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Zodiac 

C3+

   
Type:  Aid, 16 pitches, 1800', Grade VI
Consensus: C2+ [details]
FA: Charlie Porter, 1972(?)
Page Views: 12,812
Submitted By: Stymingersfink on Apr 29, 2008

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (42)
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Ryan Huetter on the spectacular Nipple pitch. Jos...

Description 

The one that gets done. There has been a ton of traffic on this line over the years. All of the fixed mank and many of the bolts added over the years were removed by The American Chopper in the summer of '04, but I'm sure it's begun filling back up with fixed mank again. The bolt-count is much closer to the original, though all the belays should easily accommodate two portaledges.

This route was FA'd in November 1972 by Charlie Porter on his third attempt. Check the SuperTopo Yosemite BigWalls website or book for the full backstory on this historic route, as well as recent conditions.

Location 

SE side of El Cap, just east of the pipe boulder. The start a hook to a short bolt ladder to an obvious 90' right-facing flake, from there to an anchor situated under a 30" roof. Get the SuperTaco guide book for the best topo's, stories and beta.

Near the parking area at the Meadow, there is a large boulder field running nearly all the way down the slope. This is a great access line to check out the base of the climb, or perhaps return to the vehicle for the next load of gear. However, this is not the best way to approach the climb with anything resembling a load of anything. I did it once with a loaded haul bag, but I was still young and dumb then.

The best approach also departs from the parking area at the Meadow, heads a short distance west along the road, then due north along the obvious trail to the base of the Nose. Follow the trail as it skirts around the base of the wall to the east. Even though you are not yet on the wall, it would be prudent to wear a lid while anywhere near the base, as something could be dropped or knocked loose at any time from above. On one occasion, I happened to booty a #12 Wallnut that hit the ground not far from where I was standing, the climbers far enough up the stone to be out of sight.

Beware of bears, and do not pack food to the base until you have fixed the first pitch or two and are ready to haul. On one occasion, we hung the haul bags from a rivit at the base of ZM 20' off the ground. While I was fixing pitches above (and my partner off to hike in another load), a savvy bear stood on his hind legs and managed to physically remove the bag from the wall, tearing a 6" hole in the side of the bag and rummaging through just to see if there were any goodies to be found. Trowing pitons at him from above did little to discourage him, the bag will forever carry those scars.


Protection 

2 ea: cam hooks (1 med, 1 wide), talons, cliffhangers, stoppers+offset nuts
2 ea: BD Peckers (each size proves handy)
2 ea: Hybrid Cams blk/blu - yelo/red (alien or equivalent metolius - for the existing sawed angle placements)
2-3 ea cams TCU -->#4 Camalot
1-2 #5 or #6 camalot, depending on how you feel about leading 5.9 lb OW while 1600' off the deck.
ballnuts (reportedly... I think I cam-hooked through the "ballnutz necessary" section)
1 LA (long, thin) for hand placing above the nipple

Yes, it's been done clean, reportedly hammerless even.

For some real fun, cam hook the Nipple Pitch, allowing you to leave the majority of the rack at the anchor (bring some biners, a quickdraw, the LA, a few smaller cams and one of the largest cams). Before traversing too far, one can step to the bottom rung of the aiders, reach down and clip an anchor added during the Huber's free-ascent workings. This should keep you off your belayer/haulbags and out of the open dihedral from P9 if you should happen to whip. Cam-hooking the Nipple pitch will also make it a quick, easy clean for the second, though once you start you're committed to the plan, else they will have to lower off gear (leaving it behind) or aid through it themselves.


Photos of Zodiac Slideshow Add Photo
Matt P after taking a 30 footer trying to do the 7th pitch clean.  He back-flopped off of the black dagger half way through the fall and broke his finger.
Matt P after taking a 30 footer trying to do the 7...
Nipple Pitch
Nipple Pitch
Bailing:(
Bailing:(
Pitch 14.  Freed at 10d with no Large cams, one of my scariest leads ever.
Pitch 14. Freed at 10d with no Large cams, one of...
A party starting up the Open Book pitch.
A party starting up the Open Book pitch.
Leading pitch 7 or 8?
Leading pitch 7 or 8?
... topo...
BETA PHOTO: ... topo...
Zodiac
Zodiac
I think this was just before the white circle. <br /> <br />Photo: Stevie Nacho 2000
I think this was just before the white circle. Ph...
Gary leading on an inverted cam hook.
Gary leading on an inverted cam hook.
Working up into the circle in a brief moment of thinking I should be proficient at aid climbing. Didn't last.
Working up into the circle in a brief moment of th...
About to jug up the mark of zorro pitch I believe.
About to jug up the mark of zorro pitch I believe.
Black Tower pitch
Black Tower pitch
2 pitches to go
2 pitches to go
Looking down on the nipple pitch
Looking down on the nipple pitch
This is drawn from a photo I took on a trip up The Zodiac in 1988. My old wall partner Scott Tracy jugging "The Mark of Zorro".
This is drawn from a photo I took on a trip up The...

Comments on Zodiac Add Comment
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By Colin Simon
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 1, 2010

Incredible, steep, and humbling. Five stars.

I tip my hat to you, Mr. Porter.
By Fat Dad
From: Los Angeles, CA
Feb 23, 2010

I don't have a copy of the guidebook in front of me, but isn't the route just called 'Zodiac'?

Edit: I just found my old Reid guide and even older Meyer guide and they both report the climb as named "Zodiac."
By prod.
From: Boulder, Co
Jan 17, 2011

"For some real fun, cam hook the Nipple Pitch, allowing you to leave the majority of the rack at the anchor (bring some biners, a quickdraw, the LA, a few smaller cams and one of the largest cams)."

Cam hook this pitch for sure, but after the nipple traverse there is still quite a bit of climbing to the anchors. You'd be screwed if you followed the above advice for a rack.

Great route, my first wall, we used the hammer less than 5 times. Twice on Pitch 7.

I read somewhere if you can lead the first pitch you can climb the route. I'd agree with that.

Prod.
By claramie
From: Boulder, CO
Jun 23, 2011

Zodiac is amazing! Lots of great pitches, super airy, free-hanging hauls most of the time and a ridiculous topout. Charlie Porter is the man! I can't believe he put this thing up so fast (and solo) back in the day. Then think about how he hung the rack on a piece and liebacked the nipple (who knows how he got gear above it) and how he charged up into the offwidth pitch and pulled through that roof before cams. Visionary. Inspiring. Humbling when we go up there with all this fancy new equipment and it's still full on!

Oh yeah, 2x #5 camalots are nice for the OW pitch.
By Brian Prince
From: morro bay, ca
Nov 7, 2011

Jim Bridwell takes a whipper on Zodiac (6:00) in 1981. Great little film.


By dirtbag
From: Bellingham, WA
Jan 26, 2014

We brought two brands of peckers (BD and ... moser?). The "moser?" peckers had a curve in the spine which made them superior to the BD peckers - THey fit in corners where the BD's wouldn't and it seemed like they kind of acted like a cam hook sometimes. My 2c.
By michael s...
From: Asheville, NC
Jun 3, 2014

"The "moser?" peckers "

They are called Tomahawks and made by Moses Enterprises. Legit for sure.