Zoroaster Temple – Grand Canyon – AZ (Day 2 – Part 1) – 11.4.17

Morning begins to break over the canyon

The wind screamed by our tent most of the night, waking us every 15 minutes it seemed. Finally, after midnight, I remember it dying down and getting some solid sleep. The alarm blasted, Bzzzz Bzzz Bzz, man was it time to get up already?! We woke, staying still for a moment checking the time. Sure enough, it was time to start our haul to the base of Zoroaster and hopefully attempt our bid on the summit.

Good morning!

We ate breakfast, packed up camp, and before we knew it, Kari and I were taking our first steps towards the monstrous beast that loomed over our camp just as day began to break. Feet in red dirt we ascended Zoroaster’s arm, chimneying up a small obstacle and soon the next cliff bands stared us in the face. We picked our way through, shimmying up some low class 5 (C5) chimneys, handing packs as we ascended. We moved as quickly and safely as we could. A slip or mistake here would not only cost an injury, but also the goal, and not to mention the excruciatingly long rescue effort. Cliff band after cliff band we somehow found our way through. We pushed further up the arm, and finally after a long slot ascent and a large boulder shuffle, we skirted to the north and headed towards the saddle of Zoroaster and Brahma temples.

  • The overscast morning seemed to start slowly
  • Cliff Band obstacles

The footpath grew very narrow, vertical rockface to the right, and sloped dirt leading to a 400 foot drop to the left . . . better keep our heads on in this section! We carefully picked our way through following the footpath, cairn after cairn guided our way. Finally we found the weak spot in the headwall and started to ascend. The first obstacle was a chill class 3 scramble up to a ledge where we found a fixed rope for the next obstacle. We bat-manned up and sere soon past the next C4/C5 section. We followed the cairns as we went, across another rope less climb, up a slab, and finally to the spiciest of the obstacles. It was a good 20’ C5 climb with a fixed rope to guide us up! “How nice of someone!” I thought as we exited the obstacle.

  • Kari squeezes on the small footpath between the rock face and the dropoff

We kept pushing our way up the steep faint trail, following cairns until finally we were face to face with the sheer walls of Zoroaster. None of the faces we could see looked like our climb, so we continued to skirt east across the north face of Zoro. Walking on and on, when all of the sudden we turned right at the arête and stared at the 5.9+ NE Arete route. It was time to go to work! We racked up and Kari put me on belay as I stepped towards the start of the climb.

Skirting east along the north face of Zoroaster towards the Arete

Pitch 1 (P1):  My hands were sweaty as I made my first step towards the start. I plunged them into my chalk bag shaking off the jitters and stared at a large triangle roof a good 25’ up a face. I started up the sandy sandstone face reaching the clearly clean roof. I threw a #3 Camelot on the crack and inspected the face wondering how I would pull the first obstacle. I reached high, and using a nice foothold on the left face I pulled myself over the roof and was soon clipping chains just 50’ off the ground.

Taking on P1, trying to shake out the jitters! Thanks for the pic: Kari Hreinsson

P2: The crack went up and climbers right from here and I followed. There were some fun moves, I stepped up, finding the next hold, repositioning and finding good gear placement. The long pitch meandered up right through the crack around some small trees. Move after move I ascended, sometimes being pushing onto some short slab climbs until finally I reached a tree covered in slings signifying the end of P2. Whew, made it! I threw Kari on belay and he soon followed. Trying to move quickly we spared no time exchanging gear and I set off again!

  • Top of P2 - Tree belay (don't mind the guy thigh). Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

P3: The infamous “Crux Pitch”. I move up and climbers right towards a fresh rock scar where a pinnacle used to hold on, creating a chimney for the next pitch (it fell in 2004). There were now 2 options for this pitch: ascend a section of runout slab face climbing with no protection, or a vertical sandstone slopper hold climb. I chose the sandstone, heading almost vertical and slightly climbers left from the tree below. I placed a Camelot #3 deep in a hole/crack with soft sandstone edges and prayed it would hold. I moved up and left, finding a good left foot, dropped knee, intermediate sloper with my left hand, pinching a sandy sandstone shelf with my right hand . . . needless to say it was awkward . . . all of the sudden I was out of position. “Falling!” I yelled down to Kari as I blew off the face! Gravity took over and I fell for a good 20’ whipper before my #3 dug in and held me. Whew!!!! I thought to myself and let out a loud happy yelp “Wooooooo!”  I grabbed my composure . . . this climb could end here. I stood back up and headed back for the same move. “Falling!!!” Boop, once again I was thrown from the face, the # 3 held, my hero!!!! I dusted myself off and looked upwards woundering if this was the end for us. I got back into the same position a 3rd time, only this attempt I threw my right hand up, blind, above the huge sloped rock in my face. To my surprise a bomber hourglass shaped hold!! I grabbed in and rejoiced as I made my next move to climbers left and safety of the next anchor. Sweat dripped from my body and I put Kari on belay.

Looking down the P3 crux (you can see the hour glass bomber hold here at the right hand). I shamelessly “borrowed” this picture from B Kiessel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcGlIpfjoaI)

P4: I stood on a huge ledge and soon Kari joined me after enjoying the same interesting crux as I. We had no time to waste, so I geared up and headed to a crack that was just above the fresh rockscar that moved climber’s right. I continued up this chimney running it out a bit, placing gear only where I had a nice stance. Even with all the runout, I started running low on gear! I found a small tree and looked up past the next chimney and there was still about 30’ above to the infamous horn belay. I decided to just build an anchor here and belay Kari up, breaking this pitch into 2. After some “fun” chimney Kari appeared at the belay, looking a bit tired and ready to be on the horn. I collected the gear he cleaned and headed up the final section of chimney towards the horn. I popped out of the chimney only an arête that ended into a loose slab section. The next place I could throw gear in was a good 20’ away, so I carefully climbed. Smearing my feet and slowly controlling my weight. I worked my way up until I found myself grabbing a bomber hold!! I quickly pulled myself up onto the infamous horn belay with a nice set of anchors. I set the belay, and Kari began to climb, cleaning gear as he went. As he popped out onto the loose slab section, he had the same impression as me: “What is this crap?!” Kari exclaimed!

  • Which way do we go?? Oh yea, up! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson
Looking up Second half of P4 (after the tree break), interesting chimney style climbing! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson

Kari joined me, as I sat straddling the horn, chilly, fully zipped up in my hoody. We had just 2 pitches left before the technical climbing was over. Although nervous, I was excited to take them on. The traverse was up next and after that the off width pitch. The traverse boasted almost no choices for protection and the offwidth pitch was some hard technical climbing. Kari but me on belay again . . . “Climb on!” he said. It wasn’t over yet!

Sitting on the Horn Belay top of P4, you can see the down climb and the sheer exposure! Photo Credit: Kari Hreinsson



  • Weather: Hi 60s, Low 40s, Sunny
  • Water: 4 liters
  • Food: 1 Cliff Builder bar, 1 protein bar, 1 Nature Valley granola bar, bag of salt & vinegar, beef jerky, bag of pizza Pringles, gummy worms, orange, chicken and mashed potato MountainHouse
  • Time: (Day 2) 20 hours
  • Distance: (Day 2) 7 miles
  • Accumulated Gain: (Day 2) 1,700 feet
  • Climbing Rating: 5.9+ Trad
  • Number of Pitches: 6


  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent
  • Big Agnes QCORE SLX sleeping pad
  • Cosmic Down Kelty Sleeping Bag (rated to 20 deg F)
  • Jet Boil – Sol
  • Black Diamond trekking poles
  • SPOT Gen3 Tracker
  • Sawyer Squeeze – Water Filter
  • 58 liter exos osprey backpack
  • Black Diamond Helmet
  • Petzl Corax Climbing Harness
  • 2 Black Diamond screw carabiner
  • 4 Phantom DMM screw carabiner
  • 6mm Accessory Chord – Anchor
  • Black Diamond Camelot X4+C4 Cams – Double Rack – (2x), 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Black Diamond Standard Nut Set
  • 12 Alpha Trad DMM quickdraws – Alpine draws
  • Black Diaimond ATC Guide
  • 70 meter 9.8mm Rope (Orange Slice)
  • Webbing/7mmCord for personal anchor
  • 20′ Flat webbing to leave for anchors
  • Arc’teryx Chalk Bag


  • Smartwool 195 weight long sleeve
  • Arc’teryx Hoody
  • Cotton Handkerchief
  • Nike shorts
  • Patagonia Pants
  • Darn Tough Medium Wool Sox
  • Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
  • La Sortiva TC Pro Climbing Shoes