Freezing in redrock country

Freezing in redrock country

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 37.48358°N / 112.23633°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 1999
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Winter

Getting There

Ridge winds raging on Mt NeboWindy up an Nebo Ridge

We've been planning to show the beauty of Utah Redrock Country to our visitor from Russian Far East, but the weather just didn't seem to cooperate, with frigid tempreatures and a series of snowstorms crossing the Southern part of the state. Finally it has become clear that we are down to our last chance of making the trip. Bryce or Arches, then?
Red CanyonSheltered and sunny in Red Cyn

At 6 in the morning, weather radar was showing snow falling over the Tushars and over La-Sal - Arches area - and all over Northern Utah too. It just didn't look like an easy drive - or like guaranteed sunshine - in either park. OK, let it be Bryce :)

The low snowclouds didn't let us see the mountains at dawn, but then the cloudcover parted, and the rays of rising Sun lit the ridge of Mt. Nebo, all adorned by the snowy flags ripped by the fierce ridgeline gale. Hmmm. It might be challenging driving across the mountain passes up ahead, but an even more interesting question is, will this wind blows us off the high plateau of Bryce Canyon?

It did snow at every pass, with tundra-like long drift shaping up behind every sagebrush, and the I-15 was largely down to one lane. But we just had one section of an outright whiteout.

Red CanyonRed Canyon panorama
Red CanyonRabbit-brush brushed with snow

Once we crossed into Upper Sevier Valley by Panguich, the Sun has finally come out. It was mostly blue skies over Bryce Canyon ahead, while an ominous-looking snowcloud to the West kept dumping on the higher ranges near Cedar Breaks. A short hike in Red Canyon, and we are off to the main target.

Brr-ice Canyon

Bryce Amphitheater - January viewThe Amphitheater
Bryce pointView East from Bryce Pt

Once we drove up to the plateau of Bryce, it's become obvious that the sunny weather may not last. Another dark cloudbank was drifting off the heights of Aquarious Plateau, dumping snow on the lowlands beyond so ironically named Tropic.

So we changed the usual Rainbow-Point-first plan, and headed for the spectacular Bryce Point, to get the best shots while the sunshine lasts. It was very breezy on the rim - and the temperature was 14 degrees F, that's -10 C, the highest it was supposed to be today. The forecast was for -15 F lows tonight.

Brrr-ice!Windy and freezing cold
Chipmunks freezed out of the competitionRavens but no humans here

The road towards Rainbow Point was all snowbound and rather desolate. Two ravens were the only company we had up there.

Top of BryceChilly at 9,100 ft
With the park rangers frozen out of existence,Forbidden terrain

There were no signs of rangers too, and we were really tempted to take a peek at forbidden terrain here and there.

Snow and red rockBeatiful tapestry of red and white
Bryce BansaiSunset Point Bonsai

The Sun hid behind the snowclouds at last, and our crew was so chilled to the bone that we started thinking about heading to lower elevation. But not before taking the last pictures of the Amphitheater from Sunset Point.


Every crack accented by the snow,Checkerboard with extra white hues

It was still over two hours till sunset, and the plan morphed into a quick assault on supposedly-balmy Zion NP.

I should admit that I've only been down in Zion once before, and only on the West side of the park. The crowds, the finicky permit system, and the pompous names of all these Temples and Thrones, were a huge turn-off for me.

Alpenglow reflecting in half-frozen Pine CreekAlpenglow bronze
Weeping Rock seepsWeeping no more

This time we approached from the East, and I just fell in love with this country of cross-bedded sandstone with swirls and veins running on the slickrock. Most definitely, we will be back here! In the meantime, it was literally minutes left before sunset, and the last un-frozen puddles in Pine Creek turned golden bronze with reflected alpenglow.

Beware of the falling icicles!Icicle danger!
Ice fall!Icicle danger!

Deep down in the Main Canyon, we stopped at Weeping Rock, which was frozen solid. The projectiles of falling icicles covered the trail and smashed the railings! We peeked into the Narrows in twilight, and then it was a long drive home.

I actually tried to talk the crew into stopping for a hot springs dunk, but the temperature was 8 F at Meadow, and the stop was voted down. Over the next pass, near Sevier River bridge, it was 4 degrees F and the icy fog was blanketing the highway - but then we saw the lights of Nephi and knew that it's gonna be home soon.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-9 of 9

lisae - Jan 25, 2007 10:54 pm - Voted 10/10


The pictures are beautiful and I am looking forward to your report.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Jan 26, 2007 12:08 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Text?

Lisae, it is the work week unfortunately and I haven't got time for anything major yet. Not to worry, will write it up shortly :) - thanks a lot for understanding!

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Jan 26, 2007 10:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Done :)

Thanks again for your patience!


lisae - Jan 26, 2007 10:59 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Done :)

Well worth the wait! I love being in the desert when it is raining or snowing and loved seeing your report and pictures.


mountaingazelle - Jan 28, 2007 2:56 am - Voted 10/10

Redrock Country

I just read your entire report. Now I understand why you avoided Zion for so long. It was originally named Mukuntuweap National Monument but that name didn’t last for long and was renamed Zion. After living in Utah for this many years, I have become used to the unique names of the mountains and other geographical landforms. You have to admit that there is no other place quite like it.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Jan 29, 2007 5:05 pm - Hasn't voted

unique names of the mountains

Zion is authentic, vintage Utah name, and I like it as I like many other Utah names which attest to the life, struggles, and mindset of the people who settled the state. But Angels Landing, Temple of Sinawawa, Great White Throne? Names like these sound like marketing catchphrases, like TMs and SMs. I would be surprised if there was any more history behind these than the painters' imagination and land managers' PR.

There are several TM-like toponims of a similar origin in the Wasatch too, but they are kind of more subtle. All these ladies' names of the lakes, from Blanche to Martha, and Mount Superior, owe their names to early paintings and photograps. But it just doesn't measure up to the "Temple of Eternity per mile" density of pomp in the lower Zion.


tanya - Nov 25, 2007 12:38 pm - Voted 10/10


"I should admit that I've only been down in Zion once before, and only on the West side of the park. The crowds, the finicky permit system, and the pompous names of all these Temples and Thrones, were a huge turn-off for me."

Although I love Zion.... I love how you think!

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Nov 26, 2007 12:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Although I love Zion....

Thanks Tanya! I should admit that some famous and famously overcrowded places turn out to have so much natural magic that even the hordes of tourists aren't in the way. Like Yellowstone or Yosemite ... when I finally got there, it was a revelation despite all the crowds. But...


tanya - Nov 26, 2007 2:48 pm - Voted 10/10

I agree...

But there are so many hidden places in Zion that you can avoid almost all the tourists. Nearby Zion it's even better. Parunuweap is one of the best places anywhere and I have never seen another sole while out there.

Viewing: 1-9 of 9



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