A rare site - an empty summit. Photo by Bob Shiler
We were nearing the end of a spectacular eight day tour through southern Utah’s parks and were at the last highlight before heading back up the freeway to see a friend in Logan before returning home. It had been a long trip, but everyday was a blast and we were enjoying it immensely. Our travels had taken us to Arches, Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Capital Reef and Bryce Canyon. Now we were going to Zion National Park to hike up Angels Landing.
My wife had hiked up this rock a few years earlier on a college field trip and had always gone on and on about it. She was horrified at the time and had to have one of here classmates hold her hand part of the way. I thought it surely couldn’t be that bad and never felt the urge to reach the top of Angels Landing, but she really wanted to be there again and I would never turn down for any kind of a visit to Zion.
We arrived on a cool gray morning joining huge crowds. That’s what we get for coming to one of the countries busiest parks during spring break. But all these people were simply doing and enjoying the same things we were so that helped put it in perspective. After a visit to the Weeping Wall we drove over to the crowded parking lot near the trail head to Angels Landing. The trail was easy up the red rock walls, and then it zigzagged up a huge break in the rock on the west side of Angels. Soon we rounded the corner and could gaze out across and down the incredible dizzying heights to the river below. The giant cliffs and sheer rock faces in this gorge have to be seen first hand to appreciate. Coming here shows one why Zions is truly one of the most incredible places on earth. Then I saw the chain. Never being a thrill seeker I must admit I was horrified.
No way in hell was I going on. The wife had not exaggerated. The trail continued on a narrow neck of rock several hundred feet to a flat summit. But the narrow neck of rock wasn’t just narrow, it was literally one or two feet wide much of the way. A chain connected posts, which had been bolted into the rock for hikers to have something to hang onto. Imagine standing on a two foot wide piece of rock with a step to the side causing you to fall a few thousand feet before you hit the bottom. My head was just spinning looking over the edge where I was, I didn’t need to go out there and hang by a chain for more thrills. No Way. Call me a wimp, but many people were turning back at this point.
But my dear spouse decided she was going. Fine, I’ll watch. Then she was talking to three young girls here on spring break and they were hedging on continuing. She talked two of them into going if she would stay close to them and tell them what to do. OK, that’s just great. If these horrified school girls were going out there, I had better go to. The jumping off rock was very crowded, but not nearly as many were clinging to the chain so we got away from the hoards a little. It really helped to concentrate on looking straight ahead and never down. It didn’t take long, but it was sure a thrill to get across and feel comfortable again on the flat summit. There were maybe 30 people there and everyone appeared uncommonly happy to be on top. I think it was the unusually incredible views Zion had to offer and the thrill of getting here that had everyone pumped up a bit. But it was sobering to see a couple plaques on top that are memorials to people who have fallen off.
Returning was as hair raising going out, but soon we experienced the relief of again being on flat ground. The two girls were so excited and enthusiastically told their more timid friend about all she had missed. They were grateful to my wife for helping them out there, and I guess I was too because her desire and enthusiasm to do it ultimately got me to go and the experience was intense and exhilarating. The girls gave us their address so we could send them copies of the pictures since for some reason they didn’t have a camera with them. Soon we were down to the car again.
The thrill of Angels Landing seemed to stick with me longer than most mountain experiences I have had. It was a much more touristy thing than I generally like to do, but there is a reason this place is flooded with people and the experience was well worth it, even with the crowds. While a hike on a razor thin rock ledge with only a chain to hold onto may seem like a yawner to real rock climbers, to most of the rest of us in the population it is a big time thrill. Of the dozens of summits I have stood on, none got my hair standing on end like Angels Landing.
I took only slides while on this hike and they do not scan well. So as credited, all the photos are borrowed. Many thanks to sisyphus, chskier, horalka, John, Bob Shiler, onlynine and bassoon (primary image) for use of their photos.
Nice job conquering your fear and making the summit, I enjoyed your trip report. I recently discovered Zion and can relate to your statement about how the thrill from summitting Angels Landing lasted longer than most mountain experiences. I have now climbed several of the peaks there and always leave on Cloud 9 :). There is something very special about Zion and your report is urging me to go back soon!
Congrats on your summit and nice job on the report! This is definitely one of the more memorable hikes around there. I was back there again this last March and took up my brother who was there for the first time. It's always good to read about first time experiences on this one! Hope you make it back again.