Zodiac A2 5.7

 
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El Capitan


Yosemite Valley, California USA


Trip Report
Zodiac, The Good, The Bad, and The Wet

by Moof
Sunday May 12, 2013 12:28pm
Credit: Moof

Cube life with kids in Portland is not very conducive to training for Spring walls, so we pretty much didn't.

We got in the Valley on a Thursday afternoon and hiked in a load of water. Skies were clear, and the temps running 80'ish, just about perfect. Recent theft reports kept us edgy and not inclined to stash much beyond water and my old haul rope. Part of the point of that load was to assess the drip situation, and we concluded the drip was a minor issue, nowhere near bad enough to have to fix pitches before blasting.

Day 1...

The next day we hiked up two light loads and started up. We ran into a soloist just down from wrapping up his finals in Bozeman. He was headed up Virginia to the Trip, but I'm not sure how far he got.

John had done P1-3 before, I had done nothing on Zodiac other than bivy on the first bolt after Half Wall Paul wimped out on the Trip many years ago, so I got Pitch 1. While there are a few tricky pieces, overall P1 was not too bad at all.

P1
P1
Credit: Moof

John took P2 and had no issues, despite both of us being pretty much off the couch.

P2
P2
Credit: Moof

We wrapped up the day by finishing P3 in daylight, pretty worked from all the loads we humped in that day. Make sure to save 2x #2 camalot sized pieces for the end of P3, as I left one down near the belay and had to resort to some pretty stupid shenanigans to make the last couple moves to the belay.

Day 2...

Pitch 4 was pretty unremarkable, a little free, and then nothing too sketch for the aid.

Looking Back on Pitch 4 to the previous nights bivy
Looking Back on Pitch 4 to the previous nights bivy
Credit: Moof

I got P5&6, and ended up doing them as two pitches rather than link. I had no desire to do lots of back cleaning, as we were is slow and steady mode for this trip. P5 has 2 bolts at the belay, but one is clearly for a portaledge. It was easy enough to clip a fixed link cams, 3 aliens, and one bolt to make a nice belay cluster. So far none of these pitches were bad at all. Just a few cam hook moves, or occasional iffy piece to deal with.

P7 Black Tower
P7 Black Tower
Credit: Moof

John got the dreaded Black Tower pitch. Sawed off, fixed RURP's, the whole nine yards. We'd moved into real meat of the route. The hammer was used to tap a sawed off into place, blowing our clean ascent (one of just 3 pins we hammered). Being worn down, we stopped for the day here with a decent ledge to stand on.


Day 3...

P8 started out innocuous enough with a couple hook moves to get into some jumbled easy free moves, but i quickly got suckered into a hand traverse by some luring Shortest Straw bolts... Back on route, things stayed easy moving up a diagonal crack to a thin dihedral. After a final green alien, it is brass, fixed heads, a fixed head, and a couple sketchy ass hooks on an exfoliated pancake to get to the bolts. Spicy.

P9 thinness
P9 thinness
Credit: Moof

P9 stayed thin and full value with brass, small cams, cam hooks, etc.

P10, the Nipple, was mine. "Leapfrogging Cam Hooks. Wild!" Great...

Cam hooking on the nipple pitch
Cam hooking on the nipple pitch
Credit: Moof

Thankfully there were 3 fixed pins after the bolts, keeping the chances of a swing back into the dihedral in check. I also got to place one more blue alien, figuring John could clean it from the last fixed pin before lowering out. Despite all that, after about 20-25' and 2 new pairs of trousers from shitting myself every time a cam hook farted, I went back to cams. We had brought plenty, 3x aliens, and 3x offset aliens, so why not... Testing your first cam from your existing last cam hook is just plain freaky. Soon enough I was pulling the awkward moves at the nipple. I move the big green #5 above the bolt to keep the route out of the crotch, though this was probably not necessary. Above that were aliens placements, a bomber hand placed lost arrow (short medium is perfect, and the only lost arrow we used).

Credit: Moof

At this point our weather forecast was going downhill rapidly. We expected thunderstorms and nastiness for the next few days. We were thankfully to now be parked under the Mark of Zorro roof, and for the first time on the route be able to sleep without a drip in our face. Sadly, it would also mark the end of climbing in the sunshine.

Day 4...

At this point the temps had dropped, the clouds had moved in, and it was clear we were in for some good times... Both of us slept cold. In my case I was too warm when I went to bed to put on my long johns, but had woken up cold enough to put on everything else I owned, eat, piss, etc in the middle of the night.

Mark of Zorro Roof
Mark of Zorro Roof
Credit: Moof

John took the Mark of Zorro Roof, taking one small clean fall when an offset alien popped, but the previous Blue-Black alien held just fine (and may never be the same...). The pitch was fairly heads up the whole time, as was the nature of the pitches by this point.

I got P12, which was pretty easy for the first half. Then I got to the "C2+ Expanding". I am a fatty, so I am that dude that cleans off the loose sh#t so that you skinny f*#kers can yard on things with impunity knowing someone heavier than you has surely already been through here and cleaned out the loose bullsh#t. I get to the be f*#ker who takes the ride busting loose sh#t off that is ready to go. The expand stuff is two block in a row that you shove cams behind. The first one looks semi-attached, but I still put the red alien way low and sh#t myself a few times standing up on it. The second block is fully detached with last wisps of an old duct tape X on it. Thanks for the warning as#@&%e. Not able to figure out any alternative I get a black alien behind it as low as I could and walked up the ladders as gentle as I could, finally clipping a bolt. Whew!

All over, or so I thought... After a second bolt I got to the "C3F or A2". Huh. My nerves were shot, and the only thing to do for the last 15' was going to be hooks. Many hooks, with just one fixed lost arrow (can be backed up with a gray alien) in the middle. Near the end you get to stand tall, clip a downward pointing fixed angle, make a cam hook move, and finally clip some nice bolts. A mind f*#k for sure.

The weather was nasty at this point, but the P12 anchors are in an alcove mostly protected, while Peanut ledge is known to be more open and exposed. We chose to stop early and bash out the last 4 pitches the next day, still hoping the weather would get a little better.

Day 5...

P13
P13
Credit: Moof

John made short work of P13, getting us to Peanut ledge.

Rain was spraying, and the wind was whipping, but none of that changed the fact I had to get up P14. 80' of 4-5" with just one rivet placement in the middle. Yay.

I had come decently prepared with 7 big cams, planning on leaving behind some pro. Down low I got to leap frog a gray #4 C4 and purple #4 Camalot, leaving behind a #4 rigid friend for pro. Above that it was leap frogging a #4.5 red camalot, and a purple #5 C4, leaving behind a #5 tech friend for pro. Above the rivet it was more #4.5/#5 C4 with the occasional pod where the green #5 was helpful, and I eventually left it behind for pro when the roof got close. Up in the roof proper it as #4 C4, a couple #2's, a fixed pin, a yellow alien, and finally a #1 to swing around the lip to the bolts. The annoyingly low bolts... In the future I would leave the purple #4 once I switched to the #4.5/#5 C4 as I only needed one #4 C4 up in the roof, and it was not even really mandatory.

John took P15, taking a couple cam hook falls (one when a pin scar exploded right after the tension move). He ignored all the back clean instructions on the topo and sewed the f*#ker up. I was able to follow after he zipped me the hooks (he managed to put aliens in for most of the hook traverse, requiring me to make just one hook move while cleaning).

P16 loomed short overhead, but I was spent, the weather was nasty and I wanted to stop. John twisted my arm, so I chomped down some jerky and a bar and set out. I quickly got shutdown by the "C2F or A2". Maybe in better weather and better light I could have made something stick, but my cam hook was jingus, and the pin scars would not take an alien. Better yet, the next move looked worse with an obvious dead head. I asked for the hammer and pins. No f*#k was given. Initially I thought it would be a sawed off, but with the beaks in hand, I figured they would do less damage. So I wailed in a couple beaks and got back moving. Soon I was topped out and flung the gear sling aside.

Da Top.
Da Top.
Credit: Moof

After some mild hauling snags were were both up and reveling. A very good route indeed.

Gear Notes:

Pins:
Used a few sawed offs in the 3/4-1" ballpark. Used one short-medium LA. Used 1 each medium and large beak. Would need more if fixed gear is missing.

Nuts: Go heavy on brass and offset brass, and only 1x each of medium alloy nuts, and 1x each medium to largish offset nuts.

Cams:
1x black alien, 3x blue-red alien (2x if committing to cam hook the nipple, and to back clean agressively), 2-3x offset aliens (2x Blue-Black and Red-Yellow, 3x Blue-Green and Green-Yellow would be perfect)

2x #0.75-#5 C4's, extra #4 and #5 C4's if you want to leave pro behind on P14. Old green #5 helpful, but not mandatory. Be conscious to back clean #1/#2 cams early in pitches, or bring 3x if sewing it up. I think 1x #3 would actually be plenty, and you'd only have to back cleaning once or twice (our second one lived in the haul hag till about P14, and was overkill for even that pitch).

20 draws, all sizes.

Rivet hangers:
~8-10x. Bring a variety, several bolts were hanger-less and nut-less so a cinch hanger or two is handy. Many rivets are huge and our RP rivet hangers would not slot on to them (I think the Moses ones would, but we didn't bring any).

Hooks:
1x pointed Cliffhanger and Grappling Hook, 2x narrow and wide cam hooks. 3" Captain's hook was helpful but not mandatory. Talon, and micro cam hook were useless. We had a second set of hooks in the bag, but never busted them out, mostly as backup if we dropped something.

Useless: Tricams, ball nuts were not used.

  Trip Report Views: 1,467
Moof
About the Author
Moof is a hazbin big wall climber from Orygun.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
moacman

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  May 12, 2013 - 01:11pm PT
Good story and pics too...Way to hang in there boyz.....

Stevo
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  May 12, 2013 - 01:20pm PT
Good one.
Deekaid

climber
  May 13, 2013 - 07:52am PT
I enjoy the write ups that focus more on the dry tech aspects. Nice job on the report and the ascent.
10b4me

climber
  May 13, 2013 - 08:02am PT
Good tr, one of the better ones of late
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  May 13, 2013 - 08:21am PT
Really nice TR with lots of helpful info. TYFP. Hope to do this wall some day, after I get a ledge...
Spanky

Social climber
boulder co
  May 13, 2013 - 08:42am PT
Nice work Moof! Zodiac is rad. I'm surprised to hear there were 3 pins in the nipple. When we did it there weren't any and we still didn't hammer. I wonder why they were left and not cleaned. bump for good climbing content!
Raafie

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
  May 14, 2013 - 08:53am PT
This is John, Moof’s partner on this trip. He’s gone over plenty of technical beta so I can merely add some extra color to the report. First, I want to send a shout out to Museman, T2, and “yellow mzungu” (Alice)—I am proud to have followed in your footsteps.

So when Moof says we hardly trained for this climb, that’s for real. Somewhere between “jack” and “squat” was the extent of my training regimen. Any muscle tone I have is purely due to wraslin’ two little rascals at home. The best thing we had in our favor was that going in to the deal, we were three-for-three on topping out. (Prow, WFLT, and TT). That’s a track record you don’t want to screw up.

The other thing about our past three years of experience together was that we’ve been very lucky with weather. This was the fourth time in a row that we planned our trip for the first week of May—avoiding the crowds but risking wet conditions. Our foul weather experience was bound to happen. Imagine how fortunate we felt during our first two days, climbing in shorts and a t-shirt in early May. We even talked about not bringing the rain flys---just taking bivy sacks. But the morning we blasted the weather forecast looked a little iffy a few days out. So we had portaledge flys with us.

A few memories from the route: I had several heartburn moments on the Black Tower pitch. There’s that one spot just below the ‘point’ of the tower where you climb around a detached plate. It’s just leaning up against the wall, held in place by gravity. It’s pretty thin and about the size of a lunch tray. When I stood up on the .75 camalot just above the plate, its sling shifted the plate a little and took my breath. Standing on the Black Tower’s point, you get to the DFU zone. And it starts with two decent cam hook moves. Small brassies work pretty well above that spot, and I was pretty ok with all of those placements.

It was probably at the top of pitch 11 where I was belaying Moof, when all of a sudden a tiny green hummingbird buzzed my position. It paused just next to the rope. And a split second later when it left and I wanted to see just how close it was, I reached out and my hand was just where it had paused. It was that close.

As Moof wrote, the weather turned on day three and our spouses confirmed a worsening forecast via cell phone. It’s true that Zodiac’s middle and upper pitches are fairly sheltered. More than once during our climb we were staying relatively dry, but noticed that the waterfalls over by East Buttress were suddenly raging. Nights were cool throughout. My wall suffering experience included waking up during several of the nights due to shivering.

On day five it was time to close the deal. We had four pitches left. Two each. I went first. In the middle of pitch 13 there is a spot on the topo that says “reachy hook.” It wasn’t that reachy. . . but the problem was that a fast drip was coming down right into the hook pocket. The suffering went up a notch right there. My gore-tex was on for good, day and night. It’s on the final two pitches that the angle eases off on Zodiac. That would normally be a welcome change. But for us it meant that we were now in the rain. I was maxed. Moof says that I “stitched up” pitch 15 and that’s entirely true. By the end where you veer back right and down a ramp, I felt like that guy you see on TV who’s pulling a train with a rope in his teeth. The drag was that bad. High quality suffering.

I did twist Moof’s arm pretty hard to lead the final pitch rather than set up another camp 90 feet below the top. He stepped up to the task. I was really glad to get that shot of him stepping over the lip. And I was glad to have put my headlamp on the helmet earlier since I topped out in the dark.

The east ledges decent went fine, and by mid-afternoon we were in those blessed hot showers. So frickin good. And so exhausted.
Nohea

Trad climber
Living Outside the Statist Quo
  May 13, 2013 - 11:25pm PT
John, Moof,
Proud climb, thanks for taking us along. It is, what it is, a beautiful route.

Mahalo,
Will
Prod

Trad climber
  May 14, 2013 - 05:18am PT
Nice work.

Prod.
Gunkie

Trad climber
East Coast US
  May 14, 2013 - 06:11am PT
Full value and well done.
pneame

Trad climber
Tampa, FL
  May 14, 2013 - 07:24am PT
Great pictures, great write-up
Brilliant
OlympicMtnBoy

climber
Seattle
  May 14, 2013 - 08:07am PT
Nice work boys! Sounds like your lack of traimimg has been paying off John, although I think those three previous recent walls may count for something!

I'm jealous, no walls for me this spring. Wanna climb something in the fall?
elcap-pics

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
  May 14, 2013 - 08:24am PT
I got shots of you guys... contact me for them. Nice report!
Tom
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  May 14, 2013 - 11:33am PT
Thank you for posting up!!

Inspiring!
Erik
Rocky IV

Social climber
  May 14, 2013 - 11:59am PT
Yo! I'm the soloist that was on the trip from Bozeman. I kept letting out monkey calls up above me but never got any in return. I spent 7 nights on the wall, 5 of which were with the fly on the ledge. Topped out saturday afternoon, made it down sunday. Nice work you guys and glad you sent!
Raafie

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
  May 14, 2013 - 02:28pm PT
Hey Rocky! Glad to hear you succeeded too. I thought I responded to one of your monkey calls (only heard once), but you know us geezers don't have the pipes to call at that range!

Wet and cold. Hope the rest of your summer in the Valley is excellent.
Moof

Big Wall climber
Orygun
Author's Reply  May 14, 2013 - 03:14pm PT
Other fun facts...

As were were getting going on P2 a dude come up below, in response to our "How's it going?", he says "Disappointed to see you on the route." Awhile later his partner shows up, with two walking sticks and a broken foot in a walking boot. Several hours later the first dude comes back with the last load, they have a heart-to-heart and bail.

The next day we see a party making steady progress right about 1 day behind us. They bail at ~P6 or so.

Behind them was a soloist who was tearing it up, but the next day we never saw him leave his bivy (hard to tell if he was in it, or if he fixed lines to the ground?), then never saw him after that. After that we saw nobody below us. I'm still amazed by the bail rate sometimes...
Rocky IV

Social climber
  May 14, 2013 - 03:24pm PT
team broken foot was classic.

The soloist was jonathan, he topped out. He was climbing without a ledge, just a bivi sack and a tarp. I think he spent at least one night standing in slings. He said he'd be posting up on here.
Raafie

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
  May 14, 2013 - 04:44pm PT
Long as we're telling stories, there's the one about the guys heading UP the east ledges fixed lines---one with a giant haul bag, and the other with a backpack covered in wall-water-jugs. We told them what we'd just done. And when I ask, "where are you headed?" they gave me the most evasive answer I could imagine. "We're going up top to camp for a couple of days. Murmer, murmer."

What's up with that!?!?!?
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
  May 14, 2013 - 04:59pm PT
Those guys would likely be BASE jumpers, or possibly they are working on free climbing upper pitches, like say the Salathe Headwall.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 14, 2013 - 06:29pm PT
Thanks for cleaning up the rock!!!!!!!
Gagner

climber
Boulder
  May 14, 2013 - 07:18pm PT
Woot!!

Sweet - way to get after it!!

Paul
Raafie

Big Wall climber
Portland, OR
  May 15, 2013 - 11:07am PT
Well, you're right that base jumpers want to keep their plans secret. But these guys had a bunch of wall-taped water jugs and specifically asked how good the water supply was on top. My guess is they were headed to a secret project. No biggie.
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El Capitan - Zodiac A2 5.7 - Yosemite Valley, California USA. Click to Enlarge
1800' of fantastic climbing.
Photo: Chris McNamara
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