Type: Aid, 1800 ft, 16 pitches, Grade VI
FA: Charlie Porter, 1972(?)
Page Views: 37,565 total · 283/month
Shared By: Stymingersfink on Apr 29, 2008
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

You & This Route

95 Opinions

Your To-Do List:

Add To-Do · View List

Your Star Rating:

     Clear Rating

Your Difficulty Rating:

-none- Change

Your Ticks:

Add New Tick
Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


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.


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.


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.
Colin Simon
Boulder, CO
Colin Simon   Boulder, CO
Incredible, steep, and humbling. Five stars.

I tip my hat to you, Mr. Porter. Feb 1, 2010
Fat Dad
Los Angeles, CA
Fat Dad   Los Angeles, CA
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." Feb 23, 2010
prod. Kenny
Boulder, Co
prod. Kenny   Boulder, Co
"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. Jan 17, 2011
Boulder, CO
claytown   Boulder, CO
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. Jun 23, 2011
Brian Prince
morro bay, ca
Brian Prince   morro bay, ca
Jim Bridwell takes a whipper on Zodiac (6:00) in 1981. Great little film.

youtube.com/watch?v=fkWTfXW… Nov 7, 2011
Braden Downey
Bellingham, WA
Braden Downey   Bellingham, WA
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. Jan 26, 2014
michael s...
Denver, CO
michael s...   Denver, CO
"The "moser?" peckers "

They are called Tomahawks and made by Moses Enterprises. Legit for sure. Jun 3, 2014
Gina E  
Here's some info from a recent solo ascent of Zodiac, including rack used: sinkerjams.com/2015/05/18/s… May 18, 2015
Ben Maxfield
Parsonsfield Maine
Ben Maxfield   Parsonsfield Maine
Looking for a partner in May for a go on this wall! Please hit me up if your interested Mar 10, 2016
Fargo, ND
Jtradshaw   Fargo, ND
Is it possible to free the Zodiac?? Not familiar with Yosemite will be making a trip soon May 4, 2016
Yes it goes free at 13+, three ascents to date Mar 7, 2017
Zodiac is one of the best aid routes anywhere, for sure. There is some serious misinformation here:

1. Def approach via the Zodiac talus approach trail. This is half the distance of the walk around described, and while steeper is not too bad as long as you don't carry too much stuff. I like to make two trips in the 35 - 40lb range (super easy in spring when Horsetail Fall is running and you can get water near the base).

2. Cam hooking the Nipple is the most secure way to climb the first section of the pitch, and that's what most folks do, but the pitch is 160' long and takes plenty of gear, so bring everything (you need one #4 Camalot and one #5 Camalot for the Nipple moves).

3. It's 15 pitches.

4. In spring, there are several smaller runnoff waterfalls that happen off the summit of El Cap near Horsetail Fall. These tend to blow around depending on the wind, which is always changing with the long, sometimes hot, days. So it is important to fix to pitch 4 (and wait to haul until you are fixed to 4), and plan on sleeping at pitch 6 or above if these waterfalls are happening. If you try to haul the second and third pitch, you will likely move much slower and get caught in more waterfall.

5. You can fix from pitch 4 to the ground with two 60m ropes. But there is no anchor halfway down. Instead you have to tie your ropes together and rap, stopping at an anchor 130' down (pitch 2 anchor of Shortest Straw) to fix there, then continuing to rappel passing the knot before stopping at another anchor 120' off the deck(pitch 1 anchor of Shortest Straw) fixing your rope again. You cannot just rap down 190' and expect to find an anchor, where you imagine you will fix your second rope and rap to the ground - this rappel uses anchors on a nearby route (Shortest Straw), so it is not as simple as other rappel routes.

Lots of snow on the summit in the spring of 2017, so Zodiac is an excellent choice (Nose, Lurking Fear, and Salathé are much more wet). Go For It!

Woot Woot!
Erik Sloan
RockclimbYosemite.com - Yosemitebigwall.com Mar 15, 2017
MisterCattell Cattell
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
MisterCattell Cattell   South Lake Tahoe, Ca
Adaptive Ascent of the ZOD!

youtube.com/watch?v=38Hj3qC… Jan 25, 2018