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Page Type: Route

Location: California, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.73420°N / 119.6367°W

Object Title: Zodiac

Route Type: technical rock

Time Required: A few days

Difficulty: VI, 5.7 - 5.11, A3- ( C3 ) or 5.13 ++

Route Quality: 
 - 3 Votes


Page By: Craig Peer

Created/Edited: Oct 22, 2002 / Jan 13, 2004

Object ID: 157204

Hits: 8518 

Page Score: 72.08%  - 2 Votes 

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From the road below El capitan in Yosemite Valley, hike up the well used approach trail to the foot of the Nose. From here, head right and up along the base of El Capitan several hundred feet to where the talus levels off. The climb is about 2/3rds of the way to the East Buttress, below the large grey circle of rock 1/2 way up.

Route Description

Rather than give you a pitch by pitch description, which you can find in either the book Yosemite Climbs - Big Walls, by Don Reid, or Supertopos by Chris McNamara, I will attempt to give you my impression of this route and, thru my pictures, hopefully convey the experience of climbing Zodiac to you.

Zodiac is one of the classic climbs on El Capitan. Being much shorter ( 16 pitches ) and easier than many climbs, this is a good choice for a first El Cap climb.

The first pitch uses bolts and A2 + placements to reach a roof, which is aided to the right, then up to a sling belay. Pitch 3 ( A3 ) uses bolts and hooks to reach Dead Bird Ledge. Free and aid lead up to a ledge at the base of a bolt ladder. Pitch 5 - climb the bolt ladder ( back cleaning needed to prevent rope drag ) and some free moves at its end to Dead End Ledge. A pitch higher ( 5.8, A2 ) is the Black Tower. A small bivy ledge is found at its base.

Pitch 7 had 7 rurps in a row ( fixed when I climbed it in 1983 ) and was rated A3, with a few hook moves. Pitch 8 - 5.9 free climbing leads to overhanging aid ending at a bolt belay ( bivouac ). Pitch 9 ( A3 ) leads up an arch on aid to a sling belay. Another pitch leads out of the arch to another sling belay on bolts below the " Mark of Zorro ". Pitch 11 - aid ( A3 ) and some bolts leads to a sling belay below a rooof. Pitch 12 - more aid ( hooks ) leads thru discontinuous cracks to a belay on bolts. Pitch 13 - aid up and left then traverse right ( hooks ) to a corner that can be either freed ( 5.11a ) or aided to a ledge ( bivy spot ). Pitch 14 ascends a wide crack ( 4" ) right of a corner ( 5.10b, A2 or yard on Friends if very wet ) which can be running with water at times. Pitch 15 - mixed climbing ( 5.9, A2 ) leads up and left, then right to the last pitch. Pitch 16 - a short mixed pitch leads to the top.

Note - I've seen this climb rated as 5.7, A2, and although you can free climb parts of this route up to 5.11a, nothing harder than 5.7 is mandatory. I would still call it A3- as far as aid ( when we did it in 1983 it was A4 ).

Essential Gear

This climb now goes all clean although one should bring a hammer, a couple of copperheads, a couple of short lost arrows and possibly one each angle 1/2" - 1" in case of missing fixed gear. Bring 2 sets wired nuts including 2 sets HB offsets, BD micro nuts, 1 set hybrid Aliens, 2 sets Friends ( and TCU's ), hooks of all kinds and several bolt hangers. A cheater stick can come in handy if fixed gear is broken or missing. Hammocks or Portaledges, 165' ropes.

A highly recommended big wall climb!

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and Corrections

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Viewing: 1-2 of 2    
MishaRoute Comment


Hasn't voted

They free-climbed Zodiac for the first time in mid October 2003. Rating is still being determined but will be likely 5.13-5.14a
Posted Oct 30, 2003 12:55 pm
old5tenRoute Comment


Hasn't voted

Zodiac was 'cleaned' a while back (2004), so gear needs may be a bit more intensive and a hammer and heads may be necessary rather than just back-up.
Posted Nov 30, 2005 4:03 pm

Viewing: 1-2 of 2    


Extremely overhanging...Good morning, belay point 10,...Aiding a beautiful thin arch...Pitch 14 on Zodiac, El Capitan.Looking up Zodiac, El...Roy Baker enjoying his first...Mid flight jumaring pitch 10,...
Zodiac on El Capitan. The...Looking down near the top of...High on Zodiac, El CapitanThis is a old Buddy of mine...Yours truly aiding pitch 10 (...Yes, the haul bag is hanging...Thats my foot in an old Royal...