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This route is described in Cameron M. Burns' book Selected Climbs in the Desert Southwest.
My description will differ on many key points. I feel strongly that the information in the book is not correct. This will cause some controversy, I am sure, but understand that I do not know how the errors were made, nor do I assume to.
It is possible that the FA Party either accidentally or intentionally misreported the route. It is possible that a later party misreported the route. It is possible that the author of the book misunderstood, misread, or misreported the route. It is possible that the publisher screwed up. It is possible that the state of the route has somehow changed, although this seems quite unlikely.
It is also possible that I and my partner are both totally F'd in the head and are both way off base on our assessments. Maybe neither of us can climb OW well, although my past history suggests my normal onsight OW skill level is at about 5.11.
Please consider my write-up just one more source of information to be considered with the others that you may have at your disposal. The book rates The Megamahedral 5.9+ C1. Only one pitch is rated C1 and it is stated that this pitch will go free easily. The topo is specific that the rest of the route goes free at 5.9+. I and my partner for the ascent, Joseffa Meir, disagree strongly. The account below is of our experience.
If you've done Iron Messiah (5.10a, IV) you will find The Megamahedral far harder and more runout by leagues. To put this in perspective, Joseffa and I would have rated Iron Messiah 5.9, III and rate The Megamahedral 5.11R, IV as we did it (no very large cams)
P0 (5.9) You will have arrived at the base of a crack which has a few jams and goes into a 5.8+ slot and then up a rapidly improving crack.
After perhaps 80' (including the approach slab) I belayed my partner up. This is only perhaps 40' up the first pitch and offwidth (still not much gear). The belay we chose was at a slight bump (one-foot roof) in the right hand side of the obtuse, left-facing dihedral/crack system. The belay was on two overhead cams, a #3.5 and a #3 Camalot.
We decided to do the climb as such, making for one additional pitch which I call pitch 0, because even with 70M ropes you cannot possibly link the slippery slab at the base and the first pitch to the belay on the topo.
P1 (5.9+) From P0 jam the first crack crux and use face holds out on the left to surpass the aforementioned roof (9+), up a wide corner (9+) past a bunch of jams and lie-backs (9) to the top of pitch 1: a nice ledge with a fixed belay.
You are now nearly 60 meters from the top of the ramp at the base and 70m from the ground. This is important to note for your descent. This pitch was more or less as advertised by the book.
P2 (5.10R) Here is where we believe the book is incorrect...
Start out to the left on a series of moves into a left-facing OW/squeeze-chimney that is quite steep. This will be rated R/X unless you have wide gear. Nothing smaller than a 4.5 Camalot will fit, and that only after a runout of some concern. The rock here is questionable and the moves are up to 5.10+. This pitch with our rack was 5.10+ R/X (R for distance of 25', X for the ledge at the bottom of it).
The book claims this pitch is 5.9+, but I do not believe that a 5.9 climber could survive this lead without injury unless they have a few really big cams. The good news is that after this 40' section, the climbing gets easier. I rested on the one #4.5 Camalot that I was able to place to insure that I would not be tired later and fall from 40' to the ledge. My partner aided this section while following, concurring that the grade was harder than 5.9+.
After the initial OW the grade and angle eased. The climbing became 5.9 and the pro was #2-#4 Camalots with better rock as well. The crack gradually thinned after this to as small as wide-fingers at the top, a nice crack for thin jams and lie-backs. I lamented having only 2 cams from 1 to 1.5.
Perhaps 110' up this 140' pitch, for lack of gear, I attempted to place a tricam in the 1.25 crack out of a lieback. I placed the piece and when I tried to set it, it popped out of the soft rock. My fist, still holding the biner, struck me in the left knee and knocked me off of the wall. This was a 40' lead fall. I climbed the section again without trying to place gear. The lieback is 5.9+, as marked in the book we used. At the top of the lieback I arrived on a nice ledge with another fixed belay drilled into the wall. I belayed my partner up.
We believe the pitch to be 5.10+ if done totally free.
P3 (5.11 R(?)) Here is where the climb is literally spectacular, but a little deceptive. You can see above you now a clean, Indian-Creek-like crack in a right-facing corner. This system rises for some 100' to a bulge, after which the route goes out of sight to what appears to be low angle rock.
This pitch is the C1 pitch in the book. This system is reminiscent of a beautiful Indian Creek splitter for the first 90-100 feet. I went up on lead placing one blue Camalot after another for a while in sustained off-hands jamming. The main problem was trying to walk the gear up and keep my feet out of the rope at the same time. This goes free at approximately 5.10b and is the easiest section of the entire climb—much easier than any of the "5.9+" wide sections.
As it ascends the crack goes from #3 Camalot to #2 Camalot to #1 Camalot before pinching down to thin crack (small TCUs) that goes to the right past the bulge and onto lower-angle rock to the top of a pillar. This is now at perhaps 140' of climbing and the passing of the pillar is a little runout and loose.
The fun is over, but the pitch is not! Now you stand at the top of this pillar looking up at a squeeze slot with no pro unless you are five-foot-two, anorexic, and can worm 20' to the back to place a cam in a crack back there. The drag would then be horrific. From above the initial beautiful section, the climb went over a bulge, past a sloping ledge and into the next sandy squeeze chimney—rated 5.9+ by the book.
Here it was obvious what was done on previous ascents: 3 brick-shaped rocks approximately 12" long were chocked (cammed) into the crack like stairs. There was no available protection. I took off my helmet and re-racked so as to fit into the squeeze chimney and started up the chocks. (Do you call that free climbing? I call it aid.) Perhaps if you are thin (I'm 5'10 and 155 lbs) this is 5.9+, but terribly tight.
I made the mistake of stepping in the middle of the second chock as opposed to the top of it. At that point, it snapped and I slid down the chimney with no gear and landed on the pillar below. I puffed up my chest on the way down and twisted my body sideways to avoid a 25' free fall and impact below, with an ensuing 60' fall if I tumbled off of the pillar. This was successful to a point—I plopped softly down onto the pillar below the slot, landing without much impact, but had holes in all parts of my shirt and skin: scrapes on my back, shoulders, belly, chest, elbows, forearms, hips, etc. Literally a bloody mess.
There was absolutely no retreat from the pitch, and there we no rocks to chock back into the crack, so I wormed my way to the back of the slot, got a good cam 20' back in it, added slings, then free climbed the edge of the chimney at 5.11 R. This was on soft rock and sloping holds that shed sand whenever I moved. A set of BigBros would have been heaven-sent. An old-school #5 Camalot might have fit tipped-out somewhere (a new #6 perfect), but a #4.5 was nowhere near large enough. This was by far the most difficult and dangerous part of the climb for me.
Again, even with the chock-stones in place it would have been exceptionally hard for 5.9+ (as rated in the book). Without them, my partner and I agreed that as with our rack this was 5.11 R/X. Again, R for the distance of the fall, X to account for hitting the ledge.
At the top of the wide section, perhaps some 30+ feet up, there were a few jams and then the crack went thin again so I placed a good .75 TCU. Next I traversed 20+ feet out on the face above to reach the next fixed belay, as specified in the topo. The traverse is exposed, but not difficult. Falling from it wouldn't have serious consequences, but you'd sure get scraped up.
Again, Jo followed. Again, she declared the pitch very hard. We looked at me, looked at the sun, looked up at the pitches to finish (easy) and decided that now was not the time. I was all beat up and the sun was getting low. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I do not feel that a 5.9+ leader would escape an attempt of this pitch without injury.
P4 (5.9+) Only viewed, not climbed by me. Please refer to the aforementioned book for a description of this pitch as well as pitches 5 and 6 (both 5.7 in the book).
From my own observations, the next pitch went up and left on light colored, well-pocketed rock. The gear would have been stoppers and TCUs in small sections of crack (soft rock) and that only to supplement the few bolts we could see in the first 100' (big runouts without gear).
After the first 100' the route disappears behind a low-angle section and, according to the book, is 5.9+ crack, but not an OW/slot.
Another day I'd like to return earlier in the day with a more appropriate rack (including a pair of very big cams or big bros) and free the whole darn route.
The rack is the same whether for a free or an aid ascent.
The rack as suggested by the Burn' book: "three sets of camalots to #3, 2 #4 Camalots, 1 #5 Camalot (old style AKA: #6 C4)".
The rack we took (R-rated rack):
- Three each #1,#2,#3 Camalots
We didn't have a #5 Camalot.
- One each #4 and #4.5 Camalot
The rack we should have taken to protect as well as possible:
- One full set of TCUs from .3" to .75",
- Two each #1 and #2 Camalots
- One each #3.5, #4, and #5 Camalot
- One set BigBros or a very large cam (#6 C4) as most cruxes are OW/Squeeze chimney
Without the #5 Camalot or Bigbros, we freed cruxes at 5.11 R/X (ledge fall potential)
Most of the anchors on this route should have all or some of the fixed webbing (between the fixed bolts/pins) replaced.
Locate The Minotaur as described on the parent page page.
Approach the base on the SE (left) side to the bottom of a MASSIVE dihedral and inset system. This is not where the tower meets the main wall, but rather on the tower itself, perhaps 10-15 meters out from the main wall.
Set down your packs at the base of a dirty ramp below this system and start racking up. This approach slab is 3rd class, but sandy and dirty. From maybe 20' up the slope I slipped and slid down on my butt back to the base.
I started over just to the left and made it to the crack. From there the real climbing starts. On the approach details above we have no dispute with the published information.
Matt Kuehl leading up splitter wide hands on the M...
Andy rapping off the Minotaur Tower.
|Comments on The Megamahedral
|By Anonymous Coward|
Aug 30, 2004
Wear your kneepads for this one and consider it training for the mandatory, 5.10, super-steep, OW/squeeze climbing, on the 2nd pitch of Middendorf's route on The Birdbeak Spire up on the Sentinel. To me that felt more horrific due to the lung heaving, diving board-esque exposure. At least on The Megamahedral you have nice fat ledges to ponder. 3 star route, 5.11R. I don't however recall any chockstones up there as steps?
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
Apr 19, 2005
Yes, as I posted, there are no chockstone steps anymore. I was an ogre and broke them.
Oct 11, 2008
I am told the fa was brad quinn and that Eric Draper and Dave Littman are the ffa's. I took a #6 friend and a #5 friend and they took care of all the ow.for camalots 1-#4 1-#3.5 1-#3 2-#2 2-#1 1-#.75 2- orange tcu's 1 yellow and 1 blue.
Great route amazing it doesnt see more traffic.
From: park city, utah
Mar 3, 2009
eric draper and i finished the route to the top with use of aid. brad quinn and mark austin did the first two pitches some years before.
a year or so later eric draper with bryan bird and nate brown freed it at 5.11 maybe r and not x
|By Nate Brown|
From: Wilson, Wy
Jul 9, 2009
Draper, Bird and I definetly freed this route. It has been many years, but we did not have big bros, and I don't remember ever feeling run-out or scared. Maybe we were just young and "on" that day...BTW, if you are going to set out to do a Zion offwidth, bring at least 1 5 camalot or a 6 WC or both... Come on guys, this route is not R/X...
Also, Eric Draper rigged a high-line from the summit of this tower back to the Landing. I don't remeber if he ever walked the whole thing or not. He probably did. It was one of the scariest things I've ever tried (this high-line). Way scarier than the mega-classic free route up the tower.
|By George Perkins|
From: Los Alamos, NM
Nov 14, 2010
We thought this climb was pretty good, definitely has its share of wide climbing but protectable enough with one or two big cams. The beta & topo in the new Supertopo guidebook seemed mostly right on.
I'm a little confused with the above description, seemed like we climbed something like:
P1: Start in sandy alcove, step right into wide crack, climb a right-facing corner to a bolted belay on a ledge for pitch 1 (180', 5.11-, some wideness);
P2: Right-facing corner with OW to hands to thin hands to a bolted belay as described above (140', 5.10+, some hard wideness near the beginning of the pitch);
P3: Classic hand crack in right-facing corner, where it thins- step right to a crack, follow that for a ways, traverse right 15' to a bolted belay in a left-facing corner (180', 5.11-). This didn't seem to be the horrorshow pitch described above- maybe be sure to find the 2 short but inobvious traverses to the right(?);
P4-6: Featured 5.9 slab passing a bolt, just left of left-facing corner; climb easier hand cracks on right face, culminating with a short featured 5.7 summit pitch on dubious rock. Pitches 4 & 5 can be linked no problem.
I'm surprised this one isn't hyped more and sees more traffic, because of its short approach, great location and some classic pitches.
|By Lou M.|
Oct 26, 2011
There are no X ratings on this climb. We had no big bro's. I don't remember any ledge fall hazards. One little runout section up high on 5.9 terrain. One has to consider OW mandatory climbing mandatory (sp), and man up. Lombard and I did this thing in 98 or so Possibly the third or fourth free ascents. Draper put 5.9 ratings on it because it's a must do. It's NTB.
Apr 17, 2012
rating: 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b
woah, not PG13 or R with not a ton of wide gear. I led the wide pitches with a 4 and 5 camelot, felt totally safe (and I'm a wuss- bag). Great route, bring a 4 and/ or 5 and it's delightful. Look for small cracks for little gears.Enjoy! Look for Condors!
|By Andy Hansen|
From: Longmont, Colorado
Apr 17, 2013
rating: 5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ E3 5c
No R rated climbing on this route. Barely borderlines PG13 but there is a touch o' spice on the 3rd pitch. We had a double rack from .3-3 Camalot and singles of #4 and #5. This seemed to suffice just fine.
Pitch breakdown for us: P1 5.11a 200', P2 5.10++ 120', P3 5.11a 160', P4 5.9 175', P5 5.7 50'
On pitch 3, once above the squeeze that apparently is "impossible to protect if you're bigger than Tony B..." (not true, easily protects with some smaller gear inside the crack- not a hard reach in) there is some sandy, slabby climbing that is a touch run out but the pitch easily traverses right to the anchors. The leader in our group did this and then climbed further up to the first bolt on P4 and used it as a directional to prevent any catastrophic swinging were the two of us to blow the slabby moves before the traverse.
Pretty awesome route that takes a bad rap on this site due to one persons subjective contribution. This route protects well with big gear (a #6 Camalot wouldn't hurt to have) and the run-out spots are not over difficult climbing. Also, a sick summit is gained on this route! Get on it!
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
May 10, 2013
Lots of comments here regarding my given protection rating for this route. An astute reader should note that I said I did it without a large cam (no #5) and that the R/X was for such, but that large cams would fix the problem. In case that was less than clear here we go again:
Protected without a #5 or larger: R for the runout, X for the ledge below it.
With large cams: PG-13 for occasional forays above gear, decisions on when to leave the piece, and occasional soft rock.
But perhaps I did miss a crack within a crack, but most of the criticism here seems to focus on something I didn't even say.