Friday, June 8, 2012

Angels (Cherubs) Landing.... Zion

Roger here....  The girls are safely back home.  For fourteen years, since our first visit to Zion, I have wanted to do this hike to Angels Landing.  At that time we opted for the strenuous "Hidden Canyon" hike instead --- a better option for Dianne.  (Even that hike was terrifying for me -- D.)  However,  I really wanted to do this hike.  So, the doggies spent one last day at the Doggie Dude Ranch while Dianne and I spent our last day (this trip) at Zion National Park.

Dianne was a really good sport about this whole thing.  (She really did not want me to do this.)  Waiting at the motor home while I pursued this would have been agony for her, so she agreed to hike 2 miles (uphill to Scout Landing) to wait for me while I pursued the final leg of the treacherous Angels Landing summit.

The first section of the hike was a gentle, slightly uphill, trek along the Virgin River --- not too bad, if not for the knowledge of what lay ahead.  The photo to the right shows my ultimate goal.  (Look three-fourths of the way on the left-hand side of the formation.  Note the steep slope.  More about that, later.)

After many, many switchbacks, we finally reached Refrigerator Canyon.  Ahhhh!  Shade!!!  The opening photo was taken just before we entered the shady, semi-flat, pathway into the canyon.  A third of the way up!  Still a long way to go.  A photo of Refrigerator Canyon is to the left.

We enjoyed the relatively flat trail through the canyon.

The shade was especially welcome.  Do I look winded?

The rock formations at Zion are always amazing.

Our respite from the uphill trudge was agonizingly short-lived as we arrive at the next major uphill climb, Walter's Wiggles (below).

Walter's Wiggles was the brainchild of Walter Ruesch, park superintendent, who in 1926 envisioned the adventurous climb to Angels Landing.  The 21 switchbacks cut into solid rock pretty much took Dianne and me straight up --- all the way to the next major resting point, Scout Landing (two-thirds of the way!). By the way, the picture of the return trip (still to come), gives an even better perspective of the wiggles.

Click this to get an aerial view and REALLY see the wiggles!

(I want it to be known that even though I wimped out at Scout Landing, I made it up the wiggles! -- D.)

The view from Scout Landing was amazing, but there was greater adventure ahead.

On to Angels Landing, the ultimate goal, at least for me.  From the outset, Dianne knew that she would be waiting for me at Scout Landing while I continued.  I hoped that she would enjoy her picnic lunch while I trudged on.  Take special note of the icon depicting the falling hiker.  I did.
(When I look at this poster, all I see is the first paragraph stating that since 2004 six people have fallen to their deaths from this hike!  -- D.)  

Allrighty then.  The first part of the final section did not look too bad.  Dianne even said so (while the others waiting at Scout Landing chuckled.)  It looked like there were chains on the way up.  I would hold on to the chains and pull myself up --- which I did.

Photo-taking was difficult.  I had to wrap my arm around the chain in a place where I was reasonably sure of my footing.  I found few such places.  Here is a photo:  My feet were just inches away from the rocky ledge.  What I cannot show you is the narrowness of the downward-slanted ledges, and the gaps between the chains where I had to scramble up without any handhold.  At one point, I was forced to swing over the abyss to gain a foothold.  The chain was the only anchor that kept me from falling 1500 feet.  

Eventually, I reached a relatively flat and expansive area about a third of the way to the top of the final climb.  Here is a shot from what I am now calling Cherubs Landing.  A friendly, young European couple (could not identify the accent) took my photo at that point.  I was very careful not to step back too far!  To the right of my shoulder, you can see the remaining climb to the top.

At Cherubs Landing I listened to several hikers who were deciding whether or not to continue.  I knew I could physically make it, but the thought of one misstep being my last weighed heavily on my mind.  The young European couple had pretty much decided to turn back.  The guy told me that he was shaken by the inherent danger.  A 30-something young lady said that she was going back and pretty much talked me out of going further.  As Dianne says, "smart people live longer."  (I later met up with both the European couple and the 30-something lady.  As it turns out, they both went on and made it to the top.  Oh well, I was happy for them.)

Now the only thing to dread was climbing back down to Scout Landing.  In many ways this seemed more perilous than the upward climb.  I don't think I mentioned that there was only one chain, so if you met someone coming from the opposite direction, you were forced to swing around each other to maintain a grip on the chain.

Down I went.  Here are a few shots of the descent. (Most of the way, it was straight down on both sides.)

 Below is one of those places where you had to go down without the benefit of the chains.

I have to admit that despite my adventuresome nature that I was truly frightened.

Anyone light-headed yet?  Yep, despite my disappointment, turning back was the smart decision.  This is the place where I had to swing out, holding onto the chains, to gain the next foothold.  Yikes!  I can't believe I did that!  Keep in mind that I was to the right of the chain in the photos below, hanging out over the edge. 

Back to Scout Landing to find Dianne lounging under the shade of a tree with dozens of others.  Even Dianne, the worry-wart, had no idea what I had just done.  Doesn't she look relaxed?  (I had a very pleasant wait at Scout Landing.  I even saw three California Condors soaring above me.  Had I known what Roger was actually doing, this photo would have looked much, much different!!  -- D.)

We ate our picnic lunches and decided to go further up the West Rim Trail.  We knew that we would be able to safely reach the elevation of Angels Landing, but on a more reasonable trail.  So again, up we went.  In the photo above, you can see a few of the people at Scout Landing.

As we ascended, we were able to get a good look at the first portion of the Angels Landing Trail that I had climbed.  I made it well past the top of this particular section.

We were able to hike into the white Navajo rock formations that you can see at the top of most of the canyon.  Lots and lots of jaw-dropping scenes.

More interesting rock formations. (Dianne liked the rich, red color in these rocks.)

Time for one of our frequent hydration stops, then--- time to go down --- about 1500 feet.  My fear at this point was that my knees might give out like they did on the Four Mile Hike to the top of the canyon at Yosemite a couple of years ago.  Not to worry, barely a twinge in my knees :-).

One last look at Angels Landing.  I made it to the top of the formation on the right.  I really would not have liked to go up, only to go down again, and then up further.  The steep ascent in the middle of the picture is the same slope from the photo at the beginning of the hike.   Glad I stopped when I did.  (Not really glad, but rationalization helps.)

Here is the promised view of The Wiggles, from the top.  If you didn't click on the link above, you really should to get the full effect.

Spectacular views on the downward trek:

This was likely our last day at Zion National Park. We have been here for a month.  We will be in the area for a couple more days, but saying goodbye to such an amazing park is bittersweet.  Tomorrow... a dog park in Springdale to play with the pups and a ghost town?  That is the plan.

The Pet Picture of the Day shows Bandido looking out the car window on the way to the Doggie Dude Ranch.  He loves it so much that he actually cries when he gets near.  He recognizes the town of Rockville just before the Dude Ranch, and starts whimpering and pawing at the windows in anticipation!


klbexplores said...
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klbexplores said...

I can only think of one word to describe your hike to Angels Landing, SPECTACULAR!! While I consider myself adventurous your pictures are probably the only way I will even see that site. Good decision my friends! Stay safe!

Nancy and Bill said...

So glad the WISER Roger was in charge on this hike;o)) We know how the child in you loves to climb rocks!! Well Done... spectacular photos. Not sure if this will go on our TODOS list or not?!?! Maybe just to Scouts Landing :o)

Gin and Syl said...

NO WAY!! I was freaking out just looking at the photos! Beautiful views though.

livelaughrv said...

Thanks for sharing all your hiking and photos. Giving us lots of ideas. One of which....we won't plan on finishing Angels Landing...yikes!

livelaughrv said...

Thanks for sharing your hikes and photos. Now we know we won't be finishing Angels Landing...yikes!

Anonymous said...

We are so glad to have met you! Wish we had had more time together but workamping has some drawbacks! You have more stamina than I have! Made it almost to the point you did but xx years ago... safe travels and I hope we meet again! Chuck n Geri n the Hound Herd