Caldwell Frees Zodiac

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Tommy Caldwell has added the Zodiac to his tick list of El Cap free climbs. Caldwell completed the 5.13-plus version of the classic El Cap aid route in late November. Brothers Alex and Thomas Huber first free climbed the Zodiac in October, with six 5.13 pitches and several new variations to the aid line. After working on the free climb earlier, Caldwell finished the route with Topher Donahue in a six-day effort. Donahue started up the wall just five days after surgery to remove his wisdom teeth. “I wouldn’t recommend the dental work-big wall combo,” Donahue said. “I definitely lost some weight and was getting wild head rushes on the hard pitches.” Amazingly, the Zodiac is 25-year-old Caldwell’s fifth free route on El Capitan, and only the second on which he did not make the first free ascent. With various partners, Caldwell has freed Lurking Fear, the Muir Wall, and the West Buttress, and he has made a one-day free ascent of the Salathé Wall. “It was a lot of fun to be part of such an inspired ascent,” Donahue said of Caldwell’s Zodiac effort. “Tommy had to try the Nipple (the climb’s second 5.13d crux) something like 15 times and fully charge to pull off the rest.”

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