Mount Ariel is a non historical climb in Zion National Park. Good luck googling it for any beta whatsoever. What it served for my partner and I was a break from a big wall climb we attempted farther down the canyon in suspect weather conditions (wind). It is an aesthetic mountain, not unlike Ferns Nipple in Capitol Reef National Park further east. It is one of those whitish dome shaped mountains whose rock is questionable dry, much less wet. The trad route up Ariel’s eastern flank is an easy day out and a good opportunity to work out some cob webs from the big wall challenges in the park. As I recall, there were about 5 pitches with a very nice approach and summit, all relatively easy climbing. I do remember apparently solid rock breaking way underfoot as we were climbing in moist springtime conditions. It is best to climb Mount Ariel when it is completely dry. The biggest factor for most climbers would be the run out, although I never had a problem with it.
Zion National Park is a 229 sq mile protected landscape of sculptured canyons and their respective steep, towering cliffs. It is located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert. The wildlife and ecosystem is vast for such a small area and includes many varieties of bats, reptiles and birds (including the endangered peregrine falcon ) as well as desert big horn sheep, mountain lions, black tailed jackrabbits, grey fox and ringtail cats just to name a few of the mammals. Human history in the park dates back to 6000 B.C. As I mentioned with Island in the Sky, it is favorable not to step on or damage the cryptobiotic crust as it can take over 50 years to repair itself, if at all.
At least three published guides cover climbs in Zion. They are Desert Rock, Zion Rock and Rock Climbing Utah. Mount Ariel is not found in any of them.
Utah Route 9 has an exit off of I-15 north of St. George, UT. Route 9 takes you into the south end of Zion National Park through the town of Springdale and continues out the east end through a tunnel. During the busy months, private vehicles are not allowed into Zion Canyon itself, but they are allowed on Route 9 through the park. After you exit the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel heading east, continue through another smaller tunnel. Park onto a right handed pull out another kilometer down the road. We took the wash immediately back down the road (northwest) that actually bypasses Keyhole Canyon to the left.
Zion National Park will have manned kiosks on Highway 9 and you will be required to pay a US National Park fee ($20 per vehicle for a day/week pass, $50 for an annual pass-2006). Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips in Zion National Park, including climbing bivouacs. Climbing bivouac reservations are available for Moonlight Buttress, Lunar Ecstasy, Prodigal Son, Spaceshot and Touchstone climbing areas. The permit fees are based on group size: 1-2 people: $10, 3-7 people: $15 and 8-12 people: $20. Reservations are available for many backcountry trips in the park. A reservation does not guarantee that you will receive a permit. Reasons that a permit will be denied include high water, flash flood warnings, and wildland fires. Depending upon the backcountry zone, 40%-60% of the total number of backcountry permits are available through reservations. The remainder of permits are available as walk-in permits.
Some rock formations and routes are closed to climbing from March 1 to mid-July each year to protect nesting peregrine falcons. Some areas that are routinely closed include the Great White Throne, Cable Mountain, Court of the Patriarchs, and the Streaked Wall.
My favorite place for dinner in Springdale is the outdoor patio at Oscars. It also appears to be the local’s favorite. Most of the staff is into climbing as well, so it is a great place to plan your next climbing day and maybe even pick up a partner. Ask for Zach. The Mean Bean across from Oscars is one of my favorite independent coffee houses period. Ask for Joe.
When to Climb
Summer days are hot (95-110°F), but overnight lows are usually comfortable (65-70°F). Climbing in the middle of the day during the summer in southern Utah is not recommended. Carry plenty of water regardless. Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid-July through mid-September. Storms may produce waterfalls as well as flash floods. Sandstone is weak when wet, so avoid climbing in damp areas or right after a rain. I climbed Ariel in March, 2006 and some of the holds gave way. Winter in Zion Canyon is fairly mild. Winter storms can bring rain or light snow to Zion Canyon and much heavier snow in the higher elevations. Clear days may become quite warm, reaching 60°F; nights are often in the 20s and 30s. Zion roads are plowed, except the Kolob Terrace road, which is closed in winter.
There are two great campsites inside Zion’s south entrance. I have stayed at the South Campground just inside the gates. The scenic spots are on the North Fork of the Virgin River. This is a first come, first serve campground via self registration of $16 per night in 2005. This is a popular park however and I advise booking a site ahead of time at Watchman Campground if you think you are going during a popular period. Facilities include restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, RV dump stations. No showers are available at these park campsites but are available at an in town private facility for a fee. There is also a 6-site primitive campground called Lava Point, no water, no fee, and it is not open all year.
Springdale has tons of lodging options as well including a privately owned campground right before the entrance on the right before Zion National Park. If you demand the luxuries of town, I recommend Majestic View Lodge. I have stayed here on several occasions and the rooms are first class with great views. There is also the privately run Zion Lodge which is in the heart of the park.
It is actually “illegal” in Zion to camp at the base of a climbing wall or in your vehicle.