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Last Minute On Angels Landing

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Last Minute On Angels Landing

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Utah, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 37.26933°N / 112.9478°W

Object Title: Last Minute On Angels Landing

Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 21, 2011

Activities: Hiking

Season: Winter


Page By: gimpilator

Created/Edited: Mar 29, 2011 / Apr 3, 2011

Object ID: 707135

Hits: 10498 

Page Score: 95.67%  - 54 Votes 

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February 21, 2011

Afternoon Sun On Angels Landing
Angels Landing Seen From The Trailhead

It all started when Bryan and I drove to Salt Lake City having planned some climbs nearby, only to get skunked by an atrocious weather front and more fresh powder than we had bargained for. It was predicted that there would be a blizzard every day, for the next 5 days. We were supposed to meet up with fellow SP member Eric Willhite for the climbs but that was not going to happen now. Eric later told me that only 3 or 4 days a year in Utah are too nasty for climbing and they just happened to be when we were there. So we made the decision to drive down to southern California for a better chance on some 10,000 foot peaks. I was looking at the map and I noticed Zion National Park was right next to the driving route we would be taking. Zion was one of the last great destinations of Utah I hadn't yet visited so we agreed that we should break the drive in half and stop there.

The Virgin River
The Virgin River

I couldn't remember any details about what there was to do and see in Zion but something called Angels Landing stuck out in my mind. I remembered people talking about it over the years but had no recollection of what they had said about it. I sort of expected that we would park our car and then walk a short distance to some sort of overlook like at the Grand Canyon. I sure underestimated what we would find. We were excited at the trailhead to discover that there would be some actual mileage (5 miles round trip).

The Trail
Trail Cut Into Sandstone Cliffs

Winter In Zion
Snow In The Side Canyon

Figuring it would be a pretty tame hike, I didn't bother to put my boots on. I just wore trail runners and threw some food and water in a tiny pack. We crossed the river and hiked up some amazing switchbacks cut into the rock cliffs. Then we entered a canyon where we encountered the first snow. Some more switchbacks led up the back side on Angels Landing to the top of a ridge. There was a lot of compact snow on the trail and I had to concentrate on not slipping. It made me wish that I had brought micro-spikes. We came to a section where a heavy duty chain was bolted into the rock underneath the snow. We traversed along a steep snow slope with a terrifying drop off right below us. Without the chain, I wouldn't have done it. Then we reached the first high point on the ridge.

Two Climbers On Angels Landing
The Narrow Ridge To the Summit

From there we could see the summit. Whoa! A knife edge ridge led out into the middle of the canyon with sheer cliff drop-offs on either side. Beyond the knife-edge, it looked like there was a slope that went straight up to the summit. It was totally covered with snow and looked extremely dangerous. We both agreed that we would not take such a risk. But then I saw two tiny specs coming down from the summit. We waited awhile for them to get to us, and asked what the route was like. They said it wasn't any worse than what we had already come through (not true). I decided to give it a try and Bryan followed. We followed another chain down to the narrow section. In one spot that was only a few feet wide, and precipitous on both sides, Bryan said "Dude, I don't need this kind of stress". He turned back and I totally respect that decision.

Harder With Snow
Going Down From The First High Point

On The Edge
"Dude, I don't need This Kind Of Stress"

The Chains
Following The Chains

I went on without him, just wanting to see how far I could make it before my instincts told me that enough was enough. I knew that if I came to a spot that I felt I couldn't do safely, I would turn around too. But all the really bad spots had chains to hold onto. If my feet slipped out from under me, I could still hold on with my hands. It was a nerve-racking climb. I've never done Class 3 scrambling, snow covered, with so much exposure like that (the photos don't really capture it). I made it to the summit but didn't take a break because I wanted to get back down.

Summit View North
Summit View North

Zion Canyon
Summit View South

By the time I got back to Bryan my heart was pounding and my nerves were shot. It took me hours to calm down. The feeling reminded me of the time I had been sky diving. We agreed that this was it. No more scary climbs on this trip. On the way down we passed a lady who told us that every year someone falls to their death climbing Angels Landing. That night I checked Peakbagger and Summit Post to see who else had climbed Angels Landing in February. Out of the some odd 200 people, no one else had. It made me think that Bryan might have made the better choice.

Video By Bryan


On The EdgeTwo Climbers On Angels LandingSummit View NorthAngels LandingThe ChainsAfternoon Sun On Angels LandingThe Trail
Harder With SnowZion CanyonThe WatchmanFollow The ChainsAngels LandingThe SummitThe Virgin River
[ View Gallery - 8 More Images ]


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 21-24 of 24 « PREV 1 2 NEXT »

Snidely WhiplashGreat!

Snidely Whiplash

Voted 10/10

These are some of the most spectacular pictures I've seen posted in some time. Don't see many climbing pictures of Zion in winter. This very under-appreciated national park is one of the best. Nicely done!
Posted Apr 9, 2011 1:17 pm

gimpilatorRe: Great!


Hasn't voted

Thank you for your words of encouragement.
Posted Apr 11, 2011 10:55 am

Ejnar FjerdingstadGreat story,

Ejnar Fjerdingstad

Voted 10/10

and good photos too. I think you really took some risks there - if there hadn't been any snow it would seem like a rather easy ferrata, but under such conditions, and without any equipment it's a different story.
Posted Mar 9, 2012 6:02 pm

gimpilatorRe: Great story,


Hasn't voted

Thank you. Yes I certainly took risks, there's no denying it. Perhaps if I hadn't been following two other people I would have turned around.
Posted Mar 15, 2012 5:05 pm

Viewing: 21-24 of 24 « PREV 1 2 NEXT »