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Zoroaster Temple
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mini location map2019-04-14
18 by photographer avatarfriendofThundergod
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Zoroaster TempleNorthwest, AZ
Northwest, AZ
Hike & Climb avatar Apr 14 2019
Hike & Climb
Hike & Climb
Lead III PG  • Trad • 5.9 Good • 600 Feet 6 Pitches
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Pro: We pretty much used a double rack, but stitched it up a little. We used up to a BD number 5, but you can get by with a 4. 70m rope required for all raps. Don't really need to bring the stoppers for this one. But some cams under size one will come in handy.
Back in October I reached out blindly to someone (Spencer) about the possibility of doing some technical summits in the Grand Canyon. At the time Zoroaster and Isis were definitely mentioned and high on my list. In fact, Zoroaster was somewhat on his radar as well. He literally invited me out climbing the next day. Of course that was when I had to admit that I actually did not know how to climb and did not own a harness or shoes. He said don't worry about it and told me he had me covered. He could not have been more inviting to me that day and there began my newfound passion for climbing. I spent the next five months training, learning and preparing for something like Zoroaster. All of that hard work came to fruition this weekend, but it was not easy and honestly involved some of the toughest physical and mental mettle that I have ever had to apply to a hike/climb.

We arrived to the Grand Canyon late Saturday evening. By the time we got done consolidating our gear and making final preparations it was nearly midnight. We started shortly after, to shoot for the 24 hour ascent.

We took a brief nap at Sumner Wash and began our push for the base of the climb near day break. The approach went pretty smoothly, however, it still felt like we were a little behind schedule when we arrived around 10:00 a.m. A little over an hour later, I was tying in to lead the first pitch, a 5.7 pitch with an intimidating roof. I had a little nerves when I started it and it was a bit of a committing, but I nailed it pretty cleanly and was all of a sudden feeling pretty good about the climb. Spencer led the next pitch (5.9+) which some say involved the crux of the entire climb, however, neither of us felt it was the most difficult pitch of the climb. Spencer then led pitch 3 and we were both up pretty smoothly, apart for some backtracking to get the stuck second line we were towing up. I led pitch four and everything was going smoothly until I encountered some rope drag from hell. A common problem for climbers new to trad. This rope drag was immense however and I could not even pull it up when attached to just my harness. The only solution I could muster was pre-pulling the rope tug a war style before each climbing crux I encountered. I had to do this three times to clear an OW chimney and then to clear about a 20-30 foot section of slab. Because I was terrified another placement might completely stop my rope, I ended up finishing the final 30, or so foot of the pitch with zero protection and a lot of slack. As I tried to take in slack to pull up Spencer on top belay, it soon became evident that the rope was now completely stuck somewhere (it was wedged in a crack). Spencer had to now jug up the line, get it unstuck and then let me continue with the top belay. Unfortunately, on his way up his gear loop broke on his harness and all of our gear, snacks and water went crashing down the pitch. Pitch four had now become our hell pitch and nothing was going right for us.

We were able to recover from the debacle on pitch four, but we now had two more pitches and our time to complete the summit by nightfall was diminishing quickly. The fifth pitch proved to be the hardest and both of us struggled to make it up the tough, physical 5.9 OW crack. Nevertheless, we still made the "summit" and with just enough time to scramble up the final cap and start making plans for our rap down.

The rap down is where things started to get interesting for us. We hit the first two rap stations cleanly with no issues. However, on our way to the fourth rap station we got off course due to some inaccurate beta and a poorly designed rap route. We were now stuck on a ledge several hundred feet up, but with nowhere to really go down to. We then both jugged up to another shelf to start game planning a way down. By this time, we were down to one headlamp due to some dead batteries and the needed batteries being at our bivy site. We felt there was a promising ledge up to our right that we could get to with a pretty easy climb, so I put Spencer on belay and we climbed up. Spencer then rapped to another ledge below, however, he was feeling uneasy about continuing in pitch dark without knowing where the next rap station was and jugged back up the line to me. We were pretty much out of options at this point, so we rapped back down the short crack we had just climbed and returned to where we had originally rapped to. We decided our only option was to stay on that ledge until daylight. This option however, was certainly unappealing. We had no additional cold weather gear and no water. I didn't even have a pair of socks to put on as I had been wearing only my climbing shoes for the last several hours. We were very confident we could get down in the daylight, but we were both dreading what was about to be a long, cold night stuck on a windy ledge. Not long after some of these realizations we both kind of agreed that we were getting off that summit come hell or high water. We re-climbed to our previous position and decided that we would just start rapping down off "bail" gear and find a way to the bottom Worst case we knew that we could tie both our ropes together and essentially do a couple hundred foot single line rap if needed. Luckily that was not needed as we somehow ended up back on route and were able to finish the rap in the correct manner that was intended. Honestly, I am leaving a lot out here, because I can't really put into words the tough situation we were and the amount of mettle it took us to blindly rap down into the night, not knowing if we were going to hit ledges or rap off the side of Zoro into oblivion. I had given my headlamp to Spencer as it was more important for him to have being the first one down the line, so I was stuck inspecting my system before each rap in poor light, with little sleep and a racing mind. It was just a mentally taxing time for both of us and I can't describe how much relief we had when we finally reached ground level around midnight.

Once on the ground and with any hopes of a 24 hour ascent not possible, we simply made what we thought was the best choice for getting us back to the rim safely. We curled up on the ground, shielded ourselves from the wind as best as we could and spent the the night sleeping, shivering and praying for day light to arrive.

The hike out was standard and a total slog to say the least.

Grand Canyon Summit #21.

Final Notes

I believe we could definitely complete this in a 24 hour window with the first hand knowledge we gained from our first ascent, however, missing the 24 hour window on this one did not diminish the experience in any way. Its hard to articulate how good this accomplishment felt for me. I did not learn how to tie a figure 8 knot until October and now only a mere five months later, I am leading two pitches on perhaps the premier technical climb in the Grand Canyon. I can't thank Spencer enough for opening up the world of climbing to me. Climbing got me through a tough fall in terms of my personal life and now it is helping me reach heights that I honestly never thought I would reach.
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