great score for Bridwell & party!

Thanks for sharing.


Soda Springs, CA
  Oct 17, 2008 - 06:33pm PT
As one of the FA "party" I say, big congrats! great job, nice TR! Glad after 27 years the route still delivers. I got the first on the Lightning Bolt roofs, so really enjoyed those pics. I got to do a 20th anniversary ascent with my son, I guess I will have to start planning for a 30th anniversary trip up there soon. Maybe that "awkward C1" double edge sword flake would go free!


Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
Author's Reply  Oct 17, 2008 - 06:35pm PT
Peter, thanks! I allways think a lot about the 1st ascent team when I am on a route and try to imagine how much different their experience was.

We were in awe of you and your son's 20th anniversary clean ascent when we were up there. We were not good/ballsy enough, but you definately inspired us to tread lightly with the hammer.

Screw that awkward C1 pitch, you can have it, that thing drew blood!

  Oct 17, 2008 - 07:48pm PT
Bump for a fine job on the World's Best Crag. Nice going, bro.

XLNT report!

Trad climber
Ashland, Oregon
  Oct 17, 2008 - 08:06pm PT
Congrats again to the both of ya!! Nice send, and excellent trip report. Hope to share a rope again with you soon!

Big Wall climber
  Oct 17, 2008 - 09:15pm PT
lambone, great job on zm, i thin the graffiti is korean as i made as ascent right after them and the rock dust was still there. i think they made it with rock drill. i popped 5 heads on the route, assuming i was a little heavier than them, but really bad form to desecrate the rock that way. ciao, shipoooi
hungry man

Trad climber
  Oct 17, 2008 - 10:00pm PT
Thanks for the awesome trip report!

  Oct 17, 2008 - 10:06pm PT
gread job and impeccable style dude.

Trad climber
Phoenix, AZ
  Oct 17, 2008 - 10:28pm PT
Nice job guys. Some sick looking walling going on there!
Conragts, Brian!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Oct 17, 2008 - 10:40pm PT
Great TR.Congrats

"Zenyattà Mondatta has been translated as Sanskrit for "Top of the World"."

Highly unlikely (and that's generous) For one thing, there is no "Z" in Sanskrit.



Trad climber
One drink ahead of my past.
  Oct 17, 2008 - 11:19pm PT
T Moses

Social climber
Paso Robles
  Oct 18, 2008 - 02:05am PT
Cut and paste from Google search:

"Zenyatta Mondatta was originally going to be called Trimondo Blondomina, meaning "three blond guys (dominating the world)," but the band did not want another title referring to "blond" so it was shot down. They reached a consensus with Zenyatta Mondatta. Zenyatta Mondatta is supposedly a composite of several things. "Zen" comes from the eastern religion. "Yatta" is rumored to have ties to Kenyatta (the leader of the Mau Mau's of Congo-Zaire-Kenya). "Mond" comes from "Monde" - the French word for world. The whole thing was then articulated in such a way to sound like "Reggatta." Another possibility is that the title came from "Zenith" and "Monde," which means "Top of the World." A third theory: In Japanese, Zenyatta Mondatta has a somewhat rude meaning: "gave money, gave a massage."

P.S. Great TR!

Big Wall climber
  Oct 18, 2008 - 08:31am PT
Nice TR - Good work!

I did the route four or five years ago - I don't recall any of that graffiti - where is it at?

black hills, south dakota
  Oct 18, 2008 - 09:00am PT

The script was in the middle of the short bolt ladder on P13.


Trad climber
  Oct 18, 2008 - 10:13am PT
Very nice TR.

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  Oct 18, 2008 - 10:50am PT
Kristoffer - how're your kidneys? Did you ever get back on SG? It looked from above like you were going to - what happened? Ran outa time?

Great writing and fun quotes:

"All I'll say is bring extra hooks and duct tape if you want pro in some spots."

"It goes, just pick the right hook!"


Cardiff by the sea
  Oct 18, 2008 - 11:14am PT
Great pictures and report Matt. You show alot of passion for the Captain. Nice send!


Big Wall climber
El Portal, CA
  Oct 18, 2008 - 11:49am PT

Far and away, this IS one of the more impressive photo TRs of the year...right up there and great shots. Thanks for your TR. It really brings me into the El Cap mojo zone.

I am glad everything came together for you. Partners, the climbing, the vibe. Beautiful.

I really liked what you wrote. It captured so many of my own feelings about climbing El Cap routes at my limit, soloing, and the experience of chasing life on the Captain.


Sport climber
Meff-ferr, Oregon
  Oct 18, 2008 - 09:08pm PT
Stellar TR! Congrats on the send!
I've looked at these pics a bunch now. Super inspirational to local wannabes like me. Thanks.
David Nelson

San Francisco
  Oct 19, 2008 - 01:59pm PT
Great TR, probably sets a new standard for writing and pix. Can't beat the close-ups and perspective shots. Nice collaboration.

(IMHO: This is the best use of ST, not the flame wars or political BS that is not climbing-relevant. The Archive feature of ST will make this available to other brave souls who are contemplating ZM.)

  Oct 19, 2008 - 02:22pm PT
Nice TR,
Great pics. I really enjoyed your intro.

Mammoth Lakes, CA
  Oct 19, 2008 - 10:10pm PT
Nice send guys. And great insight into the climb.

  Oct 20, 2008 - 02:59am PT
Hey Pete, I don’t want to hijack this thread with my BS but yeah my back and kidneys feel fine now… I never ended up sending anything on that trip so I feel in some ways I just wasted my time up there but in other ways I felt like I learned the lesson that you can’t win every battle and what comes around goes around… there will be plenty of time for suffering later.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Oct 20, 2008 - 08:45am PT
Great report and awesome climbing,
guys. WOW!

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Oct 20, 2008 - 11:51am PT
Way to take the plunge there Lambone...you lived! you sent!

This feeling of satisfaction will glow for some time. Then, you will pull out the ol' guidebook again, or look at a photo...hoboy. then what?

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
Author's Reply  Oct 20, 2008 - 02:10pm PT
Yo, thanks everybody!

Rhodo, the only answer...get back up there! I'm back in the Valley plotting on round 3 with the Captain and two friends. No bivis this time, cant wait. Ooooohhhhh!

radical, Captain...suck? Are you kiding me? Suck it up. Yeah it's hard, but you gotta keep it fun no matter how bad the epic. If it's sucking you might as well go do Royal Arches with the n00bs.
Ottawa Doug

Social climber
Ottawa, Canada
  Oct 20, 2008 - 02:23pm PT
Ditto for what Hollyclimber said. I loved what you wrote. If we were having beers, I'd be saying all the same stuff. Proud send and an awesome report with outstanding pics. ('aint it great to have Tom Evans shooting your trip!)

Thanks a ton,


Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Oct 20, 2008 - 02:49pm PT
Well done guys!
Bump for climbing thread.

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
  Nov 13, 2008 - 05:27pm PT
bump for bad ass pictures

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Nov 3, 2009 - 10:58am PT
I was obsessed with ZM cause of the name - a Police album of course. I heard Bridwell was really into the album at the time.

I had to do it even though I only had a few El Cap routes under my belt. I did it in 1999 (has it really been 10 years) - the next party to do it after some Koreans scrawled their mark into the rock (as shown in the pics) - I was livid. Great route though.

Trad climber
Ventura, CA
  Nov 8, 2009 - 12:10pm PT
Great TR. I think I've read it a couple times now. :)
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Nov 8, 2009 - 02:11pm PT
Nice TR. Good idea not skimping on the screamers!

Good images too. Isn't it cool that Tom is down there sharing his images to mix up with our own?

Life is good



  Nov 9, 2009 - 08:52pm PT
Best TR in ages. Great shots and narration!
Burnin' Oil

Trad climber
  Apr 27, 2016 - 07:51am PT
Bump for competent climbing

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Apr 27, 2016 - 11:09am PT
Great pics. I love seeing these photo-intense TR's, because before digital, it was a pain, and expensive, to shoot photo's. Now it isn't a big deal.

Trad climber
Pasadena, CA
  Apr 27, 2016 - 04:03pm PT
Zenyatta Mendatta is just a made up name, playing with the phonetics.

Sting said so himself in an interview.

Great ride up the Captain!

Big Wall climber
  Apr 30, 2016 - 06:54am PT
BABOOMMMM looks like you had a good time, keep after it and looks like you learned ur lesson on running out of e cig battery.

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  May 24, 2017 - 10:36am PT
2008 bump
El Capitan - Zenyatta Mondatta A4 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
Zenyatta Mondatta follows a steep line about 200' left of Zodiac.
Photo: Galen Rowell
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