Last Minute On Angels Landing

Last Minute On Angels Landing

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 37.26933°N / 112.9478°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 21, 2011
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Winter

February 21, 2011

Afternoon Sun On Angels LandingAngels 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 RiverThe 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 TrailTrail Cut Into Sandstone Cliffs

Winter In ZionSnow 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 LandingThe 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 SnowGoing Down From The First High Point

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

The ChainsFollowing 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 NorthSummit View North

Zion CanyonSummit 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


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Viewing: 1-20 of 24

rgg - Mar 29, 2011 5:25 pm - Voted 10/10


Good thing you decided to continue, or we wouldn't have had this report ;)

I never to go hiking on trainers, but occasionally, misjudging what to expect, I've found myself in 'interesting' situations on old hiking boots without much profile left ... that certainly wouldn't have been good here either!


lcarreau - Mar 30, 2011 12:51 pm - Voted 10/10

Great thinking ..

But Adam, something in the first paragraph needs correcting.

Zion is located in Utah, not Arizona. Not a big deal, but I
wish Zion could be reached easier and faster than it already can
be by the multitudes of visitors.

You visited it at the perfect time. Excellent timing !

p.s. -- Gotta DIG Bryan's sunglasses! : )


gimpilator - Mar 30, 2011 2:12 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great thinking ..

Thank you for that correction. I'm not sure how I got Arizona. Funny! I'll tell Bryan you like his shades. ; )


lcarreau - Mar 30, 2011 2:23 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Great thinking ..

Thanks and no worries.

I also like Bryan's haircut !! : )


Dean - Apr 2, 2011 11:27 pm - Voted 10/10

Radek's report

Check out Radek's report on what happened when he and Shirley were climbing Angel's Landing. Awful. I think he has it as a trip report.


gimpilator - Apr 11, 2011 10:35 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Radek's report

Thanks Dean. I'll take a look.


Kristin5berry - Apr 3, 2011 5:48 pm - Hasn't voted

You made the right decision!

I would have been ALLLL over that climb:) In fact, after reading this I am sending this as a link to another fearless buddy and we are heading out to follow in your foot step dude.
Thanks for the trip report.


gimpilator - Apr 11, 2011 10:33 am - Hasn't voted

Re: You made the right decision!

Awesome. Let me know how it goes. I want to see pictures when you get back.

Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis - Apr 4, 2011 1:45 pm - Voted 10/10

Looks like fun!

Looks like a fun time Adam! I wish some how I could have joined you, but at least you got to give us a good idea of the place. Well written, and nice photos as always!


gimpilator - Apr 11, 2011 10:35 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Looks like fun!

Thanks Josh. I hope next year you can come on some of these trips with me.


RobSC - Apr 4, 2011 9:13 pm - Voted 10/10


It might have been more stressful than when I wandered up on dry rock in June, but the snow made for some amazing views and photos. Nice report!


gimpilator - Apr 11, 2011 10:36 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice!

Thanks Rob. I'd be interested in going back to Zion to see what it's like without snow.


EastKing - Apr 4, 2011 10:04 pm - Voted 10/10

Amazing TR and pics!!

I can't wait to see you Southern California TR!


spengy - Apr 5, 2011 3:09 pm - Hasn't voted


Nice report. In the summer time Angel's Landing doesn't seem bad at all but I can definitely see how the snow makes things scary. Nice photos.


brusy - Apr 7, 2011 3:00 am - Hasn't voted


Wow, with all the snow around one would think most people would know better not to go in their runners and maybe carry some ultralight hiking crampons. It's rare and exeptional feeling to have the place all for yourself. Thanks for the report.


Klenke - Apr 8, 2011 8:20 pm - Hasn't voted

not foolish

Having just done Angels Landing four days ago I can appreciate your snowy adventure since I didn't encounter any snow but did encounter many people, which makes the "via ferrata" a traffic jam a lot of the time. I think you can even monitor the traffic jam on Bing Maps.

Just to show off my PNW mountain hardcoreness, I chose not to touch the chains on the up or down....except for one time when I had to spring to the aid of an older lady that briefly fell on her back (in an exposed section, no less). She wasn't hurt and I carried on my way and she hers.


gimpilator - Apr 11, 2011 10:39 am - Hasn't voted

Re: not foolish

Thanks for backing up a fellow PNW hiker. Was this your first time in Zion NP? Do you think you might have saved that woman's life?


Klenke - Apr 11, 2011 2:54 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: not foolish

First time there. Nah, I didn't save her life (she fell on the trail) but it was disconcerting to hear this scuffling whump behind me right after I passed her. In that second it takes to turn around and see what the commotion is, certain thoughts can go through the mind.


Charybdis - Apr 9, 2011 11:35 am - Hasn't voted

What's next?

Adam, you have been doing some amazing trips. Beautiful pics. What's next on your horizon?


gimpilator - Apr 11, 2011 10:48 am - Hasn't voted

Re: What's next?

Thank you! My plans for the near future include:

Mount Vesuvius, Gothic Peak, Indian Head Peak, Big Chiwaukum, Chiwawa Mountain, Fortress Mountain, Kyes Peak, Mount Blum, Black Peak, Mount Constance

I also plan to do some climbing in the Everest region but I'm still working out the details of that trip.

Viewing: 1-20 of 24