Saturday, April 05, 2008

An Angels ViewThe family headed to Southern Utah for Spring break, we spent time in Zions, Bryce and Goblin Valley State Park. While in Zions I wanted to hike Angels Landing again. I had done it in 2001 when I was just starting hiking and way out of shape. My goal was to see the sunrise from the landing. However the shuttles start running April 1, and the first shuttle isn't until 6:30 am. Sunrise proper is at 7:10 am, but the sky starts lightening around 6:00 so I had to start on the trail by at least 5:45 to get up there in time.

I approached the park rangers to see if I could get special use permit to allow me to drive my car up and park at the trail head, but they denied me saying it was only for extended trips, I tried in vain to explain that I was extending my start to be early but she wouldn't budge. So I dropped by a local bike shop and rented a bike in the evening at 8 when the closed and they said if I had it back by 9 am the next morning when they opened it would cost me the 2 hour rate of $18!

Shining Like a Work of ArtSo the next morning I awoke at 4:45 am. At that time of the morning it takes me a while of stumbling around before I am fully awake. I layered up, put on my beanie, gloves and my pack and drove the car down to the canyon junction. There I jumped on the bike with my head lamp lighting a path, I pedaled down the dark tunnel that my lamp cut in the black morning. 3.5 miles later I arrived at the trail head at the Grotto. I chained the bike to the fence and started up the trail around 6 am.

Wiggle this WayThe trail is a work of engineering marvel cut out the cliff side it snakes back up refrigerator canyon before winding back on itself and then straight up the 21 switchbacks cut out of the cliff on the amazing Walters Wiggles. From there its a short hike to Scouts Landing, and you see the last half mile. Angels Landing is a narrow block of sandstone that rises another 500 feet in the air. This block of sandstone is connected to Scouts Landing by a narrow fin of stone, where steps cut across a ridge line that drops off 1500 feet on either side. The trail then ascends up the rocky ridge line of the Angels Landing to the top of the rise. Chains are placed along this entire length to provide some sense of comfort in what can be a vertigo inducing traverse. I wonder how many reach Scouts Landing to not attempt the last half mile, I feel really bad for those with a true fear of heights that go ahead despite the warning signs.

Down CanyonBy the time I reached the chains the sky was dawning and I could see fine without the head lamp. A quick but concentrated scramble lead me to the top where I comfortably rested on the broad sandstone cap and waited for the sun to rise. It wasn't as spectacular as I would have liked, but it was wonderful to be all alone with such grand views up and down canyon. The cliff walls of the canyon surrounded me and rose above me another 1500 feet to the top of the canyon rim. I shouted a couple of times to see if I could generate an echo but the expanse was too broad and the void swallowed up my puny voice.

Angels Landing Path - VertigoAfter hanging out for an hour and watching the light cross the cliff tops I headed back down the trail. As I did so I knotted my camera strap and clipped it on my chest. This allowed me to climb down with my hands free, but at key moments of stability be able to easily snap photos of the return. I wanted to viscerally document what it was like to climb down the chained section. After reaching the section just before Scouts Landing I encountered my first hiker coming up. We chatted for a brief moment before he approached the narrow vertigo fin where you get your first good view of the ascent. I paused from my vantage point and watched him contemplate the ascent. He stood for a long time looking up. Not wanting to embarrass him I turned and started down again, leaving him to face his fears alone.

The Valley FloorAs I returned I saw a father and a daughter ahead of me who had turned around. There were a few chains in an area that had some sloping where if you slipped and fell and tripped and tumbled you'd be in trouble but nothing like the chains above. However they were petrified, the father was holding onto the chains on either side of his daughter with her in the middle. I paused out of sight to give them time to make their way back, once they were down it took me about 5 minutes to travel what had taken them 25.

As I made my way back down the trail to the bike, I passed another 37 people. Glad I got up early and enjoyed the top alone. A hike highly recommended if your ever in Zion National Park.
Set on


Blogger thom said...

Yep, awesome! When I was up there coming down the fin, I passed a father and his daughter who couldn't have been older than 7, gently climbing up. I don't know if they made it or not, but I was in a hurry to get down cos lightning was flashing a little ways off to the west and moving in.

Q: Did you get the bike back by 9am lol? :)

12:43 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yup I made it back by 9 easy. :)

2:45 PM  

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