Zion National Park Part 3

We did it!

We wake up to snow on the mountains surrounding our campground.

But the sun is shining and we are psyched to tackle an iconic 5.4 mile adventure hike.

The Angels Landing Hike is rated Double S for Strenuous and Scary. The description from the Zion National Park Information Sheet reads:

”Long drop-offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights.” (LIKE ME!) “Last section is a route along a steep narrow ridge to the summit.”

What is not mentioned is just how narrow some steep sections are! But I decide to give it a try. Jeff reminds me we can always turn back.

Angels landing

The shuttle lets us off at The Grotto Stop where we cross the street and take the bridge across the Virgin River. We look up at our destination… yes, that’s it… the top of the rock formation below.

It’s 11:47. Ahead of us is the challenge of a strenuous climb of some 1500 feet that will require us to hang on to chains as we scale a knife-edge ridgeline with steep drop offs on either side.

We wind our way up to the mouth of Refrigerator Canyon.

From here we loop up and through the canyon walls into a series of 21 switchbacks known as “Walter’s Wiggles.”

No pain, no gain… I keep focusing on the spectacular views.

Meanwhile the road and river grow smaller below.

The ascent through the switchbacks leads to Scouts Lookout and the intersection of the West Rim backcountry trail and Angels Landing.

Scouts Lookout is a great place to take a port-a-potty and snack break, shed the backpack and extra gear, and catch the first glimpse of the last half mile and first set of chains to the summit. Here’s where many hikers give up their plans to continue to the Landing. Some freak out while others decide it’s not worth it to fight the crowds going up and down.

The squirrels certainly enjoy the crowds, however. They scurry out whenever they hear the crackle of plastic unwrapping.

I won’t lie, I am a bit intimidated by what lies ahead of me. But, I’ve made it this far and am committed to the last scary and strenuous stretch. Actually it doesn’t look so bad from here, just crowded. Of course I can’t see the summit.

We have to wait before going up as a long line of hikers descends the slickrock ridge. Then our turn comes. I fall in with a group and take it step by step. There’s no time to look over the edge. You have to just concentrate, hang on, and not slip and fall.

Somehow Jeff and I get separated. When I find a space to stand off to the side I wait for him. But he’s having second thoughts and considers going back. I, on the other hand, cannot give up yet. I am determined to haul ass, conquer my fears, and make it to the top. Selfishly, I leave him behind and get adopted by a group of co-eds from BYU. I hang with them… get it?… hang… chains… groan. Unfortunately Jeff has my iPhone in his pocket but I can’t worry about that now. No one is taking pictures anyway.

A second set of chain railings ends and we traverse a narrow 2-3 foot wide passage with steep drop offs on either side. Did I mention that there is nothing to hold onto? I feel like I am  walking in midair. I just stay in the moment and carefully place one foot in front of the other and concentrate on my hiking shoes.

We maneuver around a huge rock and the area widens out like a side saddle. Looking straight ahead I catch sight of the summit. OMGeez Louise… it’s straight up!

I look behind me and I see Jeff making his way up. I knew he wouldn’t back out! As he hands me my phone to get a picture, he explains how the crowd of hikers was offsetting to him. (It’s a one lane highway up here with no room for passing. So traffic is frequently stopped leaving you to find a precarious but secure spot to place your hands and feet while waiting your turn to go. After centering himself, Jeff was ready to complete the hike.)

I take a picture of the final climb to Angels Landing. There’s a steady flow of people going up and down. (I circled some hikers on the ridge in the picture below to give a better perspective.)

The picture above is deceiving because after walking around the evergreen in the foreground you have to make your way down a bit before scaling the last section of chains.

I take a breather and hand my phone back to Jeff for safe keeping. My peeps are ready to go and I leave Jeff behind once more. (If I think and wait too long, I will get scared. So I don’t think and just keep going.) What you can’t see in the picture above is how close the guy in the red shirt is to the edge.

At this point of the climb everyone on the ridge becomes friends and conversations blend. We coach and encourage each other. We find out where people are from. We work out a traffic system. We look out for each other as we hang on for dear life.

Finally, we reach the top! And just as I’m wishing I could take a picture to capture this moment, I hear Jeff’s voice. He’s made it too and I get to take a picture after all.

I decide to walk out a little further and as I hand my phone back to Jeff he quickly snaps a picture of me… King of the Mountain… Look, Ma, no hands!

My young friends from BYU line up for a picture.

I take a few more pics before descending.

These are pictures of Zion Canyon looking over the Big Bend area toward the Temple of Sinawava:

This next picture is a view from the other side of Angels Landing looking out  toward the south.

Down we go. I am so looking forward to being back at Scouts Lookout standing in one piece on terra firma.

Once again we encounter long waits as we let ascending hikers pass. Amazingly a few hikers ignore the queues and chains and stride up and down with poles making their own paths over the slickrock.

When our group arrives back at Scouts Lookout, we are strangers no more and we cheer our collective accomplishment. My college friends have officially adopted me as Grammy L and invite me to visit them on campus.

Jeff and I pause for the iconic OSU OHIO picture even though none of us went to The Ohio State. We all went to colleges in Ohio though.

We find our backpack and a rock to relax upon as we hydrate and eat trail mix and an orange.

I talk to 2 young women waiting for their boyfriends to return from Angels Landing. After watching YouTube videos they decided to opt out of the last half mile climb. I’m glad I didn’t know too much before hand. I plan on viewing some later, though.

As we travel back down the remaining 2 miles to the Grotto Shuttle Stop, I take one last picture of the Wiggles. At least this time it’s all downhill.

Exhausted, but exhilarated we arrive back at the trailhead around 4:15 and take the shuttle to the Visitor Center. But wait, we have another half mile walk to the RV. Tomorrow our muscle groups will be talking back to us. But, WE DID IT!!!

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