Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dawn on Angels Landing (Zion NP)

Angels Landing - Lower switchbacks leading up to Refrigerator Canyon
As great a run as it was and as fabulous a setting as it was, I had second thoughts about posting anything about my Saturday morning trip up to Angels Landing in Zion National Park.  Though I'd never heard of the trail before the trip to Zion, it quickly became clear that Angels Landing was "the" destination in the Park proper, similar to Old Faithful in Yellowstone, if not nearly as accessible or safe.  Yet, the compelling nature of the short route (5 miles roundtrip, 1,400 feet vert) had me rethinking things yesterday, and when I saw that Patagonia's new header photo featured the lower climb's switchbacks, I thought, overplayed or not, I'd put something up.

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Parachute at Tanner
After a late Friday night watching my nephew's band, Parachute, play Tanner Amphitheater in Springdale, I got up at first light Saturday morning to run the 5 or so miles to the Angels Landing trailhead, both to nab a few extra miles and to beat the shuttle-sequestered summer crowds amped to test their mettle on the storied, trecherous route.  Given how crowded the park had been the previous afternoon and evening, it was a serene run up-canyon to The Grotto, where the trail starts: canyon walls silhouetted against a dark cobalt sky.  Really beautiful.

After hitting The Grotto, things pretty quickly turn to climbing with two steep sets of switchbacks, which end at Scout Lookout, where the trail runs out onto a narrow knife-edge rocky ridge with - no exaggeration - thousand foot drops on either side and an on-and-off sturdy chain to use as a handhold.  I thought I might be nervous on this section, but with the chain and very few other people to contend with at that hour, it went smoothly, if cautiously.  Once on the Landing, the views of the canyon are amazing: high enough for a bird's eye view but low enough to appreciate the varied relief of Zion.

It's not the highest run; it's not the longest run; it may be the most crowded run; but it's still one to put on the Zion hit list.

Some photos below, which, unfortunately, reflect my desire to beat the crowds up and down.  I also put together a video slideshow. If you like funky Mos Def, check it out, too.

First light, running from park entrance to the Angels Landing trailhead at The Grotto
Along the river toward the first climb (photo: KJB)
Leaving safe harbor of Scout Lookout for the knife-edge ridge to the Landing

"Step of Faith" leading the narrowest section of trail with 1,000 ft drop-off on either side. Landing in first sun
Ridge leading to Angels Landing
On top, looking down canyon at the Virgin River
Looking up canyon, toward Weeping Rock, Observation Point and Temple of Sinawava 


don said...

I did this hike on my recovery day after IMSG last year. It is spectacular but like you mentioned, it can get very crowded. Thanks for the great photos

alligator said...

Great idea to run up the canyon to beat the shuttle bus crowds! I did the first part of this hike last April but continued up the West Ridge(Rim? Can't remember) instead of out to Angel's Landing because the crowds combined with the exposure weren't worth it to me.
I'm heading back to Zion this May and I'm hoping to get an early enough start to beat the crowds this time! Your pictures are a good reminder of how early I'll have to start to do that!