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Zodiac El Capitan. Route Beta and Gear Selection for a hammerless ascent.

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

Zodiac on El Capitan is a great route to introduce you to the mid grade clean aid climbing. At C3 the route is hard enough to be interesting but not so hard that you should have any major epics. In saying that there are approx 6-7 pitches graded C3 and many of the other pitches are C2 or C2+ so the route is fairly sustained for its grade.

Hauling on Zodiac is very straight forward. If you are a party with some previous wall climbing experience you should plan on climbing to pitch 7 on day one fixing pitch 8 that evening and climbing onto the top of the route the following day. For teams planning to spend longer on the route there are many good bivy spots that offer a small ledge and multiple bolts to hang your portaledge from. Good bivy spots are at the top of pitches 5, 7, 12, 13, 15.

The crux of the route is probably the section from pitch 6 through to pitch 12. All pitches in this section have C3 climbing on them. Pitches 8, 9 and 10 would be the hardest of that section requiring many hand placed beaks / cam hook moves. The Nipple pitch was probably the most intimidating of the route but I felt the two pitches below offered harder climbing.

Zodiac Rack / Gear Beta

Hooks 2 x medium size cam hooks 1 x Talon 1 x Grapling 2 x medium beaks 1 x large beak

Nuts 1 x set brass offest nuts 1 x set brass nuts regular 1 x set DMM offset peanuts DMM regular offset nuts sizes 7,8,9 (yellow, blue, red) Regular nuts 1 – 6 (we hardly places any of these)

Cams Double set from Black C3 (000) to #5 C4 Offset cams sizes 0 – 5

16 draws being 8 regular, 7 60cm extender draws and one longer stiff draw for high reach clips.

Take 6 10mm nuts. Many of the new bolts and no nut or hanger. It was possible to put a wire on them but a nut on the bolt would have made these much more secure. 5-6 rivet hangers are also useful.

Pitches 1 – 9 require nothing larger than #3 camalot.

Gear taken but not used. Hammer and copper head rack. There are several sections with fixed heads. If these blew it would be hard to bypass the section without having a replacement copper head. I would suggest taking a good range of small to large heads.

Ropes 60m lead rope, 60m haul line and 30m tag line for lowering out the bag. While the hauling on Zodiac is very easy( the route overhangs on almost every pitch) you do have some lower outs with the bag and the final pitch is a real pain to haul. We set up and hauled off a large tree to the right of the top out. This was much easier to do than trying to haul off the top out bolts.

We climbed the route in late June. It was hot. We took and drank 5L of water per day per person. The route is in the sun from around 10am – 4pm each day depending on where you are on the route.

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