We’ve been wanting to climb Zenyatta Entrada (IV 5.4 C3) for a few years but nerves, weather, opportunity never came together at the right instant of time and space until last weekend. Taking advantage of Southwest’s airfare slashes (a poor aircraft inspection record becoming public might have induced this – I dunno?), we flew down to Salt Lake last Friday night. Due to late arrival in town and our laziness, we got to the base of the line after 10am following the arduous 90 second approach. The weather was sunny but there were strong gusts of wind. At this point we were pretty sure we’d be fixing the first couple pitches and returning for more on Sunday.
The first two pitches offer lower angle climbing and positive nutting and so they went relatively quickly (mostly C1 I’d guess). Third pitch is where things got steeper, thinner and less positive (small nuts, largish RP’s mostly). The going was fairly secure until I came to within 10 feet of the intermediate belay anchor. Well in sight of the bolts and chains, I would spend the next hour trying to put together a house of cards to get my fat ass up this final short stretch. With a long string of questionable gear below me, I did a fare share of praying as my attempts at hooking the section resulted in small flakes blowing off. Similar results were obtained when trying to nut a sandy looking groove which would be nearly out of reach had I not been able to string three nuts together to extend my range. All for nothing. A half engaged #2 Camalot in a blown out pin nest combined with some well-timed updraft (you know, levitation…) and I finally clipped the anchor. Thoughts of finishing up to top of P3 proper were nixed and so we fixed the ropes and came down trying to secure the lines from abrasion the best we could. Did I mention the windy conditions?
As it was early afternoon, Shirley & I went into Moab and did the tourist thing: first we had a couple beers at McStiff’s and then a couple margaritas at the Mexican joint, followed by more margaritas with dinner in the evening. We carb-loaded in anticipation of having to do the arduous approach again. At this point the thoughts of wind + Entrada abrading the shit out of our ropes were almost out of my mind. We headed back to our discount motel in Green River where the sounds of a trucker next door doing his share to support the rest stop economy lulled us to sleep.
Expecting a fuller day 2, we got to the base of ZE after 8am once again following the arduous approach. The wind was trying to outdo its performance from Saturday with more sustained blowing and bigger gusts. We jugged the lines which pleasantly enough held. For breakfast, I ordered 15 feet of C2-ish blown out scars to a bolt, to a penji, to an easy crack. And then we were looking up at what reports call the “C3 roof”. We were trying to find a stance for Shirley that would allow her to avoid the human meat rocket (that’s me!! That’s me!!) should I fuck up at the crux thinness. The going was thin and funky but I was still only within a bone-breaking distance of the belay ledge (not a “lights out” kind of a fall) when I got some small but positive RP’s and small nuts. Like a typical gumby, I supplemented lack of skill and nerve with excess of purchasable technology in the form of countless aid screamers. An interesting hybrid placement under a mini-roof, then a few more thin RP’s (…technically mid-sized RP’s as they go from #1 to #6, but “thin” gives more drama) and I was singing “Hallelujah” at the bolts under the big roof. Quick traverse on drilled angles and soon I was watching Shirley swinging out from under the roof as she cleaned the pitch. It should be noted that this route is a real draw for crowds down below: some choose to drive by and yell while hanging out the window while others stop and take photos. [And once in a blue moon, a kind sould will send you some of those GREAT shots from below - thank you Adam!!] I was waiting to get a drive-by flash next. Did not happen. The last pitch went quickly and smoothly as it has been restored to its FA condition in interest of preserving the stone (a great effort by some very dedicated and hard working people – see below): a touch of C2 followed by a reachy bolt ladder. It’s not supposed to be a bolt ladder but with my 6’7” height and top stepping I did not have to do any hooking or other funkiness. Sitting on the formation’s sloping shoulder just below the summit I was being sandblasted by relentless wind that kept coiled rope nearly horizontal. Shirley arrived and we hiked over to the back of the summit “bulb” and did a quick pitch to the top (A0). Unlike Saturday, the horizon was cloudy and LaSals were nearly invisible. We first thought that a rainstorm was about to roll over us but then realized it’s only a dust storm. We did not linger as we were expecting an epic rappel. Did I mention it was windy? With care and diligence we avoided any rope snags and reached the ground smoothly however.
Quick drive to town and soon we were putting away all-you-can pizza at the what-chummacall-it place on the main drag along with bad-but-cold-so-who-gives-a-shit beer. Salt Lake City again and back to work Monday morning. I have to say that ZE was the best aid route thus far for me but I always say profound things like this on a Monday morning after…
Notes & Acknowledgments
The route in its present form ("post restoration") does not have the C3+ sting as described in Chief’s topo. The crux now is somewhere at the roof on P4 or (as I personally thought) on P3. The Arches Taskforce (see here) have kindly put the time and effort (looks like a huge amount of work!) into restoring the route to its FA condition in hopes of reducing the damage due to pounding in & removal of pins (which is now ILLEGAL in Arches by the way) and hooking of pin scars (more blown-out pin scarring).
Thanks must be given to those who have maintained the route throughout the years, most recently The Chief & Matt Schutz upgraded the belay bolts and even more recently Sam Lightner Jr. and friends put further upgrades into belay anchors (all are tat-free, painted chain anchors) as well as doing the restoration work (see above). ASCA as a whole should be acknowledged as well.
Tyson Arp has put together a very nice topo of the modern version of this route. Much thanks!
Finally, as it is usually the case with desert towers, Brad provided the initial stoke years ago....yeah, so thanks a lot dude - thought I was gonna die on this thing!!!