Zion National Park, UT

Angel’s Landing.  A very fitting name. 

I arrived at dawn to beat the crowds, and for the most part, I did.  A school group unfortunately got on the shuttle before me and clogged the later trail, but I still missed the afternoon hordes. 

It was cold at five in the morning, so I had on a set of leggings under cargo pants, a tank top, and a gray Columbia jacket.  It was even cool enough to leave my hair down for a short while.  I took one hiking pole, and boarded the 6:30am shuttle.  I have met a surprising amount of people from Florida while waiting in lines and sitting around for buses.  Probably out here for the same reason I am. 

Florida fucking sucks. 

I hopped down from the bus and took in the sight.  It was truly unbelievable.  I can see why the place is named Zion. 

The dramatic lighting in the morning in Zion. Had to show this one!

The peaks were covered in light, the first rays of dawn leaving their stark cut on the mountainside, but somehow still appearing very gentle and peaceful.  The red rocks were a pale pink in the clear morning sun, dotted with bristlecone and pine trees.  The humble river swung side to side through the canyon, rushing gently and surely as it always has done.  I crossed the bridge, and started up the switchbacks. 

Looking down the switchbacks. There were a lot of them.

The article I read on the different sections of the trail made the climb sound like straight death, this section named Walter’s Wiggles.  So I went in determined, prepared, ready to climb the damn Grand Canyon all over again.  I was ready.  So I moved my boots up those cliffs, and kept going.  And suddenly, I was at the top.  I was surprised.  I still had an entire fight saved in my back burners, ready for the suck.  But I was there, little else to climb.  So I diverted my determination into courage for the impending and perilous climb. 

Refrigerator Canyon, named so for the cool, breezy and relatively flat trail before ascending the rest of the way up to the landing.
Another view of Refrigerator Canyon.

It’s funny, on the informative sign about Angel’s Landing, just before you set up the chains, there is a running total of how many people have died climbing it since 2008 or so.  9 is the current count, gone over in sharpie and reprinted in white.  Still, I put my hiking pole away, and gripped the chain on the side of the mountain. 

I suppose they left the count on this sign blacked out in anticipation of the summer hikers. The count at the trailhead said 9. I, fortunately, did not add to their score. For ease of reading, this sign says: “Since 2004, 9 people have died falling from the cliffs on this route. The 1.1 mile (1.8 km) round trip route from Scout Lookout to Angel’s Landing is a strenuous climb on a narrow ridge over 1,400 feet above the canyon floor. The route is not recommended during high winds, storms, or if snow or ice is present.”

I was expecting to be terrified.  Fazed, at least.  Maybe something from just the tourists blubbering about how imposing and dangerous the trial looked.  But I wasn’t afraid, really, and I was a bit confused that I wasn’t.  I think I wore out my fear of steep trails at the Grand Canyon, remembering just how wary I was when I started down the South Kaibab Trail.  And knowing that I’m getting better, my adventures may only escalate from here. 

The beginning of the final climb up to Angel’s Landing. Looks like a short climb, but for someone that has never really rockclimbed in their life, it was a little tough!

It was a windy, bright, beautiful rock climb up the hump of the mountain to Angel’s Landing.  But finally, I arrived, and I took my seat on a boulder near the edge (one not swamped by school children).  I sat there for a long time, staring, feeling the peace of the trail’s namesake.  The kids were annoying, but they really did make me laugh when they started to sing the Halo theme together.  It was just ridiculous and appropriate enough to be funny. 

The view from Angel’s Landing! Well worth the climb.
The less-photographed side of Angel’s Landing.
A bit intimidating to try and make the climb back down with strained, shaky legs. Make sure you rest before heading back. It’s just as tough going down, and even more dangerous. Take your time.

After fending off a couple chipmunks from my granola bar, I finally stood, and started back down.  My legs were a little shaky from powering up the climb, but I made it back down safely.  In one piece. 

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